When you write about food, you’re never in the right season. I’m regularly baking up fall pies in July, and scouring the markets in vain for rhubarb in January. Sometimes I’m pumpkin spiced out long before October begins.
There are no words to describe how much I love what I do, but the off-seasonality can really take a toll on me—like last year, when I’d made four Thanksgiving dinner spreads before it was time to help my own family with our table.
I feel an even worse kind of anguish when I have an idea just a minute too late, because there’s nothing worse than a brilliant Christmas cookie that you dream up just as everyone begins their New Year’s diets. Such was the case with the recipe I’m sharing today.
Last year, over Labor Day weekend, I threw together a quick fruit cobbler to bid farewell to summer and all its bounty. It was supremely delicious, but the casserole dish wasn’t befitting of how grand the rest of our shindig was. I started planning a way to gussy up the humble cobbler, asking myself the question: How do I turn this into a showstopper, and still keep all the most delicious things about it? For once, the off-seasonality was in my favor, because I had until next summer to figure it out.
I tackled it one section at a time. By the time the leaves started turning, I’d decided it was meant to be a layer cake; there’s no better way I know to stop a dinner in its tracks than to bring out a towering beauty. I loved the idea of including a crumb topping, like you might have on top of a cobbler, inside my layer cake. Through the fall, I tweaked my streusel. I wanted it to be extra clumpy, so I fiddled with my ratio a million times until I got it right.
With the streusel behind me, I turned to the cake. All winter, whenever I had an extra afternoon or a surprisingly simple morning, I’d get to baking for this recipe. I wanted the cake to have a little bit of biscuit-ness, like the fluffier-topped cobblers I prefer, so I used a mixture of all-purpose flour and cornmeal, eventually calling in dark brown sugar and yogurt, which got it just right.
Come spring, I was ready for the frosting. I decided I wanted something that was as much like whipped cream as possible, since I personally like plenty of that on my cobbler. I’ve long loved beating mascarpone into whipped cream because it makes a beautifully smooth, thick filling that tastes so insanely luxurious. This was the easiest decision of the process. From there, it was a waiting game.
I had to wait for fresh peaches. I couldn’t even bear to do a base test using frozen peaches, because I knew it wouldn’t be the same. So I waited and waited…and waited some more. I watched rhubarb come, then strawberries, then—at long last—I saw the first peaches. I sliced them lovingly, macerated them with care, and then I made the cake again, this time with every piece of the cobbler-cake puzzle. I wanted to devour it, but I forced myself to eat it slowly and truly examine it. It took two slices to be certain, but I was pretty sure it was perfect.
Now, I finally get to share the recipe, and I’m so excited I could burst, not unlike a freshly bitten, too-ripe peach. This was one time I wasn’t bothered by the off-seasonality of my work. I was grateful, because when peach season came, it was ready. I put my impatience to the test and learned an important lesson in the process: It can often take a lot of time for something to arrive just in time. So here it is, my Peach Cobbler Cake. It’s a cake one year in the making, but the timing is perfect.
Peach Cobbler Cake
- 4 cups (482 g) all purpose flour
- 2 cups (227 g) fine cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon (12 g) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (6 g) baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) fine sea salt
- 1 cup (198 g) vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
- 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups (425 g) dark brown sugar
- 6 large (340 g) eggs
- 2 teaspoons (10 g) vanilla extract
- 2 cups (454 g) plain full-fat yogurt
- EXTRA CLUMPY STRUSEL
- 1 cup (120 g) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (106 g) light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup (75 g) old fashioned oats
- 1/4 teaspoon (2 g) ground cinnamon
- 10 tablespoons (142 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- FILLING + FINISHING
- 3 medium (about 467 g) peaches, thinly sliced
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/3 cup (66 g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 12 ounces (341 g) mascarpone cheese
- 1 cup (113 g) powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (341 g) heavy cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 g) vanilla extract
What are some summer recipes you wait all year for? Let us know in the comments!