The only cake recipe you’ll need this summer

This was last week’s Mint recipe and I can’t stress enough just how useful it is.  It’s bailed me out of many a dessert fix – 5 minutes to make, half an hour in the oven – quite possibly the only summer cake recipe you’ll ever need…

I frequently get messages from readers pleading for recipes which don’t require scales—most Indian “andaaz”-based kitchens, they say, simply don’t possess a set. Although I recommend investing in scales if you’re at all keen to explore home baking—personally, I’m a slave to mine—I come from a long line of cooks who weren’t. My mother, an excellent baker, would have been completely at home in an Indian kitchen, using a tablespoon to measure everything—at least until she went through a weird midlife crisis Cordon Bleu phase in the 1970s.

I have inherited her beautiful, but now rather thin and worn, old spoon and use it most days—it makes me feel as if I’m stirring some magic into a cake or biscuit mixture. Today, I have used it as the base measure for a gorgeous, fruity sponge cake which is a perfect showcase for every glorious soft fruit about to make its way down from the Himalayas: I’ve used the fragrant little peaches which are in season briefly now, but you could substitute apricots, plums, cherries and later the apples and pears.

It’s inspired by a wonderful recipe in Jane Grigson’s 1982 masterpiece Fruit Book,given to the author by the owner of the village store near her French home. This, along with its companion volume on vegetables, is a book I refer to constantly—in fact, my copy falls open at this recipe’s page. Grigson named it Tarte de Cambraibut it’s really more of a cake. It requires minimal time in the kitchen—ideal for the next few months—about 5 minutes if you use fresh chopped fruit. I decided to use some peaches I had poached in a vanilla syrup first, again with imprecise measurements. I think it takes the cake up to new (Himalayan) heights.

Vive l’Andaaz.

Vanilla Peach Andaaz Cake

Serves 6

A word about the tablespoon measure: My mother’s spoon, heaped with flour or slightly rounded with caster sugar, measures one ounce (approximately 25g) but as long as you use the same spoon throughout, it doesn’t really matter, your cake will just be larger or smaller according to your spoon size—the main thing is to keep the ratios the same.

Ingredients

For the fruit

1/2 kg of just-ripe (not squishy) Himalayan peaches

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups water

2 vanilla pods

For the cake

10 level tbsp plain flour (maida)

1 tsp baking powder

6 level tbsp vanilla sugar (caster sugar which has been kept in a jar with vanilla pods)

4 tbsp sunflower oil

8 tbsp milk

2 whole eggs

Finely grated zest of a lemon

A pinch of salt

A little extra butter and sugar for the topping

Method

First prepare the fruit: Dissolve the sugar and water in a pan large enough to hold all the peaches and bring to a boil. Place the peaches in the syrup and let them simmer for 3 minutes, no longer. Lift the peaches out of the syrup and when cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Slit the vanilla pods and remove the seeds. Add both pods and seeds to the sugar syrup, then put the peaches back in and leave to cool to soak up some of the vanilla flavour.

When you’re ready to make the cake, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Grease something to bake the cake in. This also can be flexible. I used my beautiful Assamese earthenware dish but it works equally well in Pyrex or a metal cake or pie tin. Just make sure to grease it well.

Remove the stones from the peaches and lay them in the baking dish to form a single layer—you might not need them all but whatever’s left is delicious with a dollop of cream.

Measure all the ingredients into a bowl with your trusty tablespoon, then whisk to mix, or use a mixer. Pour the mixture, which will be like a batter, over the peaches. Put small dabs of butter over the surface along with a sprinkling of caster sugar.

Bake for about 35-45 minutes until a skewer prodded into the centre comes out clean.

Eat straight from the oven with thick cream or cold later.

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29 thoughts on “The only cake recipe you’ll need this summer

  1. This is one gorgeous cake Pamella !!
    I love poached pears with some fresh cream too but this cake really takes peaches to Himalayan heights 🙂
    Loved your earthenware baking dish too !!

  2. Sounds absolutely delicious – can’t get Himalayan peaches (luckily for the planet) but ours are just coming in (very early) so I’ll give this a try.

    I agree about this book – my ‘desert island’ books are Jane Grigson’s ‘Vegetable Book’ and ‘Fruit Book’. In my opinion, no one else has come close to them. Nigel Slater’s ‘Tender’ are ok but nothing like hers. She’s someone I’d have loved to have met. My first copies had to be replaced as they fell apart from use. Funnily enough, I’ve never tried Tarte de Cambrai. I will now, though.

  3. That sounds very easy and yummy….Will give it a try. I recently made a cake which apparently the french kids make using yoghurt pots (from Chocolate and Zucchini’s web site), which turned out pretty good too. Please have a read when you get a chance and let me know what you think.

  4. It’s always a pleasure reading your blog. Kindly advise which oven do you use. I have to buy for my kitchen and intend to learn from you and bake.

  5. HiPamela I do something similar but put whatever fruit is in season at the time and it works nicely. How is your back and what of your plans for the summer. y m

  6. Hi Marina – I do the same – in fact my default variety is actually apple. Back a lot better thanks – looking forward to going home in a couple of weeks although a logistical nightmare this year – kids suddenly doing their own thing! Was thinking of you last night at the sushi bar @ YYT – we got rather more sushi than you got cake! We should catch up properly in August x

  7. Hi Vipin – I use an Oven/Toaster/Grill – the largest Morphy Richards I could get my hands on – think they’re generally better than the gas ovens available in India.

  8. Hi Earlybird – I’m also on my second copies of both – what I love about these books is that they’re just so crammed with information/recipes in a way that contemporary cook books simply aren’t allowed to be. Grigson’s ‘Fruit’ would now be eked out over 6 books. Mind you, I’m also a huge Nigel Slater fan and I think ‘Tender’ is a definite riff on Grigson

  9. Ms Sarkar – fear your new job may leave very little time for pottering in the kitchen x

  10. Sangeeta – glad you noticed the pot – I’m in love with it – food just looks so gorgeous in it – got it from Dilli Haat

  11. Thanks for your reply about the oven you use. I had asked this question from several other “Indian” celebrity chefs, none of them cared to enlighten.

  12. It’s me again! I was going to give this a try this weekend. What is the size of your gorgeous pan? (9″ or…)?

    Many thanks

  13. Shilpa – this really is the most forgiving recipe – the one in the picture is about 8 inches but no need for great precision. Let me know how you get on

  14. It turned out beautifully. Infact, I am posting about it in tomorrow’s post and have given a link to your blog. Thank you ever so much for sharing this recipe. I used pears instead of peaches (couldn’t find nice ones around) but it was still amazing and was demolished really quickly. Thank again.

  15. Aah – Pamela, after our previous exchange, I ordered a set of scales from Amazon and I come here to find an andaaz wala cake 🙂 On a separate note, when I lived in India – my mom & grandmom always made oven free cakes . My granny used Betty Crocker’s recipes but baked the cake using a ‘handvo cooker’ ( & scales :D). The handvo cooker looks like a bundt cake pan and has a seperate attachment which is filled with sand and placed on the burner.You place the cooker on top of the sand for even heating ( I assume)
    Her cakes always turned out superb….if you are making a foray into the oven free world of baking – you must try this
    Aparna

  16. Wow Aparna! I’ve never heard of the Handvo – sounds intriguing, have to do some research!

  17. Madam,
    Where one could get a vanilla pod in north eastern part of country,,….!! in my life, I’ve not even seen it anywhere in this region, let the cooking go…!! It’s not as easy as it appears….!!!, Besides, I’ve also heard about grapefruit, ( is is synonym of grapes ? ) what is it all about ? if it’s available is India ? if yes, by what name it’s called here…?

    U Sharma,
    Shillong
    Meghalaya

  18. Thanks for your comment Umashankar – good point. I’ve not been to the East so I’m not sure what’s available. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t use any vanilla – perhaps try something that is available locally – nutmeg? Grapefruit is a citrus fruit that looks like a giant yellow orange. If you don’t get them locally use oranges or nimbu. All the best. Pamela

  19. Only recently been receiving your emails and recipes, but so enjoying them.The recent cake (which I used as a pud !) recipe with the peaches was a great sucess and lovely with a few raspberries from the garden added! Sorry your friend is leaving (left?)…maybe you will find another baking `kindred spirit` ! I hope so,,,

  20. Thanks Ruth – yes this is definitely a ‘go-to’ recipe. Laura has left now but as I’m back in Uk at the moment, the full impact won’t hit me until I get back to Delhi after the holidays!

    Sent from my iPad

  21. Pamela….this turned out fabulous and it was so easy….was baking a cake after a decade! Since I didn’t have Vanilla pods,I used Vanilla Essence which worked fine.I am going to hunt for the pods and make this again.Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

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