While many people in other parts of the country are gloating over their bounty of produce and even being so audacious as to celebrate August as National Peach Month, New Orleans has exhausted itself of produce. There’s nary a Southern peach to be found around, the local berries have disappeared, and the grocery offerings are reduced to mostly California-grown fruit, which may give you decent peaches if you are actually near California, but not if they have to travel all the way down here, or imported fruit. (Lest this be a grand whine, the nectarines and plums are quite tasty.)
So when I made this cake, I used frozen fruit, which is blasphemy in August, but there were no raspberries at two different groceries and the best I had in the peach department was a few hard peaches ripening on the counter that were clearly not ready for showtime. Lame. I’m jealous of you who still have peaches and an overall abundance of fruit. I guess this is what we deserve when we get strawberries in February.*
I mentioned this cake in passing in June but got an opportunity to make this for my brother’s birthday, though my sister and I joked that the pretty-in-pink cake was better fit for a baby girl’s first birthday. The cake is a spin on peach melba with a tender cream cake, peach mousse filling, raspberry cream as frosting, and zingy peach and raspberry purees to garnish. It is an ideal summer layer cake, delicate, light, and fresh. It was my first time making a cream cake, which has only heavy cream, no butter, and I loved it paired against the peaches and creamy mousse and thin layer of tart raspberry whipped cream frosting that reminded us of yogurt. It’s the perfect cake for someone like my brother who generally wants a giant bowl of sorbet for his birthday but whose sister insists on something more substantial and more complicated and he is obliged to comply.
One of the last things I made before school started two weeks ago, it was a fitting tribute to summer.
*Speaking of New Orleans Problems, I was under the impression that we had maxed out our hurricane quota for the next millennium or so, but apparently Issac doesn’t agree…
Peach Melba Cake
adapted from Sky High
This is a sorta obnoxiously long looking recipe, so I’ll say it again: divide and conquer. There are several steps but none are difficult. You’ll be rewarded.
If you’re making the cake in one day, I recommend making it in this order: cream cake, peach syrup, peach mousse, begin assembly, raspberry cream, finish assembly. If you want to make some components in advance, make the peach mousse, raspberry cream, and peach syrup the first day, and cream cake and assemble the second.
I’m not entirely sure how effective/necessary the gelatin in the peach mousse is, but out of caution, I wouldn’t omit it.
makes three 8-inch layers
1 3/4 cups (6 3/4 ounces | 195 grams) cake flour
3 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (8 ounces | 225 grams) sugar
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter the bottom and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper, and butter the parchment.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
3. In the bowl of stand mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer,whip the cream and vanilla on high speed until soft peaks begin to form. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the sugar, being careful not to whip until stiff. Add the whole eggs and egg yolks and continue mixing until the batter forms very soft peaks.
4. Sift about a third of the dry ingredients over the batter and fold in by hand with a spatula. Repeat twice more until all of the flour mixture has been added. Finally, fold in the buttermilk just until it’s incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared cake pans and smooth out the tops.
5. Bake the cakes for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a cake tester or a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cakes should look golden brown, spring back when touched lightly, and be pulling away from the sides of the pan. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then invert them onto wire racks. Carefully peel off the parchment paper, and allow them to cool completely. While the cake layers cool, make the peach syrup and peach mousse. (Make the raspberry cream later while you are assembling the cake, see assembly directions.)
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces | 50 grams) sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup peach liqueur or schnapps
Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the syrup is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Remove from the heat and stir in the peach liqueur.
Peach Mousse Filling
1 pound peaches, peeled and pitted fresh or thawed frozen with juices
2/3 cup (5 1/4 ounces | 150 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
2 tablespoons peach liqueur or schnapps
1 cup heavy cream
1. Combine the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the fruit is soft. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Be careful with blending hot liquid. Measure out 1 cup of peach puree and set aside for garnish. Transfer the remaining peach puree into a large bowl.
2. Soak the gelatin in the remaining 2 tablespoons peach liqueur in a small heatproof bowl for about 5 minutes. Microwave on low for 10 to 15 seconds to heat, and stir to dissolve the gelatin. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the peach puree in the large bowl.
3. In a large bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the peach puree with a rubber spatula. Refrigerate the peach mousse until ready to use.
makes about 3 cups plus extra raspberry puree
12 ounces unsweetened frozen raspberries, thawed, with juices
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces | 50 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon rosewater or vanilla extract, what I used
1. Cook the raspberries and their juices in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, mashing the berries with a large spoon, until they give up all their juices, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, the puree in a blender or food processor. Strain through a sieve, pressing the puree through with a spatula or spoon to get as much of the puree out as possible but no seeds. There will be about 1 cup raspberry puree.
2. In medium bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Measure 1/3 cup of the raspberry puree into another bowl. Stir in the sugar and rosewater or vanilla and stir until the sugar dissolves. Fold in the whipped cream.
3. Sweeten the remaining raspberry puree with additional sugar to taste and use for garnish.
1. Trim off the rounded tops of the cooled cake to create flat layers. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Brush with 1/4 cup peach syrup and spread half the peach mousse over the cake, tapering out towards the sides so it doesn’t squeeze out when you add the other layers. Repeat with the second layer, using another 1/4 cup peach syrup and the remaining peach mousse. Top with the last layer of cake and soak with the rest of the peach syrup. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and chill until set, about 1 hour.
2. Make the Raspberry Cream while the cake sets. Frost the chilled cake with a thin layer of Raspberry Cream to act as a crumb coat, and refrigerate until the frosting is set, about 30 minutes. Finish frosting the cake with the Raspberry Cream, reserving some if you want to pipe a border around the edge of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving.
3. To serve, dollop the reserved peach and raspberry purees around the edge of the plates, and swirl them together decoratively with a toothpick to create a marbled design, and place the cake slices in the center.
Storing: The cake (and fruit purees for garnish) keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 or so days, although it will lose in texture and flavor the longer it sits.