Along with Oscar Wilde, I am a firm believer that “Nothing succeeds like excess.” While it is doubtful that he was referring to the imbibing of tea, or cake, for that matter, I like to believe that he was. So joyfully faced with the task of choosing which stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines, and their numerous hybrids) from the colorful tapestry available at markets now, I have concocted what I call “Tea times two” as the perfect vehicle to be gilded with those fruits, syruped and perfumed with tea.
If you’re a fan, like I am, of robust black teas from the Nilgiris in India, or Keemuns from mainland China, you probably have most of what you need on hand to make this teatime treat. Shop for the perishables to add to what you probably already have in your pantry, and you’re on way to achieving this portable, easy-to-make gateau de voyage, perfect to take on a picnic or to a summery outdoor concert (pack the fruits in tea syrup in an airtight container and ladle over the cake once ensconced in your alfresco setting).
Yield: 8-10 servings.
For the Lemony Teacake:
2-1/4 c. (approximately 8.75 ounces) cake flour
1-1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/3 t. salt
½ pound (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/4 c. (9 ounces) granulated sugar
3 large eggs (approximately 4.8 ounces)
2-1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. (8.75 ounces) sour cream
1 t. grated lemon zest
1 T. lemon juice
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
Using an electric mixer outfitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally during the mixing process. Add eggs and vanilla and mix to blend. Add dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the zest and lemon juice making sure they are well distributed in the batter. Transfer the mixture loaf pan measuring 8” x 5” x 3” which has first been lined on the bottom and sides with parchment paper and then sprayed with pan release spray.
Bake the cake for about 45 minutes on a rack set halfway up from the bottom of the oven until done (test by inserting a wooden skewer into the cake; it should come out clean and dry). When tested done, remove from the oven and let cool on a rack.
Now make the Tea-Syruped Fruits as follows:
2-3 lbs. of stone fruit—peaches, nectarines, plums, hybrids (choose the most fragrant fruits that are yielding to gentle pressure, indicating perfect ripeness), cut into wide thick wedges—peel the peaches first if you’d like
2 c. brewed tea of your choice (Indian orthodox black tea from the Nilgiri region or a fragrant Keemun from mainland China are my favorites here, brewed using 3 grams of the dry tea leaf per 6 ounces of water; brewed for 3-5 minutes for a nice robust and strong infusion)
1 c. granulated sugar
Prepare the fruit. Bring the tea and sugar to the boil, reduce to a simmer and add the fruit. Cook at the barest simmer until the fruits have softened (but are not disintegrating about 10-15 minutes). Remove from the heat and allow the fruits to cool in the syrup.
Unmold the cake. Slice the cake, placing portions into deep wide bowls. Ladle the fruit and a generous amount of the syrup over each portion of the cake and serve immediately.