Have the monsoons in Bombay begun? The mornings have been mildly sunny and the rain pours out of a beautiful, blue-grey sky in the afternoons. The last few days have been pleasant here – lush vegetables everywhere, man cycling on the road with a plastic cover plunged over his head, reflection of a bright umbrella on a pool of muddy water and if these are not signs of summer coming to an end, then the pretty fruits of cherries, peaches and lychees strewn about everywhere is definitely one. Not that I am an expert when it comes to seasonal fruits but I here such fruits are found in abundance in the markets when the monsoon begins.
So I bought a dozen of peaches, not because I had a recipe conceived in mind but they were irresistible. Suede like skin and in all that peachness, there is a clustering of a mild red somewhere, just like a bruise. I mean, that’s the kind of shade you sometimes wish your cheeks naturally bore. You don’t even feel like eating them because they look the way they do. And there they were, sitting pretty in my fridge for three days until Pavan asked me ‘hey what are those peaches doing in the fridge?’ I still didn’t have a plan, though I knew I wanted to do something with them. So I said to him, ‘Don’t touch them. I’m saving them for baking.’ He wasn’t very thrilled. I keep doing that with almost every exotic fruit we buy.
Finally, I had an epiphany. I didn’t want all that flavour of the fruit getting lost in flour. I wanted something light and I also wanted to showcase the fruit in its entirety. And the idea of a spiced cake and peaches somehow struck a chord. So I thought of caramelizing the peaches, making a peach mousse and a cardamom cake. I didn’t want it to be a single slab of cake carrying all these elements of peaches; I wanted something elegant, something that looks lovely on a plate by itself. So I decided to bake the cake and cut it into circles using a mould. Yes, yes, sure as hell sounds complicated but it’s not.
Now the tricky thing about making a mousse is that when you are separating the eggs, you can’t afford to drop even a spec of yolk into the whites. Most pâtissiers will tell you how the whites hate the yellows and this is when my first peek into the Bombay monsoons happened. As I was breaking the eggs to separate them, a teeny tiny bit of yolk ran into the whites. So I thought, that’s okay, it’s only a little bit. But the whites refused to stiffen up (which is essential for a mousse to set in the refrigerator) and I had no eggs left. So as I ran down to pick up some eggs, the rain god decides to shower upon me. I ran anyway to buy the eggs and on my way back I dropped them. I ran again to buy them, by now drenched. If you are reading this and you know me really well, you won’t be surprised at all. I drop things. Certainly not a skill a baker must have 🙂
All said and done, this recipe is well worth all that trouble I went through. You should try it too 🙂
For the cardamom cake
- 120 g self raising flour, sifted
- 10 cardamoms
- 3 cloves
- Pinch of ground cinnamon
- Pinch of nutmeg, grated
- Pinch of salt
- 120 g caster sugar
- 120 g butter, unsalted
- 2 eggs, separated
For the peach mousse
- 3 ripe peaches
- 2 eggs, whites only
- 30 g caster sugar
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, optional
For the caramelized peaches
- 1 peach
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
Makes 4 individual cakes
- Preheat your oven to 180 C. Line a square cake tin with parchment paper. You will need four 3 inch circular ring moulds. Line them with parchment paper too. Spray some nonstick cooking spray inside of the ring and stick the parchment paper as show below.
- For the cake, grind the cardamom (skinned) and the cloves together. I prefer using a mortar and pestle but you can use a blender. Sift the flour, add the ground spices, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Mix well and set aside.
- Blend the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time and blend further. Add the flour mixture to this, blend well and set aside.
- Whip the egg whites until they are stiff. Add them to the batter. Fold well, scrapping the bottom of the bowl. Do not over fold your batter.
- Pour the batter into a cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.
- Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes. Using the prepared circular mold, cut 4 peices out of the cake. Save the remaining pieces for later, to have with tea 🙂
- Now, when you cut out circles from the cake make sure the circles are still in the mold. They form the base of your dish.
- For the mousse, blanch your peaches in a sauce pan of simmering water for 3 minutes. Plunge them into a bowl of ice to bring them back to room temperature. Peal the skin and puree the peaches. Set aside.
- To both the egg whites, add the cream of tartar powder. Whip until frothy (use an electric whisker). Now, add the sugar. Whip at full speed until you get stiff peaks. (see my mango upside down cake recipe to see what stiff peaks look like).
- Add 1/3rd of the egg whites to the peach puree. Fold well. Add the remainder and continue to fold. Do not over fold.
- For the caramelized peaches, slice the peach into lengthy pieces. Place them on a slightly simmering pan. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the peaches. Allow the peaches to caramelize as the sugar melts by itself. This should take about 2-3 minutes.
- Now to assemble the cake, pipe the mousse into the mold, over the cardamom cake. You can also spoon the mousse if you want to. Place 4-5 slices of peaches on the mousse. Repeat for all the cakes.
- Refrigerate for 3-4 hours before eating.