Sunday, July 26, 2015

Peach Upside Down Cake

Day 113

A perfectly ripe, juicy peach is my very favorite fruit. This year, I decided to enjoy fresh peaches as well as cooked peaches in cobblers and cakes. I hate to see the season end, honestly. Although it’s hard to beat a peach-blueberry cobbler, I couldn’t resist making my first peach upside down cake. I had heard of this cake, but until my two recent baking adventures, I had not tried one.
© Doug Kapustin Photography, 2015
 As a child, we often had pineapple upside down cake in the fall or winter as a treat. I looked forward to the delectable caramelized brown sugar topping, and I always stole the maraschino cherries from the center of each pineapple. To make something that is reminiscent of a traditional upside down cake but with peaches, I turned to a trusted southern source: Southern Living magazine. There is no better place to find tried-and-true southern recipes for all occasions, and I am a bona fide devotee. Every woman in my family who has enjoyed cooking over the years has used Southern Living’s recipes. Growing up, I distinctly remember that there was always an ear-marked copy of the latest magazine on top of the recipe book stack. Grandma and my aunts had folded down the pages to so many of the recipes that they could never try them all. In my house today, nothing has changed. You can find old copies of the magazine on almost every surface, folded and ear-marked for later.

Sure enough, it didn’t take lots of searching for peach cakes to find just what I was looking for this time. So, of course, today’s recipe is straight from the archives of Southern Living, and I know you will be pleased. If you feel even a little bit daunted by the steps, please give it a try anyway. It’s not difficult, just a bit time consuming to make the hot sugar topping. I promise that it’s so worth it. All the same, if you read the recipe and think “I’d eat this but would never take the time to make it”, please scroll to the bottom of the recipe for an alternative, “second best” version.

Oh, and I don’t know how you’ll feel, but for me, the down-home taste, texture, and feel of this cake, served warm with vanilla ice cream, makes me want to leave the hectic hustle and bustle of my present life to find a quiet place to breathe and to truly live. Having grown up on a farm, I’m fairly smitten with the idea of homesteading and have been researching it a bit. I think that’s what aging does to us; it makes us want to connect more and more with what really matters in life.  If flavors like today’s recipe stir those homesteading emotions in you, too, I highly recommend the website and blog that has become my relaxation therapy to read. Please visit this link:

Today’s “therapy” was reading the homestead author’s post about sturdy clothespins and the “Clothesline Revolution.” Don’t you love the sound of that? Although I’d surely get some sort of HOA citation for putting a clothesline in my backyard where I currently live, I sure do miss clothes dried outside.

How’s that for a tangent that I can’t comfortably bring full circle? Oh well! Enjoy the cake, and here’s hoping it transports you to your “happy place” as well.

Peach Upside Down Cake
Parchment paper
4 medium peaches, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch wedges or rounds
2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup cake flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and divided
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 large eggs
½ cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (This helps with cleanup.) Toss peaches with lemon juice.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

Cook ½ cup granulated sugar in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes or until sugar melts and turns a deep amber color. Remove from heat. Immediately add ¼ cup butter, stirring vigorously. Spread caramelized sugar to coat bottom of skillet evenly, and sprinkle with brown sugar. Arrange peach wedges over sugar mixture, overlapping if desired.

Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds into bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat vanilla seeds and remaining ¾ cup granulated sugar, ½ cup butter at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add sour cream, beating until blended. Gradually add sifted flour mixture, beating at low speed just until blended, stopping to scrape bowl as needed. Spoon batter over peaches in skillet and spread to cover. Place skillet on prepared baking sheet.

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in skillet on wire rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge to loosen.

Carefully pour excess liquid from skillet into a cup and reserve (If you don’t have any excess, that’s fine. It depends on juiciness of the fruit you use.). Carefully invert cake onto serving plate and drizzle with any reserved liquid. Cool about 10 more minutes and cut cake into wedges or pieces using a serrated knife. Top with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired, and serve immediately.

Recipe from Southern Living magazine, found at this link:

Something to consider—An easier alternative that is also tasty:
Just for those of you who prefer baking shortcut methods using cake mixes, I made an alternate version of this cake using a Pillsbury Super Moist butter recipe yellow cake mix for my second try. The results were not quite as rich and decadent as the Southern Living version, but they were tasty, all the same. For the cake mix, I didn’t use a skillet. Instead, I used a 9x13 baking pan, and I made the cake mix according to the package except that I substituted buttermilk for water and I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract in addition to the vanilla bean.

In the bottom of the 9x13, instead of pouring caramelized sugar, I simply melted the butter and sprinkled the sugar/brown sugar over the melted butter before arranging the peach wedges.

It did save time and was less messy, for sure. The cake turned out delicious, although I’d recommend the Southern Living version if you have the time. Some of you might be hesitant because of not owning the right skillet. If you don’t own a cast-iron skillet, please consider purchasing one. They are oh-so-useful and wonderful additions to your kitchen.

It’s up to you which version you make, but I’m learning more and more that investing a little more time into our recipes pays great flavor dividends. That being said, I know some of you have tremendous time constraints with work, family, and young children. Bottom line: do what works best for you and either way, take the time to enjoy these simple pleasures with your loved ones. 

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