I'm sure you all recognise this scenario. Trays of beautiful stone fruit at the supermarket, luring you beguilingly with their rosy-tinged skins. Overwhelmed with desire for these seductive beauties, you fill a bag and scurry home in anticipation of that first tangy bite, which you take standing at the kitchen sink to catch all the juices that will be running down your chin and your arms. You raise that delicate orb to your lips, close your eyes and sink in your teeth, and .... blech ... your eyes spring open with the disappointment of floury, flabby flesh, tough skin, and complete absence of any flavour. I don't know why I keep buying stone fruit, as I am so often deeply disappointed. I know that in reality the only way to experience a beautiful peach is picked straight from the tree at perfect ripeness, but still somehow I live in hope and am lured in time and again. This summer, the fruit seems to have been even more disappointing than usual.
Fortunately, such disappointing fruit can be redeemed by cooking it. I have made big batches of fruit roasted in the oven with a liberal sprinkling of vanilla sugar and a good dousing of my "44" - this makes a great dessert served with good vanilla ice cream or mascarpone, or is also beautiful for breakfast with some Greek style yoghurt and a sprinkling of nuts. I've made crumbles and cakes. Even adding a few bright, zingy flavours like chilli, lime and coriander to make a salsa can offer some vague redemption for otherwise lack-lustre fruit.
This week I made a Nectarine & Plum Sponge Cake to salvage some less than perfect fruit taking up real estate in my fruit bowl. The recipe comes from Julie Biuso's book Sweet Feast. This is Julie's latest book, and is a selection of her favourite dessert recipes. This is the fourth book by Julie Biuso that I've now added to my cookbook collection, and like all the others this one does not disappoint. Everything is beautifully photographed, and the recipes are clear, easy to follow, and, most importantly, reliable. The book is divided into sections - cakes and sponges, tarts and pies, special occasions, comfort, chocolate, and festive - and at the end of each section is a really useful "cooking class" offering technical advice and hints.
This recipe comes from the cakes and sponges section of the book, and although the original recipe was for little individual nectarine sponge cakes, I chose to incorporate some plums as well and made one large cake instead of individual ones.
Nectarine & Plum Sponge Cake
Adapted from recipe by Julie Biuso
from Sweet Feast
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
200g (7 oz) standard flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2x large nectarines
2 or 3 plums
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 large free-range eggs, room temperature
225g (8 oz) caster sugar
125g (4-1/2 oz) butter
170ml (3/4 cup) milk
icing sugar for dusting
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees F), regular bake.
Grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin.
Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
Remove the stones from the fruit and cut the flesh into slices. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and cinnamon together, to make a spice sugar. Set aside.
Put the butter and milk into a small saucepan, heating gently until the butter has melted.
Meanwhile, break the eggs into a bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat for about 1 minute, then continue to beat constantly as you add the caster sugar one tablespoon at a time. Keep beating, until the mixture is very pale and thick - the mixture will form ribbons when you lift the beaters from the mixture, and it will have almost a mousse-like quality.
Sift half the flour and baking powder mixture over the egg mixture and gently fold in with a large metal spoon. Add the rest of the flour mixture and fold in. The mixture will be quite thick.
Bring the milk and butter up to a quick boil and pour it, still bubbling, over the cake batter, stirring continuously. Mix until fairly smooth, but don't worry about any small lumps.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Arrange the sliced fruit over the top of the batter, and sprinkle with the spiced sugar.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely on the rack.
Dust with icing sugar and serve with yoghurt or mascarpone.
I loved this cake - it was deliciously moist, and I love the fruity tanginess when you bite into a piece of the nectarine or plum. This is a good sized cake, which makes it ideal for serving a crowd - it offers 8 generous servings, and could probably easily stretch to 10 or 12 if serving as part of a larger meal. It kept well for several days, and I actually thought it was better on day 2 than the day it was made. It was great for breakfast too. What? ... toast and jam/cake and fruit ... same/same, no different, as far as I'm concerned. End of story.
I hope you'll give this a cake a try - I'm sharing it this week at Cookbook Sundays, where my friends are delving into their cookbook collections and sharing some of their recipes. Do stop by to see what they're cooking - you might even feel inspired to link up a recipe from one of your own cookbooks.
I am also sharing this post with Sweet New Zealand, a monthly blog event created by the very lovely Alessandra Zecchini, and which this month is hosted by the equally lovely and incredibly talented Shirleen at Sugar & Spice and All Things Nice. This is an opportunity for all Kiwi bloggers (whether you are living in New Zealand or overseas), as well as for non-Kiwi bloggers living in New Zealand, to connect and share some of those sweet treats from your kitchen. So, head on over to Shirleen's and share something sweet.
I'm also sharing this post at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum, and at Gallery of Favourites hosted by April at The 21st Century Housewife.