Friday, August 7, 2009

Just Peachy

White and yellow peaches are everywhere now, and it's time to eat as many as you can, while they're in season and in such abundance. I make a great white peach sangria (I'll share that recipe with you at some point), which is an excellent drink for summer cocktail parties. I even served it at my own wedding (I have a clear memory of mixing up a big batch before I put on my dress). But today I wanted to make one of my favorite upside-down cakes, a simple buttermilk butter cake with a caramelized peach topping. It's excellent warm or at room temperature, with or without vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or even a dollop of sweetened creme fraiche.

Caramelized Buttermilk Peach Cake
Serves eight
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
2 medium-sized perfectly ripe white or yellow peaches
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs

Make the topping:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan (don’t use a springform pan, as the caramel might leak out during baking). Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and grease the paper.
2. Fill a cup with water and place a pastry brush in it (this will be used for washing down the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization). In a clean, heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, stir together the sugar, water and lemon juice. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan to wash away sugar crystals, until the mixture starts to color around the edges. Gently swirl the pan to ensure that the sugar caramelizes evenly. Continue to cook until the sugar turns deep amber. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the 4 tablespoons of butter pieces one at a time, until they are completely melted. Carefully pour the hot caramel into the bottom of the cake pan.
3. Cut each peach in half and remove its pit. Cut each peach in half lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the peach slices in a circle around the edge of the pan, overlapping them slightly, on top of the caramel (you may not need to use all the peach slices).

Make the batter:
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine, and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla; set aside.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the 9 tablespoons of butter at medium-high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the brown sugar and beat at high speed until the mixture is lightened in texture and color, 2-3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. At low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating it with the buttermilk in 2 additions and mixing just until blended.
6. Spoon the batter in large dollops over the peaches, then smooth it into an even layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes.
7. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the pan. Place a cake plate upside-down on top of the cake pan and, using pot holders, very carefully invert the cake pan and plate. Carefully remove the cake pan and, if necessary, peel off the parchment paper. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.