I’ve never been very good at making beautifully frosted layer cakes. In fact, I generally avoid them, turning to Bundt and tube pans for simple and attractive cakes. I don’t have the patience required to beautifully frost towering layers, and it never comes out looking quite like I’d imagined. I take a cue from British bakers with a simple, single layer with a lovely gilding of frosting that is just enough, but not too much. This particular cake contains many things that I love – peak of season ripe peaches and nutty, rich brown butter.
There are some steps here – first you brown the butter, then you refrigerate it to solidify, then you have to bring it back to a usable consistency. You can be vigilant and check it while it’s in the fridge until it is just the right beating consistency, but I get a little distracted and miss the mark. What you are going for is having the browned butter at the same consistency you would use regular butter when you beat it into a cake or a frosting. It isn’t difficult, it just takes a little patience. But man, is the payoff big. The depth of browned butter adds a whole new dimension to an otherwise simple cake and highlights the gorgeous peaches in a perfectly delectable way. Brown the butter in two batches as directed so you have the right amount for each element.
Peach Brown Butter Cake
- For the Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 medium peaches, peeled and diced
- For the Frosting
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 medium peach, peeled
3 ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
- For the Cake
- Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan (light colored or stainless is best so you can see the butter as it browns). Heat over medium high heat, watching constantly, until the butter is melted. It will start to spit and hiss, then you will see brown speckles appear. Swirl the butter around to distribute the browned bits, and as soon as the butter has an even brown color and a nice nutty smell, pour it into a heat proof bowl and cool slightly. Refrigerate for at least half an hour, until it has solidified. (You can do this up to a day ahead). The butter should be softened almost to room temperature to proceed.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper the spray the entire pan with baking spray.
- Scoop the brown butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat a few minutes to loosen it up. Add the sugar and beat at medium until fluffy and pale and creamy, about 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, making sure each addition is well blended before adding the next. Beat on the flour, baking powder and salt until the batter is smooth and well combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the diced peaches and fold them in with a spatula to evenly distribute. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top to an even layer. BBake for 40 – 45 minutes, until a tester interted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then transfer to a platter to cool completely.
- For the Frosting
- While the cake is baking, brown the ¾ cup of butter as before, also refrigerating it until solid.
- Puree the peach in a blender or food processor. You will need ¼ cup of puree for the icing.
- As for the cake, soften the browned butter, then put it in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat a few minutes to loosen it up, then add the confectioners’ sugar a cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. After adding the first two cups, beat in the peach puree and pinch of salt, then add as much of the remaining confectioners’ sugar to create a smooth, spreadable frosting. You may not need all the sugar, you may need a bit more. If the frosting becomes too stiff, you can add a little milk or cream to even it out.
- Spread the frosting on the cooled cake and serve with some sliced peaches on the top.