Making my mother her birthday cake is something I take great pride in doing, and though it never does, it's something that I always want to turn out perfect (I don't have the decorating skills to actually accomplish this). I always try to make my family something special for their birthdays but my mom is the only person I bake a cake for. It's one of my more stressful endeavours, purely because of the pressure I put on myself, but I do it because it's for my mother (insert joke about Italian sons and their mothers here :)).
My mother has always been the type of person who puts others ahead of herself. Even on her birthday she is more concerned with everyone else being happy than with herself. As far back as I can remember the only gifts she ever asks for are a clean house and not to cook dinner (not that we would let her if she wanted to and lets just say we typically purchase her gifts :)). It's for these reasons that I bake her cake. I guess it's the adult Adam equivalent of a macaroni card.
This is now the third birthday cake I've made for my mother. My previous attempts have turned out pretty well, especially the awesome Peanut Butter and Jam Cake from last year. This year I wanted to bake something a little different, something a little lighter and thought that a fruit based cake would be the best way to do this. And there was only one I had in mind: a three layer strawberry cream cake. The only problem was/is that strawberries haven't been particularly good this year and I wasn't going to risk the cake on subpar fruit. On the other hand the local peaches have been pretty spectacular and as good as strawberry and cream sounds, peaches and cream are meant for each other.
I didn't make any changes to the cake itself, but the move to peaches and my brother's aversion to cream cheese did mean that there would be alterations to the filling and cream. In the interest of time my peach filling was cooked and I decided on pure whipped cream as I thought it philosophically better than the cream cheese version in the original recipe.
I knew I wouldn't have enough time to do everything after work on my mother's birthday so I baked the cake the day before. One strange/interesting thing about this cake was that the top "crust" was quite sticky and seemed very eager to separate itself from the cake. Any time you touched it, you'd lose a little piece to your finger (something you can clearly see in the image below).
Thanks to some weekend OT I bailed out of work early on Tuesday to finish the cake. I needed to make the peach filling, the whipped cream, slice the cake, build and frost. Simple enough. And for the most part it was, except for the cutting of the cake. My awesome cake slicer is apparently a little to tall for this cake, or perhaps the cake is a little too thin. I tried numerous times to get three even layers, what I ended up with was pretty horrifying. With time winding down and in a fury of frustration I decided to ditch three layers for two. This meant I would be left with a good amount of peach filling and whipped cream, but I figured my ice cream wouldn't complain.
Because of the mess I made with cutting the cake (and now that I had thicker layers) I decided to frost the bottom layer of the cake as well. And for a little added decoration (if you can call it that) I made a little well of peach filling on the top. To do this I filled a peanut jar lid with filling, flipped it onto the cake, frosted around it, and then removed the lid. Voila! Slightly aesthetically better and with five minutes to spare.
After a chinese take-out dinner, it was time for the "Happy Birthdays" and cake. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. The cake had a tight and dense crumb that was lightly sweetened, which reminded me of a poundcake. It was a bit crumbly but not dry. The peach filling was terrific, it was fresh, not too sweet and when mixed with the whipped cream you were treated to that wonderful creamy-sweet peaches and creamy taste that could be a dessert all on its own. My only issue with the entire cake was that the sliced peaches weren't soft enough. I tried to soften them by tossing the peaches with sugar, but unsurprisingly they didn't sit long enough.
Overall I was really happy about how the cake turned out, despite my issues it probably went a lot smoother than most of my cakes. And amazingly the decorating part went okay too. I mean, it's still ugly, but it's not offensive :). I believe my brother's first and exact words were "it looks like a hamburger."
Peaches and Cream Cake
Adapted from Simply RecipesCake:
1 1/4 cups cake flour (150g)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp table salt
1 cup sugar, separate out 3 tbsp (200g)
3 large eggs, room temperature and separated
2 large eggs, room temperature
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted (86g)
2 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla
8 ripe medium peaches, peeled and diced
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (100g)
2 tbsp cornstarch
3 cups 35% heavy whipping cream
6 tbsp sugar (84g)
5 ripe medium peaches, peeled and segmented into sixths.
1 tbsp sugar
Preheat oven to 325F and adjust the the rack to the lower 1/3 of the oven. Grease a 9"x 2" round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, grease paper, and flour pan (I forgot to do this, don't make that mistake).
In a large bowl add flour, baking powder, salt, and all but the 3 tbsp of sugar, and whisk to combine.
To the same bowl add the 3 separated egg yolks, two whole eggs, butter, water and vanilla, and whisk until the batter is smooth.
In the bowl of a mixer add remaining egg whites and using whisk attachment beat on medium speed until frothy. Add 3 tablespoons of sugar and increase speed to high beating the egg whites until soft peaks form.
Stir in 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter until incorporated.
Fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks of white remain.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (this took me 35 minutes).
Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes before removing cake and cooling completely.
Add peaches and sugar to a medium bowl and toss together. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan add water, sugar, and cornstarch and stir until dissolved. Add peaches and place over medium heat heat.
Cook until peaches begin to soften, stirring as necessary.
Add soft peaches to food processor and pulse to a puree. It shouldn't be smooth.
Add peach puree back to saucepan and cook for another 5 minutes.
Remove filling from heat and set aside to cool.
Once the cake and filling have cooled, add whipping cream and sugar to the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment. Turn to medium high and whip until stiff peaks are formed.
To assemble cake:
Slice cake into two or three even layers.
Line the edge of the bottom layer with the peach slices. Fill the centre of the cake with 3/4 to 1 cup of peach filling.
Gently top with 1 1/2 cups of whipped cream and spread evenly over the peach filling.
(If making three layers, add second layer and repeat)
Add top layer to the cake. Fill a small deep jar lid with peach filling and flip onto cake. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of whipped cream on the top of the cake and spread evenly around the jar lid. Remove the lid and smooth the filling out onto un-frosted centre.
If two layers, frost sides of cake.
Create a circle of peach slices around the well of peach filling on top of the cake.
If not eating immediately chill in fridge.