I saw this recipe in Ottolenghi Simple ages ago and thought it looked and sounded wonderful. But of course it’s not a recipe for the winter. Well unless you’re happy buying out-of-season fruit that’s been flown in from the other side of the world. This isn’t just an environmental point; out-of-season fruit really doesn’t taste that good so I always, for example, eat only English strawberries in the summer when they’re in season. The peaches I used for this cake did come from Italy – lovely large organic ones I bought in Whole Foods – but the raspberries were British.
My daughter came down from Worcestershire for a long weekend with her wife and son and the plan was to go over to my son’s – who lives near me – for a family meal and get-together on Saturday evening. Jonathan and I shared the cooking: lamb kebabs, monkfish kebabs and large raw tiger prawns for the barbecue. I made a huge fattoush to go with it (there were five adults and three little boys). It also seemed the ideal opportunity, with peaches and raspberries in season, to try this recipe.
It’s quick and easy to make but I did ‘plan’ by buying the peaches a couple of days beforehand to allow them time to ripen. Often the ones we buy aren’t ready to eat; or you certainly can’t count on finding any at the last moment. I bought organic blanched hazelnuts from Whole Foods and everything else was standard food cupboard ingredients.
It’s often said – and indeed has been said many times by me – that you shouldn’t change a baking recipe the first time you use it: baking recipes and their exact measurements are not to be played with. However, when I saw the quantity of sugar included in this cake recipe, I simply couldn’t bring myself to use that much: 320g sugar to 200g butter. I discussed it with my daughter, a great cook and excellent baker. She agreed. So the experiment continued: I’d use just 200g sugar to match the butter measurement, which is more usual. With tentative confidence I assumed it would all work out fine; I felt between the two of us, we knew enough about cake baking to make this alteration. If worse came to worst, it would be a baking disaster … and you, dear reader, would never have heard from me about one of the most marvellous cakes I have ever made.
Hazelnut, Peach & Raspberry Cake – Serves 8-10
- 2 large, ripe peaches, stones removed and cut into 1½ cm wedges
- 200g raspberries
- 200g caster sugar + 1 tablespoon
- 125g blanched hazelnuts
- 200g butter, soft at room temperature
- 3 large eggs
- 125g plain flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
Preheat oven to 190C/170 Fan/Gas 5
Line a 24cm springform cake time with greaseproof paper and lightly brush with sunflower or olive oil.
Start by preparing the fruit. Stone and slice the peaches and put them in a bowl with 150g raspberries (save the remaining 50g for decoration at the end). Sprinkle over the 1 tablespoon caster sugar and set aside.
Now put the hazelnuts in a food processor and blitz until they are roughly ground – not too fine. This gives a lovely texture to the cake.
Put the 200g sugar in a large bowl with the soft butter. Beat with an electric mixer until well combined and smooth. Now add the eggs one at a time, with a little of the flour to prevent the mixture curdling. Once all the eggs are beaten in, add the dry ingredients: hazelnuts, remaining flour and baking powder. Beat well until you have a smooth batter.
It’s quite a thick batter. I used Sharpham Park Heritage flour which is a mix of spelt and heritage flours. It has a slight wholemeal effect, so perhaps not as light as a simple plain flour, but I like it for cakes for its wonderful flavour.
Transfer the batter to the prepared cake tin. Smooth the top. Lay the peach slices and raspberries on top. Then put into the preheated oven for 70-80 minutes. After 30 minutes, cover the cake loosely with some tin foil to stop the top getting too brown.
Remove from the oven when nicely golden brown and shrinking from the sides. It’s quite a gooey cake so the middle will remain a little soft; you need to judge whether it’s done by its look rather than testing with a skewer. There will be no sign of the fruit! It’s all sunken in and will be revealed again when you cut into it. Cool for a few minutes in the tin before transferring carefully to a cooling rack.
Once the cake is cool, transfer to a serving plate and place the remaining raspberries on top. I also dusted mine with a little icing sugar – because I thought that would look nice!
The sight of the cake was greeted with much enthusiasm – especially by the little boys: Cake!!
It was a hot summer’s day and we were able to eat outside, which was wonderful. I served the cake with some crème fraiche. Ottolenghi makes no mention of accompaniments but I felt it needed something and as it was likely to be quite sweet (even with my sugar adjustment!), a tart crème fraiche would be a good balance. Son Jonathan made our favourite V&T to go with it: Martini’s Riserva Speciale Rubino vermouth with tonic water, slices of tangerine and lots of ice. This vermouth (a red one) has a lovely bitter edge making it wonderfully refreshing on a hot day and it was lovely with the dessert.
The cake was fantastic. It truly was one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. The texture was soft and slightly gooey with a crusty topping; the sunken fruit was soft but had retained the two fruits’ distinct flavours; and the home-ground hazelnuts gave the cake a brilliant texture as well as a gorgeous nutty taste. Everyone loved it. Including the little boys (nearly 3, 3¾ and 6½). Some seconds were had by those with enough room to eat more at the end of our big meal. Only one portion remained. It was a perfect ending to a special family meal.