When I was a little girl, my mother had two sets of dishes: the “everyday” dishes” and the “good” ones. The everyday dishes were, of course, the ones we used for meals every day. The “good” set only came out for holidays and special occasions. She had a set of “good” glassware too. They only made an appearance when the “good” dishes were being used. I never understood why that was. The good dishes were much prettier and nicer than the “everyday” ones. Why didn’t we use them all the time? What were we saving them for? Didn’t we deserve to eat off of the good stuff?
My mother had special guest soaps in the bathroom too. They were shaped like little flowers and they smelled wonderful. But, we weren’t allowed to use them either. Mom said they were “just for show”. We used bars of Ivory or Camay. I didn’t get that either. Why shouldn’t we use those pretty and yummy smelling soaps for “everyday”?
Our house was full of things that were only for company or “just for show”. I remember telling myself then that, when I grew up and had a home of my own, I’d always use the good china and fancy soaps – every day. But, I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because I often find myself doing the same darn thing! I have to constantly remind myself that my family is the most important thing in the world. They deserve the good stuff – every day!
Likewise, there are cakes I bake just for company, and cakes I bake for “everyday”. The “everyday” cakes are usually very plain and uncomplicated little numbers to enjoy with our morning coffee, or nibble on for an afternoon pick-me-up. Rarely does an “everyday” cake cross over into the more elite “company” category. With their swooshy, swirly mounds of buttercream, and layers of assorted ooey, gooey fillings, “company” cakes are meant to impress. Those cakes are the showstoppers. This Peachy Keen Buttermilk Cake is different. It isn’t fancy, but it is special. It’s simple, elegant, and appropriate for almost any occasion. It’s the little black dress of cakes.
I first saw this unassuming little cake flitting around the blogosphere more than a year ago, only then it was sporting raspberries. I just knew I would love it, and I bookmarked it. Then, distracted by other, flashier showoff cakes, I forgot about it. The other day I found myself with a container of buttermilk about to expire and a few peaches that were past their prime. I was trying to think of a way to save them both, when I remembered “the cake”. Ah yes, the cake! It was the perfect thing!
With only a handful of basic ingredients, this cake is incredibly quick and easy to make. Aside from the time it takes for the butter to soften, the batter can be whipped up less than ten minutes – and that includes peeling and chopping the peaches. Plus, you get the added benefit of having your whole house filled with the most delightful aroma as it bakes. It has a lovely, light, fluffy crumb, enveloped in a firm, slightly crackly crust. When cooled to room temperature, it slices beautifully. The bits of peaches throughout add a little bright pop of flavor to every bite.
This cake was such a huge hit at my house, that I’m already getting hounded to bake another one. Why not? I still have some buttermilk and another peach in the fridge. This time, I think I’ll dig out the good china. And, maybe even the sterling silver. Just for us, because we’re worth it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and wash my hands with some fancy, schmancy scented guest soaps.
Peachy Keen Buttermilk Cake
adapted from Gourmet, June 2009 
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
- 1 large or 2 small peaches, peeled and cut into small chunks
- Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl, and set aside.
- In another bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla and egg.
- At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined. Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing out the top. Scatter peach chunks evenly over the batter and and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.
- Bake until the cake is golden and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then, turn out onto a wire rack until just warm, about 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate before serving.
Makes one single layer 9-inch cake.