A few weeks ago I went to Brisbane. It was my first trip in over a year because of all the border closures that have characterised COVID in Australia. In the whirlwind of catching up with all the people I hadn't seen in so long in a short space of time, I spent a delightful afternoon with my friend's daughters (one a high schooler, one primary) making a cake. It's a tradition now - every time I come up we cook. Once it was these little Ottolenghi teacakes, a total hit. Another time it was this pie. This trip, it was a peach, raspberry and almond cake.
To be clear, I actually do no cooking, only supervision. My friend sits back with a coffee and watches with amusement as I adjudicate fights over who gets to crack how many eggs, or fold in the flour. I get a swim or a gymnastics/trampoline/diving/clarinet show while whatever it is is in the oven, then - best of all - we eat it afterwards with their parents. This time I didn't take photos, so when I got home I made the cake again myself.
I've been trying to make the most of the stone fruit while it's in season, and this cake is an excellent vehicle for it. The juiciness of the fruit is soaked up by the ground almonds, and its softness contrasts beautifully with the sprinkle of chopped nuts on top. The orange zest rounds it all out and as my story attests, it's absolutely not difficult to make, as long as you fairly distribute the cracking of the eggs among all parties (one each for the girls, and I did the third). The reviews were excellent, from the Queenslanders, to the bush turkey who stole some slices I took on a bush walk on the weekend, to my 85 year old neighbour returning the Tupperware that contained a wedge I left on her doorstep. Couldn't put it better myself: such good cake.
Peach, raspberry and almond cake
Adapted from a recipe by Julia Busuttil-Nishimura, as published in A Year of Simple Family Food
I think if you wanted to use nectarines here instead of peaches, you absolutely could. With that substitution there'd be no need to remove their skin. To that point, if you couldn't be bothered peeling the peaches, it really wouldn't be the end of the world - we had one obstinate peach when I (or more accurately, my friend's daughters) first made the cake and the difference between peeled and unpeeled peaches in the finished cake was pretty well undetectable but for a bit of added texture... which is no bad thing really.
150g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one orange
155g (1 1/2 cups) ground almonds (almond meal)
100g (2/3 cups) self-raising flour
125g fresh or thawed frozen raspberries
50g almonds, roughly chopped
3 white or yellow peaches (about 500g in total)
3 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped (or just a dash of vanilla extract)
Preheat oven to 180 deg C and grease and line a 21cm round springform cake tin with baking paper.
First, poach the peaches: with a small, sharp knife, make a small cross at the bottom of each peach. Place the sugar and vanilla in a large saucepan and pour over one litre of water. Bring to a simmer and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the peaches and poach gently for 3-5 minutes. If working with ripe peaches, they may need less time. The idea is not to cook the fruit, but just to loosen the skin. Once that's happened, remove peaches from poaching liquid. Let cool a little, then peel from the cross at their base. Discard skin, then cut each peach in half, de-stone, and cut into 1.5cm wedges. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together til light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, letting each fully incorporate into the mixture before adding the next. Stir in the vanilla, orange zest and ground almonds, then finally, fold in the flour.
Pour batter into prepared cake tin. Gently press raspberries and peach slices into the top, then scatter the chopped almonds around the edge. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer/toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave cool in the tin for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.