Apricots are now having their run in the markets and showing up in seasonal cooking and baking. But I guess the leading role for apricots have always been jams and marmalades. Dense with chunks of fruit, apricot marmalade is one of the best ways of preserving such wonderful produce, something I have happily prepared a few times before.
Apricot is a beautiful fruit, with summer orange-red skin and orange flesh. Its mild, undistinctive flavor, vaguely reminiscent of plums, peaches and nectarines, means that it is hard not to fall in love with them, especially now, at the peak of their season.
This summer, I wanted to come up with a recipe that preserves the fresh taste of apricots, but altering the flavor profile. My first thought was to use the apricots fresh, not only do they stand up for baking, but they release their sweetness in delicate ways. Then I decided to go the cake route.
Fruit cake is an old concept, but the beauty of this cake is the simple alchemy of butter, sugar and eggs. Mixed with apricots, this cake is magnificent.
I love vanilla extract, but then I also love almond extract, so I added a little of both. You can go stronger with dark rum or perhaps Grand Marnier. Really, any fruit liquor with nice flavor will do. I like to make the batter using an electric mixer, but you can also use a food processor. Just don’t over process once you add the flour, or the cake will be though. You can bake this in a large round cake mold as I suggest in the recipe, or individual ones.
All in all, my apricot cake was simple and delicious, a bit less sweet than the traditional ones, but just as buttery, rich and compelling.
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Small pinch table salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup, plus ½ tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
3 medium-ripe apricots, pitted, and cut into ½-inch wedges
Equipment: one 9-inch springform pan
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F with a rack in the center. Lightly coat a springform pan with cooking spray.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and ¾ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Reduce the speed to low, and add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined.
- Pour the batter in the prepared pan, spreading evenly with an offset spatula, then scatter the apricots over. Sprinkle the remaining ½ tablespoon of sugar on top.
- Bake until the cake is golden-brown and the top is firm but tender (cake will rise over the fruit, and that’s okay), 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan, and cool to room temperature.