A few loyal Takeout readers have been begging for a Baltimore peach cake recipe since last winter, and while I’m always prepared to make readers’ dreams come true, I had to hold on tight to this recipe until the perfect moment. At last, that moment has finally arrived! It is not only peach season, it is also my birthday, and summer peaches, cake, and Charm City happen to be three of my favorite things. So it’s time for us to celebrate all of those things, in the greater celebration of me.
What I love most about Baltimore peach cake is that it aligns with my personal fruit ethics: When produce is already perfect, you should do as little as possible to it. (See also: tomatoes.) During peak season, peaches can make you believe in a higher power, as it simply cannot be possible that the chaos of a godless universe could accidentally create something that tastes so wondrous. This cake—a gift from the German immigrants that called Baltimore home over a century ago—is a cake that both understands and respects its fruit. The base is a puffy yeasted dough that is simple in both flavor and preparation. Once it’s been pressed into a rectangular pan, almost every inch gets covered with thick slices of fresh peaches, and that’s all. The handful of classic German bakeries that still exist will glaze their peach cakes with a thin layer of warmed raspberry jam, but I’ve been told that’s mostly to keep the cake looking fresh while it sits in the pastry case. I don’t use it because I’m a purist and peach cake doesn’t last very long in my house, anyway. But if you want to try it on your peach cake, you have my blessing.
When I eat this for dessert, I’ll add a little bit of lightly sweetened whipped cream on the side, and maybe a sprinkling of powdered sugar just for show. When I eat it for breakfast, I eat naked slabs of it with by bare hands while leaning over the kitchen sink, and it still tastes amazing. It’s the sort of thing that’s worth waiting all year for, and this is most certainly a recipe you should try to enjoy as often as you can before summer comes to an end. When the universe graces you with something as sweet as peaches (or moi), you shouldn’t hesitate to celebrate them every day.
- 6 Tbsp. butter, softened
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 packet instant or activated active dry yeast
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 2/3 cups flour
- 4-6 peaches
- 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Cream the butter, brown sugar, and salt together in a mixer until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the yeast, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon, then add the flour and mix on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes to form a sticky, shaggy dough.
Use butter or cooking spray to grease a 9x13" baking pan. Spread the batter over the bottom—the dough will be sticky, so you can either use a spatula or lightly wet your hands and use them to pat the dough into the pan.
Wash the peaches well, then cut them in half, remove the pits, and cut them into fat slices (I get about eight slices from one large peach, six slices from the little guys). Arrange them on the surface of the cake in rows and give them just the slightest push into the dough. Cover the pan with plastic or a clean dish towel and set it somewhere warm to rise for 75 minutes. (I like doing this in an off oven with the light on.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the cake on the center rack for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester stuck into the middle pulls out cleanly. Move the oven rack to its second-highest position and set the broiler to high. Lightly sprinkle the top with granulated sugar, slide it in, and broil while watching it constantly until the top caramelizes a bit—this can take anywhere from 1-5 minutes, depending on your broiler, so do not take your eyes off of it! (It’s fine to keep the oven open a bit so you can see it better.)
Let the cake sit for at least 15 minutes after removing it from the oven. You can serve peach cake hot, cold, or at room temperature. If you manage not to eat it all at once, keep the remaining cake refrigerated.