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A twist on a classic dessert: Peach melba

Today, on National Peach Melba Day, I am celebrating my culinary school’s founder Auguste Escoffier and his invention of the dessert the classic peach Melba.

Chef Auguste Escoffier is associated with creating Peach Melba for his Australian opera singer friend Nellie Melba, who would frequent his restaurants.

Having studied Escoffier’s legacy and what he has given to chefs around the world and the culinary world in general, I thought it very appropriate to celebrate these flavors in my own creation of a special cake to honor the French chef.

My yellow cake is moist and delicious. Inside this celebration cake, I have for you a peach jam filling.

As Escoffier knew, the flavors of sweet farm peaches, vanilla ice cream (my vanilla cake) and the freshness of raspberries in a puree for the Swiss meringue buttercream (You can make your icing beautiful ribbons of white, then a bit pink and then a darker pink as I did if you wish.), all add up to one spectacular celebration cake for Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, birthday or any special occasion or simply for a nice end to a weekend or weekend evening meal.

When almonds were in season, one could add a sprinkling of fresh almonds to garnish their Peach Melba. In my cake, I have added a splash of pure almond extract to mirror that idea.

Therefore, from my kitchen to yours, my celebration of Auguste Escoffier, his work and legacy, and his wonderful combination of flavors in his invention of the Peach Melba.

Peach Melba Celebration Cake

1¾ cups cake flour

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ sticks unsalted butter; softened

¾ cup milk; room temperature

½ cup sour cream, room temperature

4 large eggs at room temperature

¼ cup of a neutral oil such as canola or safflower oil

2¼ cups granulated sugar

1½ teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

½ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with butter, parchment paper, butter again on the parchment paper and lastly dust the pans with flour. Set the pans aside until ready to use.

In a large bowl, sift together all of your dry ingredients and set aside.

In a large measuring cup, mix the liquid ingredients together except for the eggs. Set this mixture aside while you start making your batter.

In the bowl of your stand-up mixer, mix together with your paddle attachment the butter and sugar on low speed. With the mixer still on low, pour in the oil and mix until well blended. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Once all of your oil is added, combine the mixture on medium high speed until light and fluffy for about 2 minutes.

Next, on low speed, add your eggs one at a time, blending well after each egg. Once all of your eggs have been added, mix in 1/3 of your dry mixture. Scrape the bowl well too and add ½ of your wet mixture. Alternate dry and wet ingredients, ending with the dry. Pour the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.

Bake the cakes for about 25-30 minutes. The toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean.

Cool the cakes on a cooling rack in their pans for about 10 minutes. Then, take the cakes out of the pans and set on a wire rack to cool completely before filling and decorating.

Peach filling

The filling for this gorgeous cake is simply peach jam. You can use the summer fresh jam you made or store-bought.

Simply slice the round top off of each layer of cake, spread a small layer of peach jam almost to the edges of each layer and repeat for the layers. I pipe a ring of icing on the edge of each layer.

If you do not have piping bags, you can always cut the tip off baggies to use as piping bags. I also invested in an inexpensive baker’s turntable to decorate desserts. It’s so much fun to use and a great investment that I use often.

Raspberry Coulis

12 ounces of frozen raspberries

¼ cup of sugar

1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a food processor, add your raspberries and puree. Place the puree into a strainer and push down on the solid fruit to get all of the fruit juice and pulp through, as much as possible.

Add your freshly squeezed lemon juice and the sugar. Mix to combine all. Pour that mixture into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture simmers.

Allow to cook, simmering for 3-5 minutes. Set aside to cool, to be incorporated into your icing.

Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

5 large egg whites

1¼ cups granulated white sugar

1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 sticks of unsalted butter; room temperature

Pinch of kosher salt

Take your stand-up mixer bowl and place it on the counter. Into your stand-up mixing bowl, add your egg whites and sugar. Whisk your ingredients to combine. Add your salt.

Place the mixer bowl onto a double-boiler that has simmering water in the bottom pot. Continue to whisk the mixture until it reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the mixing bowl on your stand-up mixer with the whisk attachment.

Whisk the egg mixture on medium high speed for about 5-7 minutes, or until thick in texture. This mixture should be at room temperature at this point, before you add the butter. Turn your mixer down to medium low and add your butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Once all of your butter is added, increase the mixer to medium. The buttercream will look broken. Don’t worry, just keep mixing until the buttercream comes together.

Lastly, add your pure vanilla extract. Divide the buttercream into thirds, if you wish to tint the sections with coulis, making different shades of pink. Add as much coulis as you wish, making the colors of buttercream you want. You can use this buttercream right away, or you can refrigerate it for up to three days in advance before using it.

Store your buttercream covered and in the refrigerator.

Sarah Schweitzer is dual-certified in Culinary Arts and Baking & Pastry from the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts (www.escoffier.edu). She is a former line cook for Chef Robert Irvine at “Fresh Kitchen by Robert Irvine” which was located at the Downtown Allentown Market. Sarah is currently working as a Sous-Chef at Ateira’s on First and has her own blog simplysarah.online. She can be reached at sarah.schweitzer18@gmail.com.

A slice of Peach Melba celebration cake in honor of National Peach Melba Day. SARAH SCHWEITZER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
A top view of the peach Melba celebration cake