Friday, July 26, 2013

Peach and almond cake

I like baking. Despite a not-very-sweet-tooth, the mixing and pouring and measuring is satisfying, And everyone becomes your best friend when you have fresh, real cake...

To wit: Charne (Shar-nay) Human and the Chocolate Cake. Charne had big blue sad eyes and gold hoop earrings before anyone had pierced ears.We were little together at St Michael's, my school in Bloemfontein. She was Janine Oberholzer's best friend (the best friend business has always flummoxed me -  if you have a best friend, then what are your other friends? Not Quite Good Enough?). Or perhaps I secretly have best friends, but don't tell them, in case I'm not their best friend...the horror.

Charne came over to play a few times. My mom - who baked everything from scratch - bought us a boxed cake mix to bake every time. Then one day Charne rang the doorbell, escorted by her mother, as usual. At the door I confessed: We don't have cake today! And Charne turned on her heel and marched back up the the garden path and through the big doors in the high white wall, and out of my life.

This cake is inspired by Nigel Slater with my usual, interfering tweaks. I read about it in The Guardian. The photograph made me hungry (it also made the cake look as though the oven may have been too hot!). He calls it a cake for midsummer. I call it incredible. His recipe is wonderful, if super rich.

I changed the quantities to less butter, with the addition of some milk (in other versions I have also used yogurt), and I upped the blueberry content. I have made it with gooseberries, and raspberries, too.

I use a hand whisk, as I have no electric mixer. In Brooklyn you are not allowed to have electric mixers, and in fact a churn is preferred for making your own butter from the cow on your roof.

As I say, I whisked, and everything was fine. (And I have used just a wooden spoon. No problem.)

I folded in the very last handful of terrace blueberries and used dripping sweet yellow peaches from the market.

Peach and Almond Cake with Blueberries

110g/3.5 oz butter
110g/3.5 sugar
2 eggs
120g/4 oz self-raising flour (or regular flour + 1.5 teaspoons baking powder)
110g/3.5 oz ground almonds
1/3 cup milk
1 cup blueberries
1 ripe peach, cut into small pieces
a few drops of vanilla extract*

*Or 2 teaspoons mahlab (powdered cherry kernels, either foraged or  from a Middle Eastern store)

Heat the oven to 180'C/350'F. Grease a spring form pan.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (easier when the butter is no longer cold).  Beat in the eggs and add some flour, to prevent the mixture from separating.

Fold in the rest of the flour and the ground almonds, in two or three separate additions. Add the milk and stir well. Add the vanilla or mahlab powder. Last, add the chopped peaches and blueberries. The mixture will be pretty firm by this time. If it is too stiff add a little more milk.

Scrape the cake mixture into a greased springform cake tin or loaf pan and bake for about one hour. Test with a skewer – if it comes out  clean, then the cake is done. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin then loosen the edges, tip out and cool.

This is divine. Truly. Moist, pillowy, luscious, light (in feel, certainly not in calories), with a slightly, ever so slightly sticky crust. I am smitten.


  1. Looks fabulous, even the cream with blueberries--yum.

  2. Tomorrow night, when I finish teaching, I am making this cake. I am awash in fresh peaches...I feared I could not use them fast enough. Thank you!

  3. First i'm gonna go hang around your terrace making little mewing noises till you give me some cake.

    Tomorrow I'm off to Ellen's.

    i am awash in hunger.

    xo J.

  4. Hi Marie,
    I was planning to make your original recipe for company next weekend. Now I'm contemplating the new recipe but am wondering, what difference in texture/taste do you find in the updated vs. the old version?
    Thank you, Ann

    1. The cake is a little fruitier, and arguably less rich, but I did not miss anything...

    2. PS I added a photo for you, Ann...for comparison's sake.

    3. Thank you again. Your blogs provide much inspiration and pleasure. Looking forward to your book.

  5. As soon as Jersey peaches are in sight, I will make this cake.
    I love the peaches w/ the booberries. Beautiful.

    1. You worry me. If your Jersey peaches are not in sight, what am I buying at the farmers market?

  6. It's in the oven on this glorious Sunday morning in Florida!

  7. i made this last night and it was great.
    i did not have my spring pan so i just used regular cake pan, which i buttered and floured.
    perfect--not too sweet.
    i did use plums instead of blueberries and i sprinkled some turbinado sugar on top before baking.
    thanks marie--i pre-ordered your book and am really looking forward to it.

  8. this cake was right up my alley, so i made it the other day. great recipe, definitely worth the slog to Trader Joes for almond meal. i was nonplussed by the absence of salt in the recipe, but i figure that's due to the propensity of brits to use salted butter.

    even though mine came out on the dry/sconey side, it's still irresistible. it also refrigerates well.

  9. Marie, I made this cake according to the recipe you listed. I followed the instructions meticulously: new bag of self-rising flour, etc. While the cake was delicious, it didn't rise! Also, my batter was very runny. As many times as I've reviewed the recipe, I can't figure out what went wrong. Do you have any suggestions about what may have happened? Thanks

    1. Hi Cleo - I am sorry about that. Hm. I have made this recipe many times and I have not heard that others have had issues. A few days ago I made the regular flour and the baking powder option and it was fine. I will make it again with self raising flour to see if there is a change. While it is not a tall cake it should rise. How was the texture? Did you possibly have jumbo eggs? My mixture is usually a little stiff, never runny.

    2. Hi Cleo - I've made the cake again, using self raising flour, and jumbo eggs, and no hitch. So I don't know what happened. If it was "very runny" the liquids-to-solids ratio was not right. I'd suggest trying again, since you did enjoy the flavor...


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