It’s been a while since I’ve been here on Simmer or in my kitchen for that matter. That Zuni Chicken was 12 days ago, and it feels like another world. Here’s what happened since the chicken: One, we bought a condo (yay! With a real live spare bedroom, albeit a very small one, where you know, guests can sleep, and gosh-golly, a pantry too, for you know, storing things. Eight years in itsy-bitsy apartments makes me very easy to please.) Two, I started teaching cooking classes to at a summer program for middle school students 4 days a week. (Hilarious and challenging, we’ve been churning out all sorts of treats – like these – in our first couple weeks.) And three, we went to St. Lucia and back in only 4 days, which was clearly not nearly enough to do justice to this gorgeous, hot, and very rainy little island:
(The leaf and the mountain photos were taken by John, the rest by me.)
It’s been a crazy couple weeks, and though I’ve spent lots of time in kitchens – Vee Vee and at the Sociedad Latina summer program – I miss my own kitchen. So, late this afternoon, after wolfing down John’s steamed chicken, one of the first homemade things I’ve eaten in a way too long, I made these little cakes. I confess though, even these were work related; a trial run for the Vee Vee menu, which doubled as Sunday dessert for us.
The cake part here is a close adaptation of my favorite apple cake – this cake bakes up with a crackling outer crust that yields to an insanely moist and fragrant interior, speckled with peaches and scented with cinnamon and nutmeg. Or, at least, that’s how it’s supposed to bake up. And mine was almost there, except in my kitchen haste this afternoon, I tried to squeeze batter designed for 10 molds into 8. Why? Because I had the batter and I lacked the extra molds. Waste no want not, right? Sounded fine to me. (I know, I’m a lame excuse for a professional. I’d probably be kicked off of Hell’s Kitchen day one.) So, the cakes, well duh, they overflowed.
Somewhere between scraping the lava-flow of extra batter off the outside of my cake molds and cleaning up my oven, I started thinking these cakes are a kind of perfect metaphor for my life these days – so thank-you cakes, I got the message loud and clear: ease up, lady.
Brown sugar peach cake is a star all on its own – all those overflow scraps made for some very tasty snacks – but, paired with sticky toffee sauce, it’s heavenly. The combination, so moist, fragrant and, well, sticky in the most delicious way, reminds me almost of a steamed pudding, rather than a cake. Oooo-eeee it’s good. Menu worthy for sure and plenty easy enough to make at home.
Sticky toffee sauce, a recipe I got from David Lebovitz’s blog, won me over on the name alone. But its charms don’t end there; it requires only 4 ingredients and, no joke, can be made start to finish in about 7 minutes. Think caramel but mellower and nuttier – the kind of thing that soaks into cake and would be heaven on ice cream, and best of all, did I mention? 7 minutes people. This sauce practically makes itself.
Makes 10 (not 8!) small 3 inch cakes or one 9×9 cake and serves 8-10.
For the Peach Brown Sugar Cake
1 ¼ c, 228g vegetable oil
1 ½ c + 2 tbsp, 295g dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 ¾ c, 230g all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp salt
2 generous cups, 280g, thinly sliced peaches
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or just in a large mixing bowl), combine the oil, sugar, and vanilla, and mix well. Beat in the eggs one by one. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture and mix until well incorporated. Fold in the peaches last. Butter 10 3 inch cake molds (3 inches wide, 2 inches high – a 9×9 pan or large loaf pan will also work.) Evenly divide the batter between the pans and bake for 35-45 minutes (one large cake will take 55-70 minutes) until set and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
Cool slightly and then serve warm with the sauce below. A good pour of fresh cream or softly whipped cream is nice here also. You can make the cakes up to two days in advance and keep them well wrapped at room temperature. Before serving, heat them in a 300 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.
For the Sticky Toffee Sauce
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup brown sugar
2 ½ tbsp molasses
Pinch of salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 5-7 minutes until thickened, whisking every so often. Cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature. Can be kept covered and refrigerated up to 2 weeks.