Whiskey Peach Upside Down Cake

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And suddenly, it’s fall. It’s in the 40s at night and today was the first sunny day we’ve had since the rain came back with a vengeance over the last month after being left neglected in the back of the closet with our boots and scarves for the summer. For a few weeks, I completely ignored the signs – the foggy mornings, intermittent downpours, and abrupt appearance of pumpkin spice everything. Or rather, I didn’t ignore the signs. They were there as I stubbornly rode my bike to work without gloves. I just told myself it wasn’t fall quite yet – I could still ride through town without getting a single goosebump! Still summer, right?

Wrong. Fall is here. I can’t convince myself (or anyone else) otherwise anymore. Weekends have passed completely sunshine-less. I bought my ski pass. I drink more tea than water. Muddy boots clutter the doorway. The office football rivalry is in full swing.

And now I find myself feeling like I’ve cheated fall a little bit by ignoring its first few weeks. I defiantly turned a sunburned shoulder to it and ate my less-than-juicy, slightly out-of-season peach, when really, I should have put on my long sleeves and tossed an acorn squash in the oven. Oh well. Football season’s not even halfway over yet, the leaves still have a lot of color-changing to do, and the cast iron pot has been dusted off and commissioned for a stew. There’s plenty of fall left to enjoy.

This cake is my official farewell to the summer that left three weeks ago and my no-longer-hesitant to the fall that has been impatiently knocking on the door ever since. It’s a perfect cake for this in-between season we’re in. Light and sweet enough for summer, but complex and caramel-y enough for winter (thank you, whiskey). Just right for fall. And an excellent use for those mealy peaches that just aren’t as good as they were a month ago, no matter how much you wish they were.

First make a whiskey caramel sauce, pour it in the pan, and arrange some peach slices in it. (Put more in the middle than I did, they separated while it baked and left an awkward blank spot.)

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Then the cake batter will go in. It’s light, there’s whipped egg whites!

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A while in the oven, and your coping mechanism for transitioning to fall is here.

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Whiskey Peach Upside Down Cake

Very slightly adapted from the Baked: Elements cookbook

Yield: One 9-inch, single-layer cake

For the Whisky Cake Topping:

3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons good-quality whiskey

1 lb fresh peaches, cut into 1/4- or 1/2-inch slices

For the Whiskey Cake

3/4 cup cake flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large egg yolks, plus 2 large egg whites, divided

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

2 tablespoons good-quality whiskey

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Make the Whiskey Cake Topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position the rack in the center. Butter the bottom and side of a 9-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment, and butter the parchment.

In a small saucepan over medium-low head, melt the butter. Whisk in the brown sugar and whiskey and cook until the sugar is melted and the mixture is foamy. Remove from heat, pour into the prepared pan, and swirl the mixture to coat the bottom of the pan.

Arrange the peach slices in a circle directly on top of the sugar mixture to cover the bottom of the pan. Do not try to overload the pan with peaches and don’t be concerned if you have some left over. Set the pan aside.

Make the Whiskey Cake

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks, oil, and vanilla, and beat until just combined.

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and the whiskey. Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

In a medium bowl (or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment), whisk the egg whites vigorously for 1 minutes. Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the whites and continue beating until soft peaks form.

Gently fold one quarter of the egg white mixture into the cake batter until almost combined. The mixture will begin to lighten. Fold another quarter of the egg white mixture into the cake batter until nearly combined. Finally, add the remaining egg white mixture to the cake batter and fold in gently until completely combined.

Pour the batter over the peaches (since this is an upside down cake, the peaches will become the topping when you flip the cake over later). Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until the cake is very brown (but not burnt) and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake (not all the way through to the sticky topping) comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake and carefully invert onto a serving platter. Let the cake cool to almost room temperature and serve with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired (you can add whiskey to the whipped cream, too!).

This cake is best the day it is made, but it can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with a cake dome or in a cake saver for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

*NOTES: If you don’t have a mixer, don’t fret! I did this all by hand (even the egg whites) and it turned out just fine. Also, the whiskey topping of mine boiled over a little while it was baking. Put some foil or a baking sheet on the rack under the cake to keep it from making a mess in your oven.

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