Fruit Archeology

COOKING ADVENTURE #72: Peach Crunch Cake

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Admit it: at some point in your life, you have forgotten about a piece of fruit. Whether it be in your car, your backpack, fridge, or that little bowl on the kitchen counter-top, you happen to one day excavate and find a wrinkled-up, dried husk of an apple or lemon, or that soft black banana somewhere. Heck, I found a clementine in my bag a month ago that I’d forgotten about completely. No mess like you’d expect… just this hard and crumpled orange orb that looked like it wouldn’t break open even if slammed down on asphalt. Why am I making it a point to tell you this? Well, since I had to just perform an archaeological dig on my peach crunch cake in order to find the peaches, I was reminded of that little clementine from last month. I decided to just make this a fruit archaeology themed Cooking Adventure seeing as how I have such a difficult time keeping track of my fruit. Probably the first and last time a sentence like that will be said. You heard it here first, folks.

I didn’t get around to doing this Cooking Adventure earlier in the week because I made a pretty lame brain decision. Since I was craving chocolate last week, I decided to make brownies. Not even a type of rich and beautiful Cooking Adventure worthy brownie, a recipe which I intend to do later this year. Nope. Just a box brownie mix, for one of those Sunday afternoons where your brain has melted into jelly. I needed simple directions. Anyway, I used my giant 13 x 9 pan, which I almost always never use because I rarely have recipes that work for that size pan. Turns out the peach crunch cake recipe was for that pan. Not in the mood to snarf twenty-four brownies in a hurry, I waited until the end of the week when they were all gone (and when my face looked more like the Himalayan Mountain Range) and then went to work on making the Cooking Adventure.

I found this recipe on Pinterest. The original came from the Bakerella cooking blog and is purported to be “ridiculously easy.” It should be for anyone other than me. I always manage to make things much more complicated than they need be. I also have trouble reading the directions in detail ahead of time… as many of you already know. So, I basically looked at the recipe very quickly to assess what ingredients I needed to pick up at the grocery store but not how much of each ingredient. This led to a proportion issue when I pulled everything out ready to go to work on it.

The recipe tells me to take a can of peaches and dump it into the bottom of my 13 x 9 baking pan. I checked the quantity at the bottom of the recipe and of course, discovered that I was supposed to have bought a 24.5 oz. can of sliced peaches. I never buy cans of peaches that big. I should have figured that I’d need more than just the one 15 oz. can though. This meant that I’d have to resort to a smaller pan and would have to alter all of the proportions of the ingredients. Fun. It also means that I didn’t have to wait such a long time to make the recipe.

I grabbed a smaller casserole dish out of the cupboard and proceeded to crank open my peach can with a can opener and dump the contents inside. The peaches sploshed into the interior, the syrup instantly coating the bottom. After tossing the can, I took a fork and diced each peach slice in half in order to make sure that the bottom of the pan was thoroughly covered with peach pieces. Then, I turned to my cake mix. The recipe told me to originally use a full box of yellow cake mix. Since my amounts for each ingredient had changed, I knew that I’d have to use less of the cake mix. I opened the box and pulled out the bag intending to open it like any normal plastic bag in a cardboard box. This bag, however, decided to be a huge wanker and rip straight down the middle, sending a puff of white cake mix all over my counter. Just dandy.

Dumping the cake mix into the casserole dish was just a hoot. It didn’t want to pour, instead deciding to collect in the corners and then rush out all over my hands whenever I tipped the bag just a little too much. After I felt like I’d put more than enough cake mix into the dish, I twisted the top on the plastic bag, tied it, and dropped it back into the cardboard box. Then, I smoothed out the cake mix over the peaches but didn’t mix, as it was stated not to in the recipe. This is where the butter comes in. I was supposed to place a full stick of butter (5/8 tablespoons in the end) on top of the cake mix. No, that doesn’t mean just putting the stick of butter on top and calling it good. I had to slice the stick into 1 tbsp. pats in order to place them over the cake mix. The last time I attempted something like this was during my infamous pineapple upside-down cake recipe from last year, a recipe that ended up being drowned in too much butter. I wasn’t looking forward to this outcome.

While I sliced the butter, it attempted to escape from me by performing gymnastics. It actually back-flipped through the air when I brought the knife down on it wrong and landed on the end of the butter tray. “Okay. No need to flip out, butter,” I’d said. Yes. Highly original, I know. Once the butter pats were evenly distributed, I turned my attention to the last item on the ingredients list: brown sugar. The recipe says to use one full cup. I didn’t measure. In fact, I was trying to just make sure that the cake mix and the butter was all covered. So I added a lot. This might have had something to do with the pineapple upside-down cake recipe, too. I don’t think I’d added enough brown sugar to that one. The recipe states that you are also supposed to add chopped walnuts to the top of the cake but, seeing as how I decided not to buy any, I bypassed that step.

Into the oven at 350 for 30 minutes. The original recipe said 40 but it was in a smaller dish so I assumed I should just check it ahead of time to be sure everything would go okay. I even put a pan underneath it, hoping that nothing would overflow. As the time ticked by and I ate my strange dinner of rubbery, freezer burnt chicken and broccoli pasta mix, the smell of the brown sugar slowly overtook my apartment. This would have been great if not for the heat that accompanied it. It’s roughly seventy-five degrees here. I live in a 2nd story apartment with no air conditioning unit. You do the math.

Finally, when the cake was ready (it ended up being in for forty minutes after all), I pulled it out and let it cool for twenty minutes. The brown sugar had caramelized and the peach syrup had bubbled up to the top unleashing an amazingly wonderful aroma through the air. I grabbed a giant spoon and dug into the peach crunch cake. I found the most of this “cake” was actually the brown sugar however. Eating it pretty much confirmed my theory. The majority of it was brown sugar boulders which had to be rolled aside in order to find any cake batter, let alone a tiny piece of peach. I definitely wish that I had had two cans of peaches so that I could have had an actual fruit dessert. I feel like I want to brush my teeth five times now from all of the sugar. That was definitely too much.

Next week on Cooking Adventures, we’ll be attempting this awesome Blackened Chicken with Cilantro Lime Quinoa! Blackening anything sounds like it will be a doozy of an adventure. Hopefully my apartment will still be standing by the end of this one. Stay tuned!

~KSilva

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