When I was a child growing up in Brisbane the food from the Italian side of my immigrant 2nd generation Italio/English family stood apart from that of some of my classmates at school. My Nonna lived up the road, still does, and would be first in line for babysitting. I grew up with her baked version of risotto and didn’t realise it could come in its more porridge-like form until I was 20. Lasagne and ravioli were frequently served for supper – always the home made version. But there was one lady in our extended family who was the queen of baking – cakes, biscuits, waffle like creations, desserts anything sweet and sponge-like! My brother and sister and I knew that visiting Zia would mean cake – every time.
My memory is dull on the detail of what specific occasion when these cakes was served but boy, do I remember the cakes themselves. *The* most exquisite little creations I had ever seen. Peaches, actual peaches made out of soft sponge with a leaf and little chocolate coated liquorice stems. I kid you not! There were perfectly confectioned peaches, or at least they were to my juvenile eyes. Plumb and sweet with a sunny blush on one side – I remember them like a dream.
So when my partner and I decided to take the plunge and do ‘the wedding’ thing I could think of no better way to commemorate the occasion in cake than these little creations. Unfortunately my dear Zia had passed away earlier that year and taken her baking secrets with her and so we had to experiment ourselves. Five practice runs later and we had an approximation of her beautiful peach cakes but I still, and will always, remember Zia’s as utterly perfect.
Zia Faustina’s pesche dolci (makes approx. 24 depending on the size of you moulds*)
For the cakes:
75 g butter
1 cup sugar
1-½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 tbl spoons baking powder
90 ml milk
1 tbl spoon of peach brandy/liquor or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 bunch of fresh healthy looking mint
For the custard:
3 egg yolks
½ cup of sugar
¼ cup flour
1 cup of milk
2 teaspoons peach brandy/liquor or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tbl spoon butter
For the coloured sugar coating:
2 cup caster sugar
Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
2 jars or containers with lids
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 F/Gas mark 4
- Cream butter and sugar together until pale yellow and add eggs. Mix well.
- Sieve in flour and baking powder and add salt. Mix well.
- Add milk and peach brandy or liquor (or vanilla if you’re sans booze).
- Mix well.
- Prepare your moulds by greasing and flouring them – you want the peach cheeks to remain un-blemished.
- Using a dessert spoon carefully drop one spoon of mix into each mould – do not over fill!
- Bake for appox. 10-15mins keeping an eye on them – remove when slight raised and just starting to colour on top.
- Gently turn out (you might need to use a spoon to coax them out of the moulds) onto cooling rack.
- Take a sharp knife and working your way around the circular edge of each cheek careful remove the sharp edge. Finally cut an angled wedge slice off the flat bottom of the cheek.
For the custard:
- Combine the all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir over a low heat until combined.
- Stir! Stir! Stir! This could take while but the slower the better – you don’t want it to burn. You need the custard to be quite a thick consistence to cold its shape inside the peach.
- Set aside to cool.
For the coloured sugar:
- Put 1 cup of sugar into one jar along with a few drops of red colouring. Then the other cup into the other jar along with a few drops of yellow colouring.
- Shake the jars with all your might until the colour is evenly distributed. Great fun!
- Pour a little of the yellow sugar into the red jar and shake some more – you need a pink peach colour – this isn’t an exact science.
- Set up your construction surface with the coloured sugars spread on a plate or shallow bowl, squirt a little red colouring onto a small sandwich plate and have the cake cheeks and custard within easy reach.
- Take one peach cheek and, with your finger, dab a little red colouring on one edge of the curved surface (to imitate a sun blush). Don’t worry if it looks a little odd right now it will blend once you’ve coated it in sugar.**
- Roll the curved surface in the pink and yellow sugar until you have a covering resembles a peach (you may want to have a real peach on hand as a model).
- Do the same with the other side mirroring the blush colouring.
- Now take one half, and with a teaspoon, dollop a spoonful of custard in the middle of the ‘pit’ of the peach cheek.
- Using the other cheek work the custard to imitate a cut piece of fruit.
- Pop in the mint leaf stalk and set aside. (if you’d like to use choc coated liquorice instead now’s the time)
*I sourced my peach moulds from a specialist cake supply shop in Richmond-upon-Thames but I have also seen larger versions at profession chef supply shops.
**To make these little beauties extra boozy you could paint the insides liberally with liquor before assembling the peaches.