Sunday, July 10, 2011

Peach Melba Cake with Raspberry Cream

In retrospect, this may have been a mistake. A luscious, moist, peach-filled, raspberry-frosted mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. Objectively, I should not be making three layer cakes that require two separate sessions in the refrigerator and need to be ready at eleven o'clock on a Sunday morning. But...I did it anyway, and now I really can't bring myself to be upset about it.

There's something so rewarding about making tall cakes. That is one reason I love this book, which probably started my obsession with cake. The other reason this book is about four notches above most other cookbooks, especially cake books, is that every cake is completely different. There is no standard white cake or standard chocolate cake. Each cake has its own method and its own strange additional ingredients, and each one is absolutely outstanding. This one, for example, has no butter in the batter (Betty Botter did not make this cake). Instead, it starts out as whipped cream, to which you add eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla. It was like making cake out of ice cream. The filling and the frosting are whipped cream based, too, but the whole thing felt very light. And, fresh from the fridge, it is just the thing for a hot, hot day in July.

I've had my eye on this one for a long time, and this gathering was the perfect excuse to make it. You have to make triple layer cakes for large gatherings--it takes a lot of people to eat one. Even this one was only half gone by the time everybody left, and it took up an inordinate amount of space in our tiny refrigerator. But we forgave it, because it was just as good, if not better, the next day. The day after that I made Daniel and Marshall eat the rest, because I wanted refrigerator space again. I'm sure they felt put upon.

Peach Melba Cake with Raspberry Cream
Serves 12-16

1 3/4 cups cake flour
3 3/4 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
3 tbsps buttermilk

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Butter three 8 or 9 inch* round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter the paper. 
2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Place cream and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if you have an electric mixer). Put the machine on high and whip the cream until soft peaks begin to form. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the sugar (don't whip until stiff). Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks and continue mixing until the batter forms soft peaks (see? Ice cream). 
4. Sprinkle a third of the flour mixture over the batter and gently fold with a rubber spatula. Add the rest of the flour in two more additions. The mixture will be very thick--don't worry. Finally, fold in the buttermilk. 
5. Bake the layers for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester (does anyone really have a cake tester? I use a knife) comes out clean. Cool the cakes in pans for 10 minutes, then invert them onto wire racks. Carefully peel off the paper and allow cakes to cool completely. 
NB: If you have three separate wire racks, use them. The hardest thing about making this cake was getting the cakes off the racks--the tops were kind of sticky, which made trying to get two cakes off the same rack rather difficult. 

While the cakes are cooling, make the...

Peach Syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup peach schnapps

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer until the syrup is reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove from  heat and stir in the schnapps. Let cool. 

While the syrup cools, make the...

Peach Mousse
1 lb peaches, peeled and pitted if fresh**
2/3 cups sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp unflavored gelatin
2 tbsps peach schnapps
1 cup heavy cream

1. Put the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until you can break the peaches apart with a wooden spoon. 
2. Remove from heat and allow to cool so the blender doesn't spray hot peach juice at your face. Transfer peaches and juices to a blender and puree until smooth. Measure out 1 cup of peach puree and set aside for garnish. Put the rest of the puree into a large bowl. 
3. Soak the gelatin in the peach schnapps in a small microwave safe bowl for 5 minutes. Microwave on low for 10 to 15 seconds to heat, then stir to dissolve the gelatin. Whisk together the gelatin and the peach puree. 
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl with an electric mixer), whip the cream until stiff. Fold cream into the peach puree. 

Now comes stage one of assembly!

1. Place one layer of the cake on a cake stand or serving platter. Cut strips of parchment and place them around the cake to protect the platter as you assemble your cake. 
2. Brush or spoon 1/4 cup of the peach syrup over the cake. Top with half the peach mousse, spreading it evenly over the top of the cake. 
3. Place another layer on top of the peach mousse, and brush it with another 1/4 cup peach syrup. Spread the rest of the peach mousse over evenly over the cake. 
4. Top with the final layer of the cake, and brush it with the rest of the peach syrup. 
5. Wrap the cake completely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours to set. 

While the cake is chilling, make the...

Raspberry Cream
12 oz raspberries, fresh or frozen***
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the raspberries over medium low heat, mashing them with a spoon until they give up all their juices, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. 
2. Puree raspberries in a blender or food processor. Strain puree in a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds. Put 1/3 of a cup of the puree into a small bowl and stir in sugar. 
3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with an electric mixer), whip the cream until it is stiff. 
Add the sweetened raspberry puree and gently fold until the color is uniform. 

And now, frost the cake!

1. Spread the raspberry cream evenly over the cake. There will be enough left over to pipe fun designs on the edges. 
2. When the cake is frosted, return it to the refrigerator uncovered and chill for another 2 to eight hours. The cake is best when served within this window. Serve slices of cake garnished with the extra peach and raspberry purees.****  
3. To store, wrap the whole cake in plastic wrap and continue to chill. The cake should survive for 2-3 days. 

Adapted, barely, from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne

To make this cake ahead of time, I think you can make it all the way up to its first stint in the fridge and leave it wrapped well in plastic wrap overnight, and then frost it and chill it again in the morning. It's certainly easier than what I did (which involved making the cake and both purees, but not filling or frosting it till the morning). 

*The recipe calls for 8-inch cake pans, but I just don't have any. I have six 9-inch pans, though (don't ask me why), so I just used three of those. The cakes baked for the same amount of time and the cake came out beautifully. 
**I admit, I'm a terrible person and used frozen fruit even though fresh was readily available. I will say, though, that frozen was cheaper and significantly easier. I put the frozen peaches and frozen raspberries straight into the pan and everything was dandy. 
***12 oz of raspberries made WAY too much raspberry puree. I'm not complaining, I'm just commenting. If you don't want to have raspberry puree around for the rest of the week, I bet you could halve this. 
****Really actually use the purees as a garnish. I accidentally served it without them at brunch and the cake was delicious. We ate the leftovers with the garnish and it was divine. 

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