There is no socially acceptable way to eat an August peach. Especially in an office setting. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I’ve tried one-handed with a paper towel cupped under the fruit. I’ve tried hovering in the corner, hunched over my miniature garbage can like Quasimodo. I’ve tried the three-bite approach. (Definitely not recommended unless someone is standing by, Heimlich-ready.)
I’ve found the best way to eat a peach is with the office door closed. And to be far, far away from the keyboard so as to prevent an unfortunate incident where the letter F gets sticky and remains this way no matter the number of disinfectant wipes used.
But such problems assure that you’ve found a good peach. You know instantly. Something happens on a chemical level. Much like you know when you’ve found a good mate. (Note: if said person brings you espelette pepper jelly for no apparent reason; suggests you watch Harold and Maude; and doesn’t balk at your lack of AC in a July heat wave, you can be pretty sure he’ll be around for longer than a summer peach.)
But back to fruit. You can’t take the dribbles and soft, perfumed flesh away from the peach. At least, you shouldn’t. Of course, this messiness is not limited to peaches alone. Just the other day it happened with a pluot.
So stone fruits, they drip summer. Great for eating. Not so great for adhering to office breakfasting etiquette. I knew there had to be a way to circumvent this between nine and five. And—like many problems needing mending and romances worth their weight—it involved cake.
Full disclosure: the version pictured was made with apricots; apricots have now faded from view here in New England. My suspicion is that the Italian prune plum would be dynamite here, perhaps with a little addition of cardamom and pistachio. And don’t forget, our lady peach is still reigning. In fact, I suspect any number of the usual stone fruit suspects would do well in this role. As would apples—which is what the original version calls for—if you’ve sworn off your oven for the remainder of August.
While apricots tend to have less juice than some other summer fruits, I believe this cake to be a very good way to use up office-problematic varieties. And because the recipe uses whole wheat flour, calls for marmalade, and comes to you in a loaf pan, it can easily be coaxed into a perfectly acceptable breakfast option. In fact, I was one step away from calling it a bread because—despite the multiple sugar sources in the recipe—it is not super sweet. But the addictive demerera crunch on top and the cake’s slight butterscotch notes kept me from downgrading it.
Though—and I should be clear here—regardless of what it is called, I still get its crumbs in my keyboard. But that’s probably just me.
Whole Wheat Stone Fruit Marmalade Cake
Inspired from Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 heaping tsp baking powder
few pinches of salt
pinch of cinnamon
heafty pinch of allspice
3-4 fresh apricots (or other stone fruit), pits removed and chopped between ¼-½ inch-sized pieces (about 1 cup, give or take)
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp of a citrus marmalade
zest of 1 lemon (or orange; you can mimic whatever citrus your marmalade is made of)
½ cup butter, at room temperature
a scant cup light muscovado sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup chopped walnuts
demerara sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 325. Line 1-2 loaf pans (depending on their size) with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over the long sides of the pan. Butter the parchment paper and any exposed inside pan parts not covered by the paper. (Alternatively, you could use an 8-inch round cake or springform pan.)
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine the apricots, marmalade, and lemon zest.
In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until they start to get lighter in color and then slowly pour in the olive oil and continue to beat until well mixed. Slowly add the eggs, one at a time, while the mixer is running on low, until the eggs are fully incorporated. (Things may start to curdle, keep going.) Add in the vanilla. Then, with the mixer running, slowly add in the sifted flour mixture until just combined. Remove the bowl from the stand and fold in the apricot marmalade mixture, along with the walnuts.
Pour the cake batter into your prepared pan(s) and toss a few spoonfuls of demerara sugar on top. Bake for 75-90 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the cake. Cool on wire rack before removing the cake from the pan(s).
Makes 1-2 loaves, depending on the size of your pans (see note), or one 8-inch cake
-A few things. My loaf pans are long and narrow. I have yet to measure their volume. If you decide to use a loaf pan, you’ll want to fill it only about 2/3 of the way up with batter, regardless of its size. If you have leftover batter, you can pour it into smaller tins to bake. Alternatively, you could make a round cake. Your cooking time may vary slightly, depending on what you use, so just keep a watchful eye.
-I used this recipe for the marmalade. It’s my favorite. And I still have one remaining pint in my freezer from February.
-If you don’t have muscovado you can use brown sugar (don’t tightly pack it).
-A wide variety of nuts could work here. I love walnuts with stone fruits. I imagine pistachio would be particularly nice with plums and almonds with peaches, as well.