Growing up, on family birthdays we’d make rich chocolate cakes from a mix that came in a box. Open the bag, watch the cocoa powder puff into a cloud, add the eggs and some carelessly measured water and oil, lick the rubber spatula into oblivion, salmonella be damned. To make them extra fancy, we’d spread raspberry jam in between two layers. On top? Chocolate frosting, store bought, and rainbow sprinkles, of the tiny ball variety. The cakes were delicious, especially the next day and especially for breakfast.
We’d leave the butter knife under the plastic cake dome and sneak slices throughout the day. Fingertips temporarily made colorful from melting jimmies. I don’t think the cakes ever lasted long enough to be called dessert for a second night.
In the fall, pre-baby brother, Faye and I would often make an apple cake in the early morning on Thursdays, the day when my mom comes into the city to hang out with Faye, and when I start my work later in the day. We used a simple recipe, cribbed from this favorite picture book. The recipe’s simple; heavy on fruit and lighter on butter and sugar than some other things that go by the name of cake.
Lately Faye’s been wanting to recreate our fall ritual, but it’s been hot and the apples aren’t ready and there’s a brother who wants to crawl and be carried, preferably both at the same time and so I’ve been putting it off. This weekend though, a slightly cooler day and peaches at the market inspired a more August-appropriate riff. It’s a cake that’s perfect for breakfast and wonderful for snacking on throughout the day. You can play quite a bit with the amount of maple syrup or sugar and still come out with a cake that’s moist and delicious.
(And if you decide that chocolate cake first thing in the morning is more your speed, you won’t find complaint from me.)
adapted from Julie Paschkis’s book, Apple Cake
What you need:
3 peaches (2 diced, 1 sliced)
2 tablespoons butter, at room temp
1/2 – 3/4 cup maple syrup, according to taste (or ~1 cup cane sugar)
1 cup of flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
What to do:
+ Grease a square or round baking dish (the original recipe calls for a 9-inch pan, but an 11-inch dish worked just fine, too—just keep an eye on the time.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
+ Dice two peaches, removing the pit. For the topping, slice the third peach into thin slices and set aside.
+ In a large bowl, by hand or by mixer, beat softened butter and maple syrup or sugar. Add the egg and beat until well mixed.
+ In a different bowl (or if you’re as lazy as I am, right on top of the liquid ingredients), sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well. (If using maple syrup, the batter will be slightly runny, if using sugar, it will be quite thick. Both will turn out just fine after baking. Carry on.)
+ Mix diced peaches into the batter.
+ Spread batter into your pan.
+ Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and arrange peach slices in as pretty a spiral as you can manage.
+ Bake the cake until the edges pull away from the pan and it’s a rich golden brown (if you use syrup instead of sugar, your batter will be browner from the get-go, so account for that), about 60 minutes.