A sweet yet refreshing dessert: white cake filled with fresh raspberries, covered in silky, just-sweet-enough buttercream, and topped with loads of raspberry sauce and poached peaches. The only thing that could make it better is vanilla ice cream.
THE RECIPE: PEACH MELBA CAKE
Don’t forget to check out my tips, tricks, and substitutes at the bottom of the recipe.
Aunt Ann’s Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Pour the milk into a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and warm over medium heat, stirring often.
- Once hot, gradually pour in the sugar while whisking.
- Continue to heat, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved.
- Transfer the mixture, uncovered, to the fridge to cool completely (and begin mixing your cake batter).
- Alternatively, if you want to finish the buttercream immediately, pour the mixture into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed until cool. Transfer the mixture to a separate bowl or use a separate mixing bowl to proceed with the following:
- Once cooled, beat the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until smooth.
- Very slowly pour in the cooled, sweetened milk and continue beating until smooth.
- Add the vanilla and continue beating until combined.
Tips and Tricks
I always recommend following a recipe the way it’s written before making any changes; your substitutions will work out much better if you know what the food tastes like in its original form and can make educated substitutions. With that, here are my tips, tricks, and substitutions for this recipe:
Granulated Sugar: If you want something a bit sweeter, fluffier, and/or less buttery, add a bit of sifted powdered sugar to the finished buttercream until you’ve achieved the results you’re looking for. Sometimes I add a few tablespoons to expand the volume of my buttercream along with giving it a touch of extra sweetness.
Milk/Heavy Cream: The choice is yours. My aunt’s original recipe uses milk; however, sometimes I want a creamier, fluffier buttercream, in which case I use heavy cream because it will create more volume than milk, once whipped.
Dissolving Sugar: Because milk is opaque, you won’t be able to see whether the sugar is dissolved. To test, scrape the back of a spoon across the bottom of the pan; if some sugar hasn’t dissolved, you’ll feel the granules between the spoon and pan. You may also see some on the back of the spoon when you pull it out. If you’ve recently stirred the mixture, though, make sure you allow it to settle for a moment before using the spoon test because the granules need to fall back to the bottom.
Food Coloring: If you want to color the frosting, make sure it’s a gel food coloring specifying, on the packaging, that it doesn’t liquify frosting. I’ve ruined many a batch by accidentally using a food color that liquifies the entire thing, turning it into the cottage cheese of frostings. It is never a happy moment!
Old-Fashioned White Cake
(recipe from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 4 large egg whites
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Optionally, then line the bottoms with wax paper.
- In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, at medium speed, until smooth.
- Add the sugar, gradually, beating until light and fluffy, about three minutes.
- Add the flour in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla, beating well after each addition.
- In a separate bowl, at high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
- Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, making sure no streaks of whites are showing.
- Divide the batter between the two pans.
- Bake for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool in their pans for ten minutes on a wire rack.
- Remove cakes from the pans and allow to finish cooling on the wire racks before frosting.
- 3 cups raspberries
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Using a blender or food processor, mix together all the ingredients; the raspberries should completely liquify.
- Place a sieve over a bowl and pour the mixture into the sieve to strain out the seeds.
- Depending on the size of your sieve, you may have to do this in multiple batches, as there will be a lot of seeds.
- 3 cups water
- 3.5 cups sugar
- 1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 8 peaches (freestone, if possible)
- Put the water, sugar, vanilla pod, and lemon juice into a large, wide saucepan and warm over medium-high heat to dissolve the sugar.
- As with simple syrup, do not stir the mixture, only swirl the pan in a circular motion, when necessary, to mix.
- In the meantime, slice the peaches in half and remove the pits.
- Once the sugar has dissolved in the water, lower the heat to a simmer and place the peaches into the syrup.
- Simmer 2 to 3 minutes on each side, depending on the ripeness of the fruit.
- They should be soft and delicate after simmering.
- Once properly softened, gently remove the peaches to a plate using a slotted spoon.
- Carefully remove the skins from the peaches; they will be hot. Try to grab the skin without touching the fruit. If necessary, use tongs, but this will be more difficult.
- If making the peaches well ahead of assembling/serving the cake, let the syrup cool and store it with the peaches in the fridge; otherwise, feel free to freeze the syrup to use in the future to poach any range of fruits or as a beverage sweetener.
Tips and Tricks
Freestone Peaches: Peaches can be either freestone or cling. Freestone peaches are recommended because they come away from the pit very easily.
Slicing Peaches: This can be a very tedious task, depending on the peach. If using freestone, it should be easy to remove the pit, but if using cling, it will be more difficult. You may end up using your knife to finagle everything apart. If you can’t manage full halves, don’t worry, you’ll be further slicing up the peaches later, for serving.
- Spread a very thin layer of buttercream on the top and sides of one layer of cake. This isn’t meant to be pretty, it’s meant to trap crumbs.
- After finishing the crumb coat, spread a thicker layer of buttercream on top of the cake.
- Place the second cake layer on top and spread another very thin layer of buttercream on its top and sides to trap crumbs.
- After finishing this final crumb coat, begin frosting the top and sides of the entire cake with a thick layer of buttercream. Make sure to leave some for piping the top, especially if you plan to add the raspberry sauce because it needs a border of frosting to act as a dam.
- Once the entire cake is frosted, pipe a border on the top.
- If planning to pour raspberry sauce into the center, ensure there are no gaps in the piped frosting where sauce may leak out and drip down the cake.
- Cover the sides of the cake with fresh raspberries.
- Carefully pour raspberry sauce on top of the cake until evenly coated. Optionally, pour sauce around the cake, on the serving platter, as decoration.
- Decoratively place a few peach slices on top of the cake.
- Slice the remaining poached peaches and set them aside with the raspberry sauce, in two separate dishes, to spoon over the top of each slice.
So, I’m celebrating my 25th birthday with friends Saturday night (though my actual birthday isn’t until the 26th) and, while I’m making a Peach Melba Cake for myself, I’m also making my Cioccolato-Mangiare Cake, as a surprise for my best friend, Megan, whose birthday is 15 days before mine, but who has no plans to celebrate!
I’ve made both of these cakes previously–in fact, I made the Peach Melba last year for my 24th, but forgot to serve it until the end of the night when only three people were left! It was absolutely delicious, though, and I believe I actually did finish the whole thing off myself by the end of that week. Scary…but oh-so good 😉
The Cioccolato-Mangiare Cake is a concept I came up with for my mom’s birthday. Usually, we each provide our own dessert (or she makes mine, but I’ve never made hers). This year, though, she suggested we make each others! I requested Magnolia Bakery’s Red Velvet Cake (one of my absolute favorites!), while she requested a chocolate version of a Boston Creme Pie. The version below was for someone at work; it was the perfect opportunity to practice for my mom!
This one is actually a box mix chocolate cake because my mom requested it, specifically (I think mostly to spite my hatred of box mixes, haha). It’s filled with a chocolate version of biancomangiare (a white pudding often found in cannolis, in place of sweetened ricotta), which roughly translates to “white food,” hence the new name Cioccolato-Mangiare. Then, I covered it in hot fudge and decorated it with toffee bits and chocolate curls. The one problem I found is that, since the cake has to be refrigerated because of the pudding, the hot fudge stiffens into a chocolate shell that’s difficult to slice. The flavor is so worth it in the end, though!