Peach-Cherry Almond Torte
This summer. After 2 previous smash hits comes the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Presenting the sensational conclusion to the exciting summer cherry trilogy – the Peach-Cherry Almond Torte…
Sorry, I got a little confused with all those summer movie trailers I’ve been watching. After a certain number, they get stuck in your brain, especially since all of them seem to employ the same guy for the voice-overs. Seriously, read those opening sentences again and you’ll hear his voice playing in your head.
Coming back to this torte, it does offer the best of summer’s bounty. Bright peaches are paired with ripe cherries to top a moist almond cake. Seriously, cherries and almonds should be best friends. I’m sure they already are. Every time I pit cherries (which is quite a bloody operation if you know what I mean), I look at all those discarded pits with some of the bright cherry flesh still clinging to them and I feel just a little bit sad. But in this torte, even the humble cherry pit has a role to play. Cracked and wrapped in a cheesecloth, they bubble merrily with their counterparts on the stove, tinging the cherry pulp with their hidden almond flavor. (I wanted to add whole star anise in the cheesecloth, but the store didn’t have any.) Orange zest and a little bit of orange juice brighten the flavors and cut through the sweet. And to add a touch of luxury, I stir in some Amaretto liqueur.
The cherries are layered over sliced peaches and over this goes a heady batter of toasted almonds lightened with creamed butter and whipped egg whites. This reminds me of the upside-down cakes I used to eat as a child. (For some reason in India, pineapple is the most popular fruit of choice for this cake.) The first time I saw the cake, I was not very impressed. It looked plain and bare. But then my aunt flipped the pan over and voila – there was the glistening fruit crowning the cake in all it’s caramelized glory. This torte is an adult version but the flip-over to reveal the gorgeous hidden fruit still impresses me. And if this is not a smash hit at your house, please call me – I’d be happy to come over and polish off the leftovers.
Peach-Cherry Almond Torte
3/4 – 1 pounds dark ripe cherries (depending on your preference of fruit-to-cake ratio)
2 tablespoons sugar
grated zest of half an orange
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons Amaretto
1 cup blanched almonds
2 large ripe but firm peaches, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 – 1/2 cup granulated sugar (depending on your taste – I prefer mine less sweet)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1/4 cup fine granulated sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sliced almonds for garnish (optional)
Pit the cherries. (If you don’t have a cherry pitter, a vegetable peeler works well. Insert at the stem end of the cherry and scoop out the stem and the seed. I do mine with the bowl in the sink, this way all the juice splatters on the sides of the sink instead of my clothes.)
Crack the cherry pits a bit (with a nutcracker or mortar-and-pestle). Place the cherry pits in a cheesecloth and tie the ends shut. (Next time I’m going to try this with 1 whole star anise pod in the cheesecloth.)
Place the cherries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, Amaretto and cheesecloth-wrapped cherry pits in a saucepan. Cook over moderate heat until the cherries are soft, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
Place the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Keep a close watch and don’t let them burn; the toasty smell should alert you to when they are done. (If using sliced almonds for the garnish, toast them now, about 5 mins.)
Lightly butter a 9-inch cake pan. Place the peach slices in a single layer in the pan, overlapping a little. Place the cooled cherries over the peaches.
Process the toasted almonds in a food processor till they are finely ground. (Don’t over-mix or the almonds will begin to form a paste.)
Cream the butter and sugar till the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the ground almonds and continue till the almonds are well incorporated into the mixture. Mix in the vanilla extract.
Place the egg whites in a metal bowl. Add a pinch of salt and whip the whites with clean beaters until soft peaks just begin to form. Add the sugar, a little at a time, beating well after each addition, till the mixture begins to form stiff peaks.
Mix in a ladle of the whipped whites into the almond mixture to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites; at this point there is no need to be completely thorough.
Sift the flour over the batter and fold in gently just until the flour is incorporated and there are no traces of egg whites.
Bake in the preheated oven until a cake-tester/knife inserted in the center (not all the way to the bottom) comes out clean, about 40 mins.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then place a serving plate over the cake pan and quickly flip the pan over. Gently lift the cake pan. Rescue any fruit that may still be in the pan. Cool to room temperature and serve garnished with sliced toasted almonds.