How is it that I never seem to realize the days are getting shorter until the first cool September day? Suddenly the sunlight looks a bit warmer on my bike ride home from work, summer flowers are few and far between, and neighborhood gardens are bursting with tomatoes and zucchinis. I'm one of the most enthusiastic autumn-lovers you can find, but the changing seasons aren't without a bit of sadness to see another summer come to a close. Luckily, Peach Coffee Cake is the perfect recipe to ease the transition.
Midwesterners, be sure to visit your farmers market over the next two weeks to get the last of the juicy freestone peaches. Tell them you are baking, and perhaps your farmer will throw in a few slightly bruised extras like mine did. (What a nice treat!) Though, if you can't find any, this recipe will also work well with plums or apricots.
Peach Coffee Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Dimply Plum Cake
1 1/2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Scant 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
5 Tbl unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 C (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 C flavorless oil, such as canola or sunflower
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 freestone peaches, pitted and halved*
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
In a second medium bowl and working with a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in. Still working on medium speed, beat in the oil, zest and vanilla—the batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the peaches cut side up in the batter, jiggling the peaches a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and puffed around the peaches and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes—during which time the peach juice will seep back into the cake—then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.
Once cool, dust the cake with powdered sugar to serve.
(*I used four halves in the center of the cake. Then, I cut away the bruised parts of large peach and sliced the remaining pieces. I placed these smaller pieces along the perimeter of the cake, making sure a bit of batter remained between the baking pan and the peach slices.)