Nothing says summer like an abundance of apricots.
You might be a nectarine fan or a lover of plums or mad-keen on those scarlet, seed freckled, early season strawberries, but apricots are the summer fruit for me. When I was a kid my Dad loved them best and, well, I loved my Dad (still do) so apricots it was. Suede-skinned, so easy to split, sweet and soft – how can you not be biased?
This cake might not be the prettiest to look at, but it’s the perfect pedestal for summer apricots. It’s got a good moist crumb and the base and edges are slightly crisp from being cooked in the skillet. The topping is rich, sweet and jammy; adding rosemary and a pinch of nutmeg lends a lovely warm and woody flavour.
I served this cake to my book club (over discussions about Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel) with silver cake forks I inherited from my Dad’s Mum, my Nana. I also made it for my youngest daughter’s birthday. It’s a great cake for taking to a barbecue, dishing up for afternoon tea or slowly devouring with someone you like, slice by slice, lying on a picnic blanket in a fragrant garden, bumblebees in the lavender, cicadas acting as violinists. Up to you. However you choose to share it (or not) I suggest accompanying it with handfuls of fresh berries and big dollops of cream that has been whipped with a little vanilla paste. If your rosemary is in flower you can snip off a few purple flowers and scatter them on top too.
For this recipe you will need a 10 inch well-seasoned cast-iron or heavy non-stick skillet at least 2 inches deep
- 113 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 10 or 11 small (2 – 2 1/4-inch) fresh apricots, halved lengthwise and pitted
- Handful of fresh rosemary sprigs, roughly chopped
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 113 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
- 3/4 cup plain greek yoghurt
Step 1: Topping:
Note: for your cake – preheat your oven to 375°F / 190 C on fan bake now
Heat butter in skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides.
Reduce heat to low and sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter, then cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes (not all of sugar will be melted).
Remove skillet from heat and arrange apricot halves, cut sides down, close together on top of brown sugar. Scatter over rosemary, salt and nutmeg.
Step 2: Make cake batter:
Sift together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt into a small bowl.
Beat together butter, sugar, and extracts in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 3 to 4 minutes with a handheld. Beat in eggs 1 at a time then beat until mixture is creamy and approximately doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes.
Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches alternately with yoghurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and beat just until combined.
Gently spoon batter over apricots and spread gently and evenly.
Step 3: Bake cake:
If your skillet isn’t ovenproof, wrap handle with heavy-duty foil (or a double layer of regular foil) before baking. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean, around 35 – 45 minutes.
Wearing oven mitts, immediately invert a large plate over skillet and, keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together, invert cake onto plate. Carefully lift skillet off cake and, if necessary, replace any fruit that is stuck to bottom of skillet. Cool to warm or room temperature.