Peaches define summer for me.
I know it’s officially summer not by the first jacket free day, or the salty-sweet smell of the air, or the joyful noise of street festivals. Nay my friends, I measure summer in peaches. I find myself searching for them at the grocery store as early as March, muttering to myself that I can’t take one more day of bitter Chicago weather and stuffy office air. I need the sweet, tangy flesh of a peach to set me free, knowing, in vain, that I will not find one. Then one glorious day in late April or May it happens. Peaches. The peasants rejoice!
A tiny little section of the four fucking rows of dry leftover winter apples is pushed aside to make way for the first, soft, sweet, sunny orbs of summer. Everything about them says “Winter is over, it’s going to be ok”. Their soft, warm baby fuzz. Their delicate sweet fragrance. They even look like the sun, their colors mimicking the pink, orange, and yellow of the sunrise over Lake Michigan.
Or so I hear, I’ve never been up early enough to see it. I know there are those of you out there that want to push their glasses up their noses and snort me a reminder that you can get canned peaches. Well, you can keep your metallic, slimy, pretend-fruit, thank you. I’ll wait for the real thing.
I tried to bake with peaches as much as possible this summer. This peach blueberry coffee cake by Julia’s Album has become one of my favorites for it’s simplicity and versatility. It is relatively simple to make, and is great as a dessert, breakfast cake, tea cake, whatever you want! The best part is that this recipe can be used as a base for really any kind of breakfast-style cake you want. You can change up the fruit for whatever’s in season: plums, apples, berries, possibly even top it with a crumble if you want to get fancy. So let’s dive into it shall we?
This peach blueberry coffee cake recipe is relatively cheap. I came up with a total cost for this recipe as $5.92, using the prices of each item in my local grocery store (Mariano’s Bucktown) in typical quantities and dividing to achieve the cost of the exact measurement used in the recipe (i.e. 17 cups of flour per 5lb bag at $2.50 per bag = $0.15 per cup).
Now, obviously you can’t buy a single teaspoon of baking powder, so if you had to buy each ingredient in the recipe in typical quantities sold it would cost you closer to $30. I am going to go ahead and assume you aren’t throwing out the rest of the baking powder after using that one teaspoon and that the remainder will be used for other things. Since the majority of the ingredients in this recipe are items most people (or at least most bakers) keep stocked in their kitchen such as flour, butter, sugar, etc., I ended up only having to buy peaches, blueberries, and yogurt.
The total time described of 1 hour and 20 minutes was relatively accurate. It did take me longer than 20 minutes to get it in the oven. Mostly because I took my time neatly slicing and arranging the fruit. If you are also a perfectionist on these things, I recommend giving yourself closer to 30 minutes. It did not take the full hour to bake, however, but my oven runs a little hot. It should be noted that Julia offers different bake times depending on the type of pan you use, which is why you should always read the entire recipe before starting! The only thing I will say is that you must let the cake cool completely before taking it out of the pan, which can take 30-40 minutes beyond the listed prep/bake time.
The recipe was fairly easy to follow. It didn’t use incredibly technical language, the steps were in a logical order, and I was able to achieve it without much struggle. It should be noted that the final batter was very thick. This threw me off a little and would have been helpful to know beforehand as I was pretty worried. Also, the instructions for if you’re using a cake pan came at the end, which could be confusing. Separating the steps for the different pans after step four into “for a springform pan” and “for a cake pan” would have been a little easier to follow. Then again that’s why you should, and I’ll say it loud for the people at the back, read the whole recipe before you start.
This is a fairly standard cake and was very simple to make. The only reason it got 2 spoons instead of one was due to needing some slightly above average knife-wielding skills, and the know-how to use a springform pan.
The flavor of this peach blueberry coffee cake was perfect for breakfast or tea. It’s not too sweet, slightly dense, a nice complimentary cake. It’s not a super-rich, knock-your-socks-off cake, but it’s not supposed to be. This is more of an enjoy-the-simple-things cake. It was a little dry especially around the crust, but I expect that of coffee cakes. Honestly it was better than then next day once the juice from the fruit soaked in. The peaches retained some of their firmness and the sweetness of the blueberries and the tangy-ness of the peaches paired well together. All-around a great coffee cake.
The pictures do not do it justice, this cake is beautiful. Especially if you’re willing to take your time arranging the fruit. The recipe calls for additional fruit to be added to the top halfway through baking “for prettiness”. I did not do this as I didn’t want to mess up my design and I don’t think the additional fruit was needed. Some of the comments said that the fruit sank while baking. I did not encounter this problem, but this is something that might happen if the batter is over-mixed, so be careful of that. I also think it helps to layer the peach slices slightly, and also keep the slices around 1/8 inch thickness.
So there you have it, a beautiful and delicious simple summer cake! Now get cooking, and tell me what you think!