There is an abundance of fruit this fall; apple trees are lush with ruby red orbs, bright orange pumpkins and squash decorate prickly vines, deep purple blackberries line the woods, and peach trees are bowing down with jeweled globes of fruit.
Our family loves fresh peaches. Intensely fragrant, perfectly ripe, sweet and juicy, with velvety, red-blushed skin and soft orange flesh, peaches are the third most popular fruit in America. (Right behind apples and oranges)
A fruit native to China that migrated to New England via Persia, the early homesteaders planted peach trees up and down the eastern seaboard. The peach tree became so firmly established in the United States that botanists in the mid-1700’s assumed that the peach was native to America!
However, the life of a peach tree (compared to an apple tree) is short, often just 10 – 15 years. And peach trees can be challenging to cultivate due to our harsh winters and short summers. The trees need some fairly specific climatic conditions to prosper; primarily a dry temperate climate with chilling (as in a milder winter.) Just like Goldilocks, peach trees don’t like it too hot or too cold, but just right.
This year, the conditions for peaches must have been just right, because between the orchards we maintain and farming friends like Five Star Nursery in Brooklin, we have been blessed with over 125 pounds of peaches. I’ve been canning peaches, packing peaches in jars with brandied syrup, grilling peaches to make Peach & Tomato Salsa, stirring up peach & wild blueberry smoothies and turning over-ripe peaches into muffins, cakes and pies.
The recipe for Peach Cake is a simple butter cake with fresh peaches baked into the batter. The light, melt-in-your mouth texture of this cake comes from beating room temperature butter with sugar until light and fluffy (a process known as creaming), beating in the eggs one at a time, and then gently incorporating the flour and fruit. Sinfully delicious!
I encourage you to seek out fresh, Maine peaches, which all should probably come with a warning label: addictive! Once you’ve eaten a fragrant, perfect sun ripened peach with juices running down your chin, you may never be able to eat the green, hard rocks they pass off as peaches in the supermarket again.
- 1 pound peaches peeled, pitted and cubed, about 4 medium
- ¾ cup butter at room temperature (12 tablespoons)
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon orange extract
- 1½ cups flour (125 grams)
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- confectioner’s sugar for dusting
- Assemble ingredients and tools. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch cake pan or spring form pan.
- Peel and pit the peaches. Cut into ½ inch cubes. (You should have about 1 cup)
- In the large bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar on high speed until the sugar is incorporated and the batter is light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the orange extract and beat until creamy.
- Sift the flour with the baking powder.
- With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture, mixing until well blended.
- Gently fold in the peaches.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then run a thin spatula around the edges to loosen the cake and remove from pan. Cool to room temperature.
- To serve, dust liberally with confectioner’s sugar. If desired, garnish with fresh peach slices. Feeling sinful? Add a dollop of whipped cream or farm-fresh yogurt