Peach Thyme Teacakes
I learned a valuable lesson this week. I am a cocky twit sometimes. Okay. Most of the time. And finally, that arrogance has gotten me into trouble. In the kitchen.
Naked cakes. They look easy, right? It's like someone took a cake and forgot to frost some of it. Oops! I can totally do that, I scoffed. Except I can't.
Because it turns out naked food is a bit like naked people. You need good bones to start with or the whole thing looks like a hot mess.
Case in point, these little beauties. I think it took me an hour just to decide how to frost and decorate them. Minutes of agonizing and second guessing each stroke of the knife, dabbing and stepping back and deciding it looked amateur instead of charming, unfinished instead of minimalist. SO hard. Next time you see a naked cake at a wedding and you think it's just a little frosting and some flowers, bite your tongue.
It's like those people who wear make-up but make it look like they're not wearing make-up. It's an art form, people. And I'm now ready to give it the respect it deserves.
These are pretty little lemon teacakes, soaked in thyme syrup and assembled with a decadent peach cheesecake filling. I served them at a small shindig I called a Summer Supper, my bohemian love letter to the end of the season. These mini cakes hit all the right notes, delicate and whimsical, but infused with flavors and fragrances that embody the waning harvest.
We begin with standard cake ingredients, with the exception of a bit of decadent ricotta and some lemon zest. Cream the butter and sugar, then add eggs on at a time. You'll alternate the rest of the wet and dry ingredients until you get a heavy batter that looks a bit like this.
While this is baking, you have time to boil up some thyme syrup. See what I did there? It's pretty easy. Just your average simple syrup with some thyme sprigs. Steep for a bit after the boil to get a more deeply infused flavor.
Now that your cakes are out, cool them and then slice in half. Baste with the thyme syrup.
Now for the peachy keen filling. Prep your stuff and let's go.
Whip it up. If it's too soft, give it some time in the fridge to stiffen.
Let's do something useful with this, shall we? I sandwiched a generous layer between two cakes, then piped filling on the top and dabbed a bit against the sides.
I was going for shabby chic meets minimalist modern. Did I achieve it? I guess you'll be the judge of that.
Next week, you'll get a peek at the table and decor for a Summer Supper, where these little peach thyme cakes made their debut.
Until then, enjoy the last of the season and promise me you'll squeeze every last drop of joy and sweetness from it.
Peach Thyme Teacakes
For the cakes
(adapted from The Cake Blog):
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup cream
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the thyme syrup:
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
5 to 8 springs fresh thyme
For the peach cheesecake filling:
3 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons peach preserves
(Makes a dozen cakes)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour mini cake pans and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth.
Add in the sugar and lemon zest. Beat on medium for 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy.
Add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the almond extract.
Stop mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Mix in the ricotta on medium-low.
With the mixer on low, add in half of the flour mixture. Stream in the cream.
Add in the remaining flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Evenly distribute the batter between the prepared cake pans.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the min-cakes comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
For the syrup:
Place the water, lemon juice, and sugar in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low. Add the thyme and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Let cool, then strain out the thyme from the syrup.
For the filling:
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk to combine.
Place a few inches of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler. Stirring intermittently, heat the egg mixture until hot to the touch, about 150 degrees on a candy thermometer.Once hot, carefully return the mixing bowl back to the mixer. With the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture until the bowl returns to room temperature and you have medium-soft peaks, about 8 minutes.
Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
With the mixer on low, add the butter – a few tablespoons at a time.
Once added, turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until silky smooth.
Add in the cream cheese and mix until combined.
Add in the peach preserves and mix until combined.
Cut cakes crosswise into two layers. Sandwich with filling, then pipe filling on top of each cake in desired decor shape. Use a knife with a bit of filling to run around the sides, blending into the top and bottom evenly. Decorate with thyme leaves. Savor summer.