Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Midsummer Day's Dream . . . Cream Cheese Nectarine Cake with Crumbly Streusel

Nectarines . . . really fine, really sweet nectarines. Not something one can necessarily count on finding here in Michigan. Usually, though, that doesn't matter. Why? Because typically, in mid-July, we're wallowing in a surplus of glorious local cherries, baking them into this and stirring them into that, not giving those pretty nectarines from out of state a second thought. But late winter weather played holy havoc with Michigan's cherry orchards this year, leaving us with the most pathetic harvest in decades. Trees that would normally be bending under the weight of crimson fruit look instead as if they've been ever so lightly dotted with red.  Just a cherry here, a cherry there. Sorry, folks--forget about "pickin' your own" and keep your fingers crossed for next year.

No home-grown cherries? For born and bred Michiganders that scenario is virtually unheard of. So, nothing left to do but rev up the contingency plans. Time to focus on nectarines instead, nectarines that hail inevitably from elsewhere. A sobering thought, no doubt. Miraculously, though, they're incredibly sweet and more than up to snuff. I've been shocked by their quality, thus I've been munching them the last few days with an unbridled sense of righteous privilege, like a koala in a eucalyptus tree. Don't try to stop me.

About this recipe . . . 

I adapted this from The Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson (I love this book, by the way, and recommend it). I started with their recipe for a cream cheese apple cake, but made some significant tweaks.

First, I reduced the overall size of the recipe by about one third, from one that would produce a large 12" bundt cake down to a reasonably sized 9" round cake made in springform pan. I used a relatively small amount of chopped ripe nectarines, unpeeled, in the batter versus a sizable portion of peeled apples. I added in a modest amount of almond flour/meal (if you can't find it in your usual grocery store, check at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or health food stores), which lends a subtle richness to the texture without adding any overt almond flavor. I upped the amount of vanilla, in fact using vanilla bean paste instead of extract, and I also fiddled with the proportion of cinnamon. 

The addition of a streusel topping worked out well, too; I just threw together flour, sugar, almond flour/meal, cold butter, and a pinch of fine sea salt and went at it with a pastry blender. You can count on a cake that happily straddles the fence between a coffee cake and a not-too-dense pound cake. A great cake overall, even without our beloved Michigan cherries.

Cream Cheese Nectarine Cake with Crumbly Streusel

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Yield: About 16 slices

For the cake:
2 and 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour/meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened (that's one stick and about 2.5 tablespoons)
8 oz. cream cheese
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
1 extra-large ripe nectarine, unpeeled, pitted, and chopped into very small pieces

For the streusel:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup almond meal/flour
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 pinch fine-grain sea salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9" springform pan.

Make the streusel first:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, almond meal/flour, and all purpose flour. Toss in the butter chunks and combine with a pastry blender or a fork until most of the mixture is in pieces approximately the size of a large pea. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge.

To make the cake batter:

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the flour, almond flour/meal, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment on medium-high speed, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until the mixture is fluffy and light in color (beat for at least five minutes and as long as eight). On low speed, add in all of the vanilla, and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Stop and scrape the bowl and paddle periodically.

Still on low speed, add in all of the nectarine pieces, beating just for a few seconds to combine, then add in all of the dry ingredients. Mix only until the flour looks completely incorporated. Scrape all the batter into your greased and floured cake pan. Sprinkle all of the streusel evenly over the top.

Bake the cake on the middle rack of the oven for about 55-65 minutes. You'll know it's done when the top is lightly golden, the sides are just beginning to pull away from the pan, the top of the cake doesn't jiggle at all when you move it, and a toothpick inserted in the center come out mostly dry. Check your cake after about 40 minutes and if it appears to be browning too fast, lay a piece of foil loosely over the top. Let the finished cake cool in its pan on a rack for at least 15 minutes, then run a thin knife around the sides, remove the springform carefully, and let the cake finish cooling on the rack.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below.)


Anonymous said...

This looks entirely yummy and what fine timing, this is the time of year when we get so many good nectarines! You must be so thankful too!

Jane said...

Hi Anonymous,
Yep, thankful is right!
Nothing like a nice nectarine.
:) Jane

Jared Smith said...

I bet people would go crazy for your recipes on, shoot me a message to get a private invite!


Elizabeth said...

Oh my word, this looks absolutely amazing!

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Jane!!!

So sorry to hear about the state of Michigan Cherries. They truly are the best cherries I've ever tasted. I'm so glad I once had the opportunity to actally pick them off the tree while visiting Michigan.

I'm not sure which I am loving more that cake or the streusel topping. Thank goodness they roost together well, because I would love a whole piece right now!!!

Thank you so much for sharing, Jane. Fingers crossed, one that I will once again get to Michigan and two, the trees will be bending over with luscious cherries!!!

Debra Eliot said...

This truly makes me wish I had nectarines left!

June said... cake tins!!! I want to bake this (as well as the ANZAC cookies) right now (oh...and the country rustic bread, too), but there are still a few days left to my 30-day no-wheat/no-carb (or at least low-wheat and low-carb) diet.

Rest assured, however, that after reading (and seeing the photos of) this gorgeous cake (as well as the ANZAC cookies - we cannot and I will not forget about those gorgeous ANZAC cookies, believe me), I am going to treat and reward myself with this cake, most definitely.

As for that book, I've been trying for months now to win it on ebay, but it's always been just out of my reach at the last moments of the auction. And to buy it on amazon would mean paying outrageous shipping costs, so, I'll put on my baking and cookbook halo and try my best to be as patient as a (baking) saint.

Thank you, Jane, for sharing this recipe for this gorgeous cake from an equally gorgeous book.

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

This cake looks amazing. Just wish I'd seen it while I was still in the UK, where nectarines were still available! said...

Mmmm..this cake looks incredible! I always love baking with seasonal fruits! :)

Alex Staff said...

Your Cream Cheese Nectarine Cake with Crumbly Streusel is mouthwatering! I am surprised that it is very easy to bake this kind of cake! I believe that almonds and cream cheese are the main ingredients that make this cake super appetizing. This can be a good gift for all occasions.

Alex Staff