If you have ever bitten into a plump, juice peach and had the pulp dribble down your chin; then you know how and why my love affair with the fruit started. I was fortunate enough to spend a large part of my childhood either in the hills or in close proximity to them. And, since I lived in some of the most fertile and arable areas of India, it ensured that fresh produce was always abundantly available. Summers were special. School would be out and a bunch of us kids would spend the days clambering up trees and biting into succulent peaches, plums and cherries. I think genes probably had a role to play because this love of mine, I passed on to my children. They love peaches too.
This delicious fruit traces its origin to China as early as 6000 BC.
Peaches and Nectarines are the same species of fruit although for commercial purposes they are classified differently. The peach has fuzz on its skin whereas the Nectarine is smooth and glossy. The kernel of the peach stone tastes a lot like almond and that is why it is often used to make a cheaper version of the Marzipan called Persipan.
During summers my home sees a steady inflow of cartons (yes, cartons and not boxes) of peaches. We love to eat the ripe fruit as it or I use it in salads, peach cobbler, peach crumble, Peach Melba or even my peach cake.
Ideally speaking this cake turns out best with fresh fruit. There is a zesty aroma in the fresh produce that permeates the entire cake if you cook with fresh peaches. But, I have tried it on numerous occasions with canned peaches and the results were equally good. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of fresh whipped cream, this is the perfect dessert.
My recipe for the peach cake is easy and has very few steps. As is with most fruit cakes, the cake turns out sweet, crumbly and moist.
• 1 1/2 cups refined flour/all purpose flour/maida
• 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened and at room temperature
• 1 cup granulated white sugar
• 3 large eggs (at room temperature)
• 1/2 tsp grated orange zest (you can substitute this for lime zest also. I prefer orange)
• 1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
• 6-8 drops of orange emulsion (optional. I prefer to use it as it imparts a zesty aroma to the cake and also imparts a blushing coral shade to the mixture)
• 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
• 4 ripe medium-sized peaches (see note on how to prepare them)/ 2 ½ cups
Preparing the peaches – If you are using fresh peaches then peel and core them prior to chopping them into small bite sized pieces. Ripe peaches peel very easily. However, if the skin is slightly firmer then just blanch the peaches into warm water for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. To do this, heat water in a pan and once it starts to bubble, add the peaches, turn off the heat and cover the pen with a lid. Let the peaches rest for 30 sec to 1 min. After that, fish them out and peel them. If you still feel some (doesn’t usually happen) resistance then keep the peaches under cold water for 30 seconds.
Once you have peeled, cored and cut the peaches into small bite sized pieces, blot out all the excess water with a towel. The excess water will only make the cake gooey. If you use canned peaches then too after cutting them up, blot out the excess sugar syrup with the help of a kitchen towel.
• Preheat oven to 180 deg C. I prefer to use a 9 inch springform tin for this bake. A springform tin is a round tin with detachable sides. Grease the tin with some butter/oil and keep aside.
• In a bowl whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon powder. Keep that aside.
• In another large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Continue whisking at low speed (I prefer to use an electric mixture for this) for about 3-4 minutes till the mixture is light and fluffy.
• To the above add an egg whilst whisking. Whisk for about a minute after you add the egg to ensure that it is properly amalgamated. Repeat the process for the remaining two eggs.
• Stir in the vanilla essence, orange zest and orange emulsion.
• To the above fluffy mixture add the dry ingredients a little at a time and whisking all the while. Fruits cakes are generally moist, dense cakes so all the whisking ensures that we get the maximum air possible into the mixture to impart some fluffiness to the cake.
• Once the above is done, fold in the peach pieces.
• Transfer batter to the springform tin and smooth over the top. The batter will feel light and fluffy at this stage. To ensure that it spreads evenly to all the edges I pick the tin up (a few inches above the kitchen platform) and drop it down a couple of times. This makes the batter spread out evenly.
• Bake at 180 deg C for about an hour or till a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. In a microwave oven the process could take about an hour and thirty minutes.
• Mid way during the baking process I prefer to tent the cake tin with aluminium foil. This ensures that the top does not brown too fast.
• After the cake has baked, let it stand in the tin for 5 minutes before you pry the sides of the tin apart.
• That’s it. enjoy with a hot beverage of your choice or with some ice cream or fresh whipped cream.