Life’s just peachy. Even on a cloudy, cool summer day, at least when you have a slice of this peach upside down cake topped with a scoop of creamy ice cream.
This cake starts with gorgeous summer peaches. I bought these because their rosy cheeks were so pretty, because it’s summertime and because eating a peach out of hand, juice dripping down your arm as you bite into it standing over the kitchen sink, is one of life’s very great pleasures. I’d had these peaches a whole thirty-six hours before they showed signs of turning bad. WHY does fruit do this to meeeee? Generally speaking, I’d rather fruit hang around at least forty-eight hours before shuffling off their mortal coils. I was tempted to compose an Anglo-Saxon funeral dirge for the fruit: “I sing a fyrd song of Peaches, beautiful fruit! / Rosy skin darkens, golden flesh withers, / feast for pestilential flies, / dry pits clatter — empty hands! / Sad my eyes, empty my belly, / dull my spirit. / Until the whale road bears to the Fruit Stand, alongside the Watermelons and Summer Corn, a mighty treasure, great joy to take!” But then I decided that might be a little premature.
So I made this cake instead, which in the cosmic order of things, turned out to be a pretty good call. Layering peaches over this caramel base turned out to be an even better call.
My caramel hardened into a toffee-like consistency as it cooled–the same problem that had plagued a few commenters, whose cakes wound up topped with chunks of hard toffee, rather than melting caramel. I worried about the hardness of my caramel while I sliced the peaches. Sadly, the peaches revealed themselves NOT to be of the freestone variety, which meant getting the pits out each peach was an epic battle. As you can see below, the struggle left some of the peaches rather mangled. It was worth it all though, once the peach slices were arranged in beautiful pinwheels over the caramel in the pan. And joy! as I arranged the juicy slices, I could see the sweet juices softening the toffee-like caramel beneath them.
About an hour later, the cake emerged from the oven, deep golden brown, caramel bubbling around the edges, smelling like vanilla and golden sweet peaches. After briefly cooling, the moment of truth: turning the cake out. I’ll admit to a brief moment of panic midturn, when I realized that treating a ceramic cake stand AND a heavy cast-iron skillet like an hourglass over bare feet was a bad idea. But I managed to get the whole shebang to the counter, just in time to hear a sweet, musical “Thunk” that told me my cake had, indeed, fallen out of the pan. And, whew, the caramel behaved as it was supposed to, pooling in the dips and hollows of the tender, bronzed peaches and dripping down the sides of the cake.
The finished cake tastes like a pineapple upside down cake fell in love with a peach cobbler and had a baby: fluffy vanilla cake married to luscious wedges of golden peaches that melted into peach-infused caramel. I ate my slice with a single scoop of this buttermilk ice cream. And thought I had died and gone to heaven.