Honestly, I couldn’t think of a good name for this cake– but it’s basically everything one could want in a summer dessert. Moist vanilla cake base, peaches sauteéd in brown sugar and butter, fluffy whipped cream, and crumbled brown sugar meringue for a little crunch. It’s light and refreshing, but rich and creamy, with tangy peaches and sweet meringue all in one.
Loosely inspired by Eton Mess (a concoction of macerated fruit, whipped cream, and meringues), this grew out of a need for a dessert that would both take advantage of the juicy, delicious, seasonal peaches available this summer, and feed a crowd. It’s not the prettiest dessert out there, but it’s utterly delicious!
Peach Cloud Cake
Brown sugar meringues (plan on making these a day ahead, since they take forever to bake and cool)
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 C lightly packed light brown sugar
pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
2. Whip egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer, starting at low-medium speed until they turn foamy, then continuing at medium speed until they reach soft peaks.
3. Add salt, and then add brown sugar about 1 tbs. at a time as you continue to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
4. Pipe onto a parchment-lined baking sheet in 2″ mounds, and bake 70-90 minutes, until no longer sticky.
5. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon, and let the meringues cool on the baking sheet for 1 hour.
6. Store in an airtight container.
Vanilla cake base (adapted from Ina Garten)
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1. Melt butter in a large skillet and add brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook until bubbly.
2. Add the peaches to the pan and sauté for 7-8 minutes until the peaches are tender and the juices have released. Pour the cooked peaches over the cooled cake base with all the juices, and chill the whole thing.
1 pint heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1. Whip cream with vanilla until slightly thickened. Add sugar, still whipping, until cream is at medium peaks.
Spread whipped cream over peach layer, and top with meringues crumbled into large chunks. Serve immediately.
If you want to make this ahead, do all of the assembly except for the meringues, and refrigerate. Put the meringues on just before serving so they don’t get soggy.
1. You’ll have more meringues than you need for just the cake, but since these are really good I think you’ll be happy to have extra. Just remember to keep storing them airtight, or they’ll get sticky. (if they do, just pop them back into a 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes, then let cool to dry out again)
2. This cake recipe actually makes a taller cake than necessary for the dessert– if you don’t level it off shorter there won’t be room for the peaches and cream in the pan! I flipped it out onto a cutting board and used a serrated bread knife to cut off about 1/2″ off the top, then replaced it in the pan. If I were to do this again I’d try to find a slightly smaller cake recipe, since reducing baking recipes isn’t as easy as just reducing the components proportionally (leavening is an issue).
3. For some reason I forgot that I’d intended to cut the peaches into bite-sized chunks to make for easier cutting of the dessert, and I sliced them instead. I’d recommend chunking them if you’re going to make this recipe on your own. Also, if your peaches are less than perfectly ripe, you can enhance the flavor a little by adding a tablespoon or two of extra sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice. I had to do this because for some reason (despite the season) my peaches were mealy and flavorless, but if I’d had better peaches I know they’d have been fine with the amounts above.
4. I poured the hot peaches over the cake to help the warm juices be absorbed into it. If for some reason you need to make the peaches first and the cake later, don’t worry, the cake will still be good if you put cold peaches on it instead.
5. I use powdered sugar for the whipped cream instead of granulated because it tends to hold up better in hot weather this way. You could also use a whipped cream stabilizer, such as Dr. Oetkers, or a tablespoon of cornstarch mixed in with the regular sugar.
6. Finally, if your peaches are really, really good and sweet and soft and juicy, I’d suggest skipping the sauteeing step and just tossing them with the brown sugar and cinnamon, letting them sit for about 15 minutes, and pouring them over the cake as is. No point in turning your delicious peaches into peach sauce, tasty as that might be.