I'm the first to admit it - I'm a bit of a chicken. I find meeting new people and putting myself out there a little bit scary. I'm a huge homebody, and am most comfortable tucked up at home in comfy clothes, hiding away a little bit. So you can imagine Richard's reaction when I told him I had booked tickets to go to Alabama for the weekend, to stay with someone I had never met. Trust me, I was surprised too.
In any other situation I would have totally chickened out, but I had this underlying feeling that everything would be just fine. And of course it was. Kate has been my internet person for some time now. We met on Instagram (where I meet most of my friends these days, it's like tinder for foodies), and just clicked. We lead very different lives - Kate lives in Selma, Alabama, in a real life house with her family, which includes two kids who are quite possibly some of the cutest in the entire world, while I am in a teeny shoebox here in busy NYC, which is currently filled with kittens tearing up my apartment.
It was one of the best weekends I have had in a very, very long time. Alabama couldn't be more different from NYC, and Kate is the sweetest, loveliest person. From the moment I got in the car it didn't feel like we were meeting for the first time. We spent the weekend baking up a storm. I got all the baby cuddles I wanted. Miss Aimee was a total heart melter (how can your heart not be melted by a teeny sassy two year old who calls you 'Miss Erin'). My theory that people wear full camo in the south was proven to be right. ;) I ate a 'rib sandwich' that was a bbq rib, surrounded by 3 pieces of white bread. Come Sunday I was really bummed to leave. But of course, there was cake.
And not just any cake. This here is a Peach and Rhubarb crumb cake. It starts with a soft vanilla cake, slightly tangy and dense from the addition of sour cream. It is then covered with a mixture of fresh peach and rhubarb, tossed in sugar, and finished off with a brown butter streusel, which is quite possibly one of the best things I have ever tasted. The fruit cooks down and lightly soaks the top of the cake, and each bite is lifted by the addition of the crunchy brown butter streusel. We ended up testing this recipe 5 or 6 times, each tweak improving the recipe slightly, experimenting with different fruit and quantities of streusel. And I think we are onto a winner here. This is going to be my go-to this summer, topped with whatever fruit is in season. It is fuss-free, you can transport and serve it from the tin that it is cooked in, and it is amazing either fresh and warm from the oven, or at room temperature.
You can make this with whatever fruit you have on hand! Kate has the recipe for a raspberry and rhubarb version on her blog, while I have included a peach and rhubarb variation. Either way check out her site - the food is beautiful, and I can tell you now she's amazing in real life too.
A few wee notes:
- This cake is extremely versatile - you can use whatever fruit you have on hand. I made it with frozen rhubarb as a test - keep the rhubarb frozen and adjust the cooking time slightly so that you don't lose the moisture it gives while the fruit defrosts.
- If you don't have sour cream on hand you can sub greek yoghurt
- It can be kind of tricky to tell when the cake is cooked, as the fruit and streusel tends to hide things slightly, and the fruit can coat your cake tester. If you notice cake batter on your tester, leave it in the oven for a bit longer, but make sure you are not mistaking fruit juice for uncooked batter.
- If you are using ripe, sweet peaches, you will likely only require about 2 Tbsp brown sugar, however if they are slightly tart, adjust the sugar by adding an additional tablespoon
Peach and rhubarb crumb cake
- Makes one 9" cake -
Cake recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
11 tablespoons (155 gm) unsalted butter, diced
1 cup (210 gm) brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (vanilla extract can be substituted)
1-2/3 cup (200 gm) all-purpose flour
2 cups (240 gm) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (55 gm) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup (150 gm) sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons milk (any variety), at room temperature
2/3 cup (160 gm) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (vanilla extract can be substituted)
2 cups of ½” diced rhubarb (washed and trimmed of tops and ends, about 240 gm/ 8-1/2
ounces before trimming)
2 cups of ½” diced and peeled peaches (about 450 gm/1 lb of small unpeeled peaches)
2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar
- PROCESS -
Add the diced butter to a small saucepan or skillet set over medium heat. Stir with a whisk or swirl the pan occasionally to ensure the butter is melting evenly. Once melted, the butter will sizzle, foam, and eventually start forming little golden bits on the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking and stirring regularly until the butter has taken on an amber color and nutty aroma. Take care not to burn the butter. Remove the pan from heat and pour the brown butter into a medium sized mixing bowl.
To the mixing bowl, add the brown sugar, salt, and vanilla bean paste, and stir to combine. Add the flour and fold until large crumble clumps form and the flour is well incorporated. Set aside in the fridge while you prepare the cake.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9” square or round baking pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with a square of parchment paper for easy removal, if desired. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the egg, vanilla bean paste, and milk and beat on low until well combined. Scrape the bowl, if needed, to ensure that everything is evenly incorporated. Add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients and beat on low speed to combine.
Add ½ of the sour cream and beat to combine. Repeat this process once more and then add the remaining dry ingredients, stirring on low to combine. Scrape the sides of the bowl and fold in any unincorporated bits. Your batter will be quite thick.
Spread the batter evenly in the bottom of your lined pan. In a separate bowl, toss the rhubarb and peaches together with the brown sugar (see notes), and spread this mixture on top of the cake batter. Gently press the fruit into the batter a bit. Crumble the brown butter streusel evenly on top of the fruit and place the pan in the preheated oven. Bake for about 45-55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean (See notes). Allow to cool slightly before eating. Cake will keep best at room temperature, covered tightly in plastic wrap.