I love warm fruit desserts, but they tend to be a little heavy. As the weather gets hotter, I want lighter options. These little low-fat cakes fill the bill. The peaches are the one last-minute item; it takes only a few minutes to grill and slice them. I especially love how easily the skins slip off after the fruit is grilled. The technique cuts the prep time for the peaches to almost nothing.
Each little cake is sliced, topped with the warm peach slices and the strawberries, then crowned with a muffin top. The dessert is pretty, filled with fruit and low in fat -- so low that if you're so inclined, you might want to indulge in a spoonful or two of whipped cream.
The recipe for the angel food cakes, adapted from "Joy of Cooking," by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker (Scribner, 1997), makes 12 small (cup)cakes. You’ll need only 6 for this dessert. The extras can be tucked into a lunch box or served as a snack.
If you'd prefer to leave out the Grand Marnier, add a tablespoon of sugar instead.
Make Ahead: The cupcakes can be made earlier in the day or even a day in advance. The strawberries need to be prepared 2 to 12 hours in advance.
- For the strawberries
- 16 ounces strawberrries, washed and hulled; small strawberries cut in half, medium strawberries quartered, large strawberries cut into eighths (about 3 cups)
- 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- For the cakes
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 5 to 6 large egg whites (3/4 cup)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons water
- Juice of 1/4 lemon (1 1/2 teaspoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- For the peaches
- 3 large ripe peaches, cut in half, pit removed
For the strawberries: Combine the fruit, liqueur and sugar in a medium bowl. Mix to coat evenly, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.
For the cakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners.
Sift together the cake flour, half of the sugar (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) and the salt; sift the mixture 2 more times.
Combine the egg whites, water, lemon juice, cream of tartar and the vanilla and almond extracts in the bowl of a stand mixer (use a balloon whisk attachment) or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on low speed for 1 minute to incorporate the ingredients, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is foamy and has increased in volume by 4 to 5 times. The foam will hold a very soft shape when the whip is lifted out of it.
Add the remaining sugar (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons), 1 tablespoon at a time. The foam should be a glossy white and hold a soft peak when the whisk or beaters are lifted out. Do not overbeat.
Transfer the beaten egg white mixture to a large mixing bowl. Sift about one-quarter of the flour-sugar mixture over the egg whites, then use a large rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture into the egg whites. Repeat until all of the flour mixture is incorporated. Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one at least three-quarters full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the cakes are firm to the touch and their tops are lightly browned. Let the cakes rest in the pan for 5 minutes; then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the peaches: Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Lightly coat a grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.
Place the peach halves on the grill, cut sides down. Cover and grill for 3 to 4 minutes, until the peaches have grill marks and are heated through. Use a spatula and/or tongs to loosen the fruit and flip it over. Cover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the skin of the peaches loosens. Transfer the peaches to a clean plate; carefully remove and discard the skins.
To assemble: Working with one cake at a time, carefully remove and discard the paper liners and place the cakes on their sides. Use a serrated knife to cut each one into 3 equal slices (cross-section), which will be the bottom, middle and top.
Place 1 set of bottom and middle slices on a plate. Slice one of the peach haves into 5 or 6 slices and fan them out over the cake slices. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the strawberries over the peaches, making sure to include some of the juice. Stack the middle slice with fruit on top of the bottom slice with fruit to form a kind of shortcake. Top with the remaining (top) slice of cake. Repeat to prepare all 6 servings.
From Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Email questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.