Baking cakes always brings back fond memories of my childhood. My mom would carefully line the kitchen counter with old newspapers, set up an assembly line of baking bowls and tools, precisely measure her ingredients and start whipping her magic. I’d eagerly prowl around waiting to take a quick swipe of the creamed butter and sugar and then patiently wait till the final cake batter was ready. As soon as she’d poured out the batter into the cake pans, I’d beg for the baking bowl and wooden spoon. That, to me, was the best part of the baking process when I was a kid. I’d happily lick the bowl and spoon clean till my mom didn’t know whether they were used or washed. And as the house filled with the heavenly smell of baking, my brother and I would hang around like hyenas waiting to get our paws on the very first piece of warm cake. Bliss! My mom would literally have to chase us away till she could take the cake out of the pan and let it cool.
As I grew older, mom would ask me to help her beat the batter and I would do so ever so meticulously, just as I’d observed her do and learning from her instructions. For me, she is the best baker ever. And it’s not just me, even family friends who ate her cakes fawned over them. I always thank my stars that I was born into a family with such baking prowess because I’m sure some of it rubbed off on me. I have a whole bunch of aunts and a grandmom who are such amazing bakers. Each of them has their own individual style and little baking secrets, which they reveal to no one. I had to pinky-promise my mom that I wouldn’t share her secrets. Hehehe
Being thousands of miles away from her, I tend to rely more on the internet for recipes of cakes I want to try because sometimes it’s just faster than waiting to talk to my mom who’s in the opposite side of the world.
So, when I had a bowl of apricots staring at me angrily for not giving them any love, I knew I wanted to bake a cake with them and chanced upon a recipe by Christy Rost. I made a few changes, dug out my bundt cake pan and got down to business. When the cake was ready to dig into, I squealed with delight when it tasted so much like one of my mom’s cakes! Soft, fruity goodness and what about the buttery brown sugar topping, you ask? Pure caramelized heaven! I licked the pan clean of the remnants of the baked brown sugar topping.
Spiced Apricot Gateau (adapted from Christy Rost)
Ingredients and instructions:
For the cake –
- 1/3 cup soft unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 spiced apricot halves, chopped into pieces*
For the brown sugar topping (you could double these ingredients if you’re baking with a regular cake pan) –
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 4-5 spiced apricot halves, thinly sliced*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray your cake pan with non-stick baking spray or you could butter and flour it the traditional way.
In large bowl of an electric mixer (or you could use a large bowl and a electric hand beater), cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Add egg, vanilla, and almond extract; beat until smooth.
In a medium bowl, stir together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with milk, starting and ending with dry ingredients. Slowly fold in the spiced apricot pieces. Set aside.In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and brown sugar, stirring often. Spoon mixture into bottom of cake pans just to cover. Brown sugar mixture may harden, but will melt during baking.
Arrange sliced apricots over sugar mixture. Spoon cake batter evenly over apricots.
Bake in preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes, until top is golden brown and cake has pulled away from sides of pan. Remove from oven, set aside 2 minutes to cool, and loosen cake from sides of pans with a knife. Invert gateaux on a wire rack to cool. (Gateaux may be may one day ahead, covered with plastic wrap, and chilled in refrigerator.)
Serve with ice cream or sweetened whipped cream topped with nuts.
*Spiced Apricots (adapted from Food & Wine)
Note: For the gateau, you could completely skip this but, I thought it’d lend a nice kick, so I added this one extra step)
- 6 fresh Apricots, halved and pitted
- 3 teaspoons honey
- Cayenne pepper
Preheat the broiler. Arrange apricot halves on a baking sheet. Spinkle the insides of each half with a pinch of Cayenne pepper. Spoon half a teaspoon of honey into each apricot half.
Broil the apricots 4 inches from the heat for 3-4 minutes, rotating once, until it’s bubbling and caramelized. Cool completely.
These actually taste amazing with ice cream! If you’re eating it with ice cream, serve them warm with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.