Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cake rules, and other peachy things

We're fortunate enough to be plugged in to the Old Farmer's Almanac and their trove of cool recipes that really bring homemade goodness to the table. Here's a sweet treat.

Peachy Almond Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup (7-ounce package) almond paste
2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 cup peach preserves, softened in microwave oven or stirred, divided

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, or to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or to taste
caramel sauce (optional)
peach slices (optional)
mint sprigs (optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

For Cake:In a large bowl and with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating briefly after each and then until the mixture is as light as whipped cream. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
In a small bowl, blend the milk and extracts. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the butter mixture, stirring to blend after each. Spread the batter equally in the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool them on wire racks.

For Filling:Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Divide the almond paste in half and roll each portion into a 9-inch round (roll the paste between two layers of waxed paper or plastic wrap). Place one sheet of almond paste over the first cake layer. In a small bowl, mix the peach slices with 3/4 cup of the peach preserves and spread over the almond paste. Add the second cake layer and brush with the remaining 1/4 cup of peach preserves. Top with the second round of almond paste.

For Frosting:Whip the cream until stiff, then add the sugar and extracts to taste, stirring to blend. Frost the cake with the whipped cream and refrigerate until serving time. If desired, drizzle a little caramel sauce on the dessert plates before putting the cake on them and garnish each serving with a few peach slices and a sprig of fresh mint. Makes 8 to 10 servings.