I stopped by one of our local produce stands the other afternoon to stock up. With a high summer sun glaring down, heating the thick, still air, I gladly approached the shady tent and was greeted by two older, red-faced women, one bending and reaching to restock the Roma tomatoes and straighten the rows of squash, the other ringing up someone's watermelon and repositioning the small oscillating fan behind the counter. I rounded the corner, grabbed a basket, and proceeded to take in every smell and glorious color I encountered. Heirloom tomatoes to my left followed by rows of purplish blueberries in turquoise cardboard cases, a line-up of jarred regional honey, and bins of shiny cherry tomatoes warming in the sun. The air smelled most of strawberries as they had the position just under the larger fan that carried their sweet perfume throughout the tent. I grabbed a pint of blueberries and made my way to the peaches in the corner. I can hardly contain myself when surrounded by warm, soft, ready-to-eat summer market peaches. I nearly melt, loading my sack with more than one person can possibly consume, and feeling no qualms for I will certainly find some way to gobble up every last juicy one. I checked out, snatching up a bundle of asparagus I'd eyed at the counter, and thanked the ladies for their hard work in such miserable heat (heat index of 102F at 10PM last night. now that's heat.).
Once home, I set out my treasures and got to work thinking up what to make. I recalled seeing a fruity dessert in the back of a cookbook I bought a few weeks ago, and flipped to find an entry for a "Butter Cake with Summer Fruits." Perfect! She (the author, Anna Thomas) discusses the cake's versatility as it is suitable for a casual family meal, as well as a nice dinner with company. It also works with most summer fruits, i.e. cherries (her first recommendation), blackberries, peaches/nectarines/apricots, blueberries, or any combination of the above. I gave it a go and it turned out fabulous. The cake base, moist and sweet with a hint of almond, and the peach filling, well, perfect of course. My work friends adored it. My recommendation: Take a trip to your local farmer's market, enjoy the sights and smells and support those sweet hard workers behind the counter, come home with your favorite summer fruits, make this cake, and share it with your friends. Everyone wins. :)
adapted from Anna Thomas' recipe in her book "Love Soup"
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large pinches of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus more to sprinkle on top
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds (optional)
2 generous cups fresh peaches/pitted cherries/blackberries/blueberries...
(I used peaches and blueberries. 5 peaches, 1/2 cup blueberries. you can use frozen fruits here, as well, just thaw and drain them well first.)
zest of one lemon
1-3 tablespoons cornstarch
(use this if your fruit mixture is pretty juicy. with my peaches i needed 3T. otherwise the extra juices will make the cake too soggy.)
powdered sugar to sprinkle on top
1. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 or 10" springform cake pan, lining the bottom with parchment paper, then buttering it, as well. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Beat the soft butter with 1 cup sugar for about 5 minutes until smooth and pale yellow.
4. Beat in the eggs until combined, then gradually stir the dry mix into the wet mix just until combined (minimal mixing is a key to a light and fluffy cake). When still a little dry, add the almond and optional nuts, stirring them in.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading it out until evenly distributed.
6. With your fruit ready in another bowl, carefully stir in as much cornstarch as needed to decrease the juices. Stir in the lemon zest. Then place your fruit evenly on top of the cake batter.
7. Sprinkle the fruit with the remaining 2T sugar (you can omit this is your fruit is sweet enough already, or add more if your particular fruit is on the tart side) and a bit of cinnamon.
8. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until cake is light golden brown and pulling away from the pan a bit on the sides. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the pan and dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream alongside.