Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ginger & Vanilla Peach Upside Down Cake

Oh September.  You bittersweet month.  For someone who loves Summer as much as I do, I'm always a little verklempt when the ninth month rolls around.  I was never one of those kids to jump up and down, excited for school to start.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I know of a few occasions where I'd fake sick so I could stay home from school (Shhhhhh!  Don't tell my Mom!) trying to sneak in one last day of Summer holidays.  And not much has changed.  While I don't call in sick, I try to hang on,  just a little longer, to the best of Summer.  I know its  days are numbered, by the frosty mornings and changing light; the birds flying away and the impending fall TV schedule.

September is a month of transition.  A leaving-behind month.  A saying good-bye month to the best that Summer had to offer.  September is kind of like reading the best book you've read in a long time and knowing that it has to end, though you don't want it to. You savour every detail, knowing in the end you're going to have to let it go.  That's how September is for me.  My letting-go month.  The transition is made easier by starting a fun new class, and planning fall pot-luck parties.  I find the purchase of some tall suede boots (on order as we speak!) also makes for a smooth transition into the next season.

I was pulling a tomato plant out of the garden a few days ago, and caught one last whiff of that tomato leaf smell.  You know the one.  It smells of Summer.  Same with the sweet peas climbing the fence in my front yard.  I try to smell them every day - the last of the late bloomers.  I'm soaking up the last smells of Summer all around me.  And one of my favourites is of peaches - so impeccable when perfectly ripe, you can smell them from clear across the room. This tart touched on just how much I love peaches, and I think after you taste this cake, you'll fall for them just as badly as I have.

This cake is perfect seasonal transition food (but really, there is never a bad time to eat cake.)  The best of Summer's peaches are combined with aromatics of ginger and vanilla.  I've eaten baked a lot of cake in my little lifetime, but I don't think any have smelled quite like this one.  If you like ginger, you'll be happy to learn there are thinly sliced coins of it simmered with the peaches; both powdered and grated fresh ginger in the cake batter.  And the vanilla bean!  Sliced in half and scooped of it's goodness, well, it makes this cake, with the little bits of bean almost popping on your tongue. There's brown butter, brown sugar and the wee bit of whiskey (!!) to round things out.  So let's go over that again:  notes of ginger and vanilla, brown sugar and  brown butter, whiskey and cinnamon. And peaches.  Let us not forget the peaches.  You will love the smell of this in your kitchen.

There are a couple of steps to this cake, but definitely worth the effort.  Once you invert it on to a pretty platter, and see the warm golden glow of the peaches, (this cake even looks like fall!), you'll be happy you did. I left the vanilla bean halves in with the peaches, just to add some drama when inverted, but don't eat them.  The sliced coins of ginger add a lovely bite, but you can pick them out if you so desire, or if you aren't a ginger freak like me.  I ate the cake warm (with ice cream!) and cold (for breakfast!) and was in love with every bite.  I may be a little sad to see Summer go, but with a cake like this, new episodes of America's Next Top Model and my tall suede boots, I think me and Autumn will get along just fine.

Ginger and Vanilla Peach Upside Down Cake

2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 inch fresh, peeled ginger, sliced into thin coins
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds scraped out (if not using vanilla bean, use 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
3 tbsp whiskey (I used the last bit at the bottom of my rye bottle)
1 pound of fresh, ripe peaches, sliced (I left the peel on and it was fine!)

8 tbsp butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger

In a skillet, over low heat, cook together the butter, brown sugar, ginger, salt, vanilla, whiskey and peaches, until the juices thicken like maple syrup.  If the peaches are quite soft and start to break up, remove them and thicken the juices on their own.  Takes about 12 minutes or so.  Pour into a 8 inch square baking dish.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make the cake, melt the 8 tbsp butter over low heat, until it turns a caramel colour.  Strain this into the bowl of a mixer.  Discard solids. Let the brown butter cool for a bit.  Combine the dry ingredients in another bowl and set aside.  Beat together the brown butter, brown sugar and vanilla with the paddle attachment.   Add one egg at a time, scraping bowl between additions.  Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Add the grated fresh ginger and pour this on top of the peach mixture, smoothing with a spatula.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  While still warm, invert cake onto platter.  Serves 6.  


  1. I can smell your cake from here! Love the addition of brown butter and vanilla bean. Yum!

  2. Mmmmm peaches! You capture them perfectly!

  3. Renee, this is the effect your blog has . . .

    I can hardly wait to go buy some more peaches and make this recipe!

    p.s. I made your strawberry rhubarb tiramisu a while ago and it was awesome! Thanks!

  4. Thanks Tracy - the house had the most amazing smell after I baked this cake! Anon, thank you!
    Shelley, happy to hear it. Your challenge is not an easy one to take on. I would not last a day. I'm so happy you made the tiramisu - my favourite way to eat strawberry and rhubarb!

  5. Wow Renee, ginger and peach all in a cake sounds and looks delicious...and perfect with a cup of tea.
    Hope you ar having a wonderful week :-)

  6. Thanks for posting this! It's in the oven right now and it smells divine! I hope I can plate it as well as you did. 18. More. Minutes.

  7. Ha! New boots always cheer me up too! So would a slice of this amazing looking cake. Ginger and peaches sounds like a winning combination.

  8. I just found this recipe about three weeks ago, and while we have too much diabetes at our house to have this wonderful cake, it provided me with great inspiration for a diabetic-friendly interpretation of it. The ginger, peaches, and vanilla combination is brilliant and you are now my peach cake hero. Thank you!

  9. Anybody have suggestions for a whisky substitute


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