When peach season rolls around, there is almost nothing better than biting into the perfect peach. It gives just slightly to pressure when prodded gently with your finger. It has a full sweet lingering aroma, that you will notice as soon as you approach the bin of peaches at the market. That first bite, when your teeth break the skin, gives way to a juicy interior, sweet but with a bit of tang, and the juice drips freely down your chin. The fuzz on the peach just slightly irritates your lower lip. (Or maybe that’s just me. My husband says that I am easily irritated!)
I almost never buy the early peaches. They are the “cling” variety and the flesh does not separate easily from the pit. I wait patiently each year, until late August/early September for the “freestone variety” to arrive at the markets. The flesh just falls off the pit. Of course, I buy way too many peaches and there is no way I can eat them all, so I end up with a small bowl of somewhat bruised peaches that need to be used fast.
When I saw this cake on Serious Eats, I knew I had to make it. The indubitable star of this cake is praline topping. Measuring a whopping 3 inches tall, it makes up over half the total height of this cake. You will wonder, as you pile the praline topping over the cake batter, if there is a mistake in the recipe. No error here! This is as it is intended. Everyone knows that the topping is the best part of most coffee cakes. The actual cake, while certainly playing a supporting role, is no shrinking violet either. Moist, dense and slightly tangy, from the peaches and buttermilk in the batter, this cake is the perfect counterpoint to the crunchy sweet praline topping.
The peaches need to be peeled for this cake and while it is a bit of a process, it is important as bits of peach peel in the cake would not be great. Using a sharp knife, make an “X” in the bottom of each peach. Place in a pot of boiling water. When you see the skin start to peel away from the flesh, after about 1-2 minutes, they are ready to be removed. Let cool a bit, then peel and cut in half to remove it.
I gave the praline topping a bit of a makeover, by adding some whole wheat flour and quick cooking oats. Not that I delude myself by thinking that these additions make this a “healthy” cake, but I love the nuttiness that whole wheat flour adds and I love the texture that oatmeal contributes. I also reduced the amount of butter in the original topping recipe, as when I made this the first time, there was a melted pool of butter sitting on top of the cake. The original recipe called for 10 ounces of butter. I cut it back to 6 ounces and still ended up with a very buttery praline topping.
The cake batter comes together quickly. Buttermilk is the choice of liquid for this coffee cake as it really complements the tangy peaches.
You must be patient and give the cake a few hours to cool before removing from the pan. A big slice with a cold glass of milk disappears in almost no time at all. Magic how that happens!