Home Baking: Richard Sax’s All-Time Best Summer Fruit Torte

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Hi, guest-blogger Katherine Curry checking in.  My copy of the late Richard Sax’s master work, Classic Home Desserts, is frayed and coming unbound, with stained and dogeared pages.  I’ve never found a bad recipe in the bunch, and there are over 350 of them, covering everything from cookies and cakes to puddings, pies, ice cream and cakes plain and fancy.

If I could keep but one recipe from the book, it would be Sax’s recipe for “Summer Fruit Torte,” a variation on a recipe by Marian Burros.  Of the recipe, Sax wrote, “After trying every conceivable variant on cake-with-fruit, I can tell you that for summer fruit, this cake is IT.”

He’s right.  I’ve made this cake so many times that in my family we refer to it as “The Cake.”

The other night I tripled the recipe to take to my neighborhood association’s annual meeting.  The beauty of the recipe lies in its simplicity and flexibility: a lushly buttery little cake baked with whatever fresh (or, shh, frozen) fruit you have on hand, and dusted with cinnamon sugar.  For fruit,  Burros’ original recipe called for 12 purple plums.

I’m partial to Sax’s combination of sliced peaches with some blueberries or raspberries scattered on top.

The other thing I love about this recipe?  Unless your cupboard is completely bare, you’re likely to have the ingredients on hand to make this at a moment’s notice.

I usually bake the cake in an 8 inch round cake pan,  but to triple it, I used an 18 x 12  pan.  This is not a high-rise cake, and the batter when spread out in the pan is nothing more than a thin layer.

To save time, I used frozen peach slices and frozen raspberries.

As the cake bakes, the fruit sinks into the cake and disappears.

It’s a humble-looking little cake, not a show-stopper, but it’s delicious, with a gorgeous crumb, and good for breakfast or dessert.  Make it your own: top it with vanilla sugar or a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.  Try adding thinly-sliced apples or Italian plums.  I made an all raspberry version once with sugar and nutmeg on top, which was intensely floral, almost exotic.  I’ve yet to find a bad combination.

All-Time Best Summer Fruit Torte, from Richard Sax’s Classic Home Desserts

Makes one 8 or 9 inch single-layer cake; serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 scant cup all-purpose flour, spooned lightly into a measuring cup

1 T baking powder

pinch salt

2 peaches or nectarines, peeled, pitted and sliced

1/2 cup blueberries

sugar, for sprinkling

ground cinnamon, for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan.

2. With an electric mixer at medium-high speed (or in a mixing bowl with a large wooden spoon), beat the butter until light.  Beat in the sugar and vanilla until fluffy; beat in the eggs, one at a time.

3. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture and stir just until combined, no longer.

4. Scrape the batter into the pan; smooth the top. Scatter the fruit over the batter. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

5. Bake until the cake is golden brown and baked through, about 45 minutes.

6. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature, cut into wedges.

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2 Comments

  1. Ah, this cake is originally a Polish cake, thus the plums. You can find it, or a variation, served in many of the Polish restaurants in New York City when the plums are in season. The plums actually ripen late summer to early autumn. The base is a basic cake recipe. I’ve changed it a good deal myself and make a version that uses sour cream, lemon zest and ground almonds. I usually mix a little ground cloves in with the cinnamon since that ups the flavor of the plums.

  2. Katherine Curry on

    Thanks for the info, Phyllis. Would love to try your version with the ground almonds — sounds wonderful!

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