Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Cake with Cornmeal and Amaretto Peaches, Plus a Second Variation

Summer Cake with Cornmeal and Amaretto Peaches
Thinking about this cake was almost as fun as baking and tasting.

Abby Dodge offered a Twitter #baketogether challenge for July and I enjoyed pondering variations of her recipe. I’d think about it while washing dishes, exercising, eating other meals. I know I’m not the only one whose mind wanders in this way.

My version substitutes locally produced cornmeal for half of the flour. You could call this a very sweet and moist cornbread. For a frame of reference, this cake is more moist than an Italian polenta cake tends to be.

For the fruit, I selected peaches because I love how the flavor deepens after baking. The peaches hail from Missouri because I’m told peaches do not grow so well in Iowa. (Iowa State University, would you please get on that and develop some Iowa peaches?)

Because stone fruit loves almonds, I used almond extract in the cake batter and tossed the chopped peaches with Amaretto.  I baked them in baby Bundt pans, but a round cake pan would be just fine, as would a muffin tin.

A second version of this cake could be served as dessert or appetizer or cheese course. I started with sweet cherry tomatoes which melt very nicely when baked.

Then I added a sweet, nutty cheese from Milton Creamery.  Prairie Breeze is an alpine Cheddar style cheese produced just down the road in Milton, IA. I love this cheese. Slightly dry and crumbly, its nuttiness reminds me more of a Gruyere or Emmentaler, either of which would make a fine substitution in your cake.

As I was mixing this up, it occurred to me that I was baking a cake that comes awfully close to being an All-Iowa creation, and that makes me proud to produce something so local in its origins.

The cornmeal came from Paul’s Grains located in Laurel. They grow their own corn and grind it into meal — you can’t beat fresh cornmeal.

The flour came not from Iowa but from King Arthur in Vermont, though I now see that Paul’s Grains also produces several kinds of flour.

Here is a run-down of sources for an (almost) All-Iowa version:

• Cornmeal and unbleached wheat flour — Paul’s Grains
• Sour cream — Kalona SuperNatural
• Cheese — Prairie Breeze from Milton Creamery
• Cherry tomatoes — From your garden or a farm stand
• Eggs — Farmers market

Recipe for Summer Cake with Cornmeal and Amaretto Peaches
adapted from

2/3 c all purpose flour
2/3 c cornmeal
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t table salt
6 T unsalted butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 t finely grated lemon zest
1 t pure almond extract
2/3 c sour cream

For the topping:
1-2 peaches, chopped
2 T granulated sugar
2 T Amaretto

Position an oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 350°F degrees. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9×2-inch round cake pan. Lightly flour the sides and line the bottom with a parchment or nonstick baking circle.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well blended. In a large bowl, beat the butter, and sugar with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high until well blended, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed until just blended. Add the lemon zest and almond extract  along with the second egg. Fold the dry ingredients and the sour cream alternately into the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 15 minutes.

After you put the cake in the oven, make the topping. Combine the peaches, sugar and Amaretto in a small bowl. Stir the ingredients together. After the cake has baked for 15 minutes, working quickly, slide the oven rack out and scatter the fruit evenly over the top of the cake. Continue baking until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about another 23 to 25 minutes.

Remove the cake to a rack to cool 15 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake.  Turn out onto the rack and peel away the parchment. Then using a plate, invert the cake so that it is right side up. (Note: If you used baby Bundt pans, then you’ll serve the cake with the fruit on the bottom.)

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Storage: Cover the baked and cooled cake in plastic wrap and stow at room temperature for up to 5 days.

(Almost) All-Iowa Version with Cherry Tomatoes and Prairie Breeze

Make batter as above, omitting almond extract.

Mash 2 c of cherry tomatoes, removing juice and seeds. Add 2 T sugar and stir well.  Sprinkle the tomatoes over the top of the cake, then follow with 1/3 to 1/2 c shredded Prairie Breeze cheese, pressing a little on the cheese so that it sinks into the batter just a bit.

Bake as above.

Serve as a snack with wine, as an appetizer or as a dessert.


  1. I'm from Missouri so felt a tinge of pride at your using Missouri peaches. I'm in Colorado now...I'll tell you, I would give anything for a Missouri or Iowa tomato about now!

    But I the idea of cornmeal; such a unique twist!

  2. Barbara,

    Thank you so much for stopping by. The cornmeal is a touch of my Southern roots.

    I really miss Michigan blueberries right now, and Louisiana figs.


  3. I like how you talked so lovingly about where every ingredient came from. You made each one a star and together they combined to make a wonderful production. Your cake looks perfect. I can see why you thought of it at all sorts of time during the day :)

  4. Renee,
    Thank you for such a beautiful compliment.


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