I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but we’re rapidly coming into the heart of peak peach season here in Colorado. In fact, it was nearly two weeks from now to the day, circa 2009, that we had what to this day remains the best peaches of our lives.
I was on assignment for a magazine to participate in a July 4th rock climb that recreated a historic, nearly century-old ascent in Colorado National Monument, a spectacular corner of canyon country on Colorado’s Western Slope. It was blisteringly hot, with temps around 100 deg F.
On our way back east toward the Front Range, we stopped in the Grand Valley town of Palisade. For those unfamiliar with Colorado’s local produce, Palisade is nearly synonymous with peaches. There’s something about the microclimate of that valley that produces some truly wonderful stone fruits.
We bought a bag of 6 or 8 (I don’t quite remember exactly how many) of the most luscious peaches we’ve ever had. They were at the pinnacle of their ripeness, so juicy you couldn’t avoid two trickles of peachy goodness running down your chin from the corners of your mouth. We’d devoured the peaches before we even left the valley.
As Colorado’s peaches once again come into their prime, we’re reminded of those amazing peaches a few years ago, and inspired to bake this delectable Peaches ‘n’ Cream cake.
Peaches ‘n’ Cream Cake
Makes one 8-inch, 2-layer cake
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 tsp GF pure vanilla extract
2 egg whites
2 six-ounce fruit on the bottom peach Greek yogurts (e.g. Chobani)
1 yellow peach, pitted, peeled, and diced
3 cups (375 g) Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend
2 tsp xanthan gum
2 1/2 tsp GF baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
For the pastry cream:
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp GF pure vanilla extract
For the frosting:
1 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, cold … remove from the fridge when you start making the frosting
2 tsp GF pure vanilla extract
For assembly and garnish:
1 yellow peach, half diced, half sliced
To make the cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla.
3. Add the egg whites then the eggs, mixing after each addition to incorporate. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
4. Add the yogurt and diced peaches and mix until incorporated.
5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to mix. Then add all at once to the wet ingredients. Mix for 10 seconds at low speed, scrape down the sides, then mix for 5 seconds at high speed.
6. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 30–40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans.
To make the pastry cream:
7. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks until light yellow in color. The mixture will be very thick at first but will get looser as you whisk it.
8. In a small saucepan, heat the milk to a simmer. While whisking the egg yolk mixture, slowly pour half the milk into the bowl. Then while whisking the remaining milk in the pan, return the egg yolk mixture to the pan.
9. Bring that mixture up to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil for one minute.
10. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Pour into a heat-safe container, cover, and store in the fridge to cool completely. (If desired, you can pour it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps, if there are any.)
To make the frosting:
11. In a saucepan, mix together 1 1/3 cups sugar and the water. Measuring with a candy thermometer in your pot, heat to 240 deg F.
12. While that sugar mixture is coming up to temperature, in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites and salt until foamy. Add the remaining 1 tbsp sugar and whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form.
13. When the sugar is up to temp, turn the mixer back onto medium speed. Slowly drizzle the sugar between the whisk and the side of the bowl onto the egg whites until all is added.
14. Whisk that mixture for 10 minutes to cool. It will get very thick.
15. While it’s whisking, cut the butter into 1 tbsp pieces. After the 10 minutes, and while still mixing at medium speed, add the butter 1 tbsp at a time until all the butter is incorporated. Continue to whisk until you see visible change to a firm frosting.
16. Switch to the paddle attachment, add the vanilla, and mix for two more minutes to remove any air bubbles.
To assemble the cake:
17. Place the first layer of cake on your cake stand or cake plate.
18. Transfer about half a cup of buttercream frosting into a pastry bag with an open tip and pipe a “dam” around the perimeter of the cake.
19. Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and whisk until it is smooth (it will start out very firm). Then spread all the pastry cream on top of the cake, inside the boundary of your dam.
20. Sprinkle the diced half peach on top of the pastry cream.
21. Pipe about another half cup of frosting on top to lightly cover the pastry cream completely.
22. Place the second cake layer on top.
23. Use the remaining frosting to frost the sides and top of the cake. Garnish the top of the cake with the half sliced peach.
For high altitude, add an additional 1/4 cup (31 g) flour.
Degrees of Free-dom
This recipe is: gluten/wheat-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, soy-free, fish-free, shellfish-free, vegetarian.
–Pete and Kelli