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A ripe peach is one of the true joys of late summer. When they’re in season, I buy at least five pounds at a time from my Saturday morning farmers market. Through the course of the week, I slice them over yogurt for breakfast. Come lunchtime, I heap them on toast with a little fresh ricotta and mint. When I’m on my own for dinner, I tumble them into a bowl of greens with crumbled feta (my husband doesn’t dig fruit in salads). Just before bed, I’ll grab one as a snack and eat it messily over the sink.
However, despite my best efforts, there are sometimes a few stray peaches left at the end of the week that are starting to get slightly too soft to be eaten raw. That’s when I turn to baked goods. There are all sorts of transcendent peach-based quick breads, tarts and scones out there, but there’s a particular cake that’s claimed my heart this summer: Ina Garten’s Fresh Peach Cake.
You whip up a cake batter with all the usual suspects (butter, sugar, eggs, sour cream, flour). Then you peel and slice three fresh peaches. Half the batter goes into a buttered square cake pan, and then you top it with a layer of peaches. Another layer of batter and peaches, a little dusting of cinnamon sugar, and the cake is ready for the oven.
The peaches soften slightly, caramelize on the top and make the finished cake unbelievably tender. It’s the kind of cake that works equally well for brunch, afternoon tea or after a casual dinner. If you want to fancy it up a little, a drift of loosely whipped cream spooned on top does the job nicely. However you serve it, this cake is just the thing for a late-summer Weekender.
Before you start baking, read these tips:
— To easily peel your peaches, do this: Bring a kettle to a boil. Cut the peaches into four quarters, remove the pits and place the peaches in a heatproof bowl. When the water boils, pour it over the peaches and let them stand for a few minutes. Run a little cold water over them and the peels should slip right off.
— No peaches at hand? This cake works just as well with nectarines, plums or pears.
— If you want to lighten this cake a little bit, try using low-fat yogurt in place of the sour cream; you get all the tang, without all the calories.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.