The text was brief: “Warning: She made you a cake.”
I was packing a weekend bag to spend a couple of nights in the tristate suburbs, and the “she” in question was Susan, my friend’s mother, whose house I’d be staying at.
Susan had made a peach, bourbon and pecan cake from Claire Saffitz’s cookbook “What’s for Dessert,” and the only warning it actually required was that I’d want a second slice. A whorl of softened peach slices gave way to a frangipane-like batter studded with toasted, pulverized pecans for a cake that tasted like a Georgia summer.
By the time my friend and I made it downstairs for coffee the next morning, Susan had already made a second stone fruit cake: Vallery Lomas’s five-star apricot upside-down cake, a stunning and rustic ode to warm days.
We’re fast approaching the thick of stone fruit season. Apricots, cherries, nectarines, plums and peaches are nearing — or are already at — their juiciest, ready to grace your table in cakes, tarts and crumbles.
The cakes Susan made are incredibly forgiving if you have only slightly underripe fruit on hand. In Vallery’s recipe, the apricot halves will soften substantially in a quasi-caramel and under the weight of the buttery cake batter. And Claire’s peach cake recipe includes the useful trick of brushing peach or apricot jam, warmed just until it’s runny and then strained, over the fruit for a little extra sweetness.
But once your stone fruit is so ripe it bruises beneath your fingertips, it won’t need much heat or help at all. Consider Ali Slagle’s stone fruit caprese, a celebration of July’s abundance. Any combination of nectarines, peaches, plums and cherries stand in for the more traditional tomatoes, alongside the requisite creamy mozzarella and fresh basil.
Cherries are especially delicious in savory applications, like Angela Dimayuga’s black cherry-pistachio salad with charred scallion vinaigrette or Sara Kramer’s cucumbers with labneh and cherries, in which the fruit are lightly pickled to intensify their flavors.
Still, the appeal of an all-cherry dessert at the height of summer is hard to resist. As I write this, Susan stands in front of me, New York Times Cooking open on her laptop and her stand mixer at the ready, as she embarks on her latest quest in stone fruit baking: Samantha Seneviratne’s cherry almond cake.
One more thing!
Did you know that, despite Georgia’s reputation, California and South Carolina grow far more peaches than the Peach State? That’s especially true this year, as Georgia peach farmers experience one of the worst crop yields in generations thanks to a warm winter and a few March freezes.
While some chefs in my home state are getting creative with what peaches they have, others are simply turning to other fruit, my colleague Kim Severson reports.
So if you’re on the hunt for Georgia peaches this summer and are confronted by either sky-high prices or bare baskets, know that any of the above recipes will taste wonderful with whatever stone fruit you can find. And, if you live in the tristate area, New Jersey’s peach crop is thriving this year.
Thanks for reading, and see you next week!