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For a long time, I thought the only shortcake in the dessert world was of the strawberry variety. Call me naïve. And then I visited the Peach and Chowder Festival in the Stony Creek section of Branford and realized what I had been missing out on. In my family, every Easter is celebrated with shortbread biscuits transformed into delicious individual strawberry shortcakes. But now, a more recent tradition that graces our table for Labor Day involves a shortcake prepared in a round cake pan, many fresh peaches, and freshly whipped cream.
I've heard this style of shortcake is called a "cottage cake". I don't know about that but I do know that it's a light and tasty treat. Local peaches can be had through September and are an excellent choice but in a pinch, you can use swap fresh peaches for well-drained canned peaches.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1/3 cup salt
1 cup sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat the shortening and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cooled, slice the cake in half to create two round halves. Alternatively, if you can bake two cakes and stack them on top of each other rather than cut one cake in half. Be warned, however, this makes a very thick and filling dessert.
Peach Topping Ingredients
8 to 10 medium peaches (about 2 pounds)
1 to 1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Peel, slice, and remove pits from peaches. In a large bowl, combine the peaches and sugar. Let stand for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the peaches should begin to create a juice in the bowl. If there is not a lot of juice, begin adding small amounts of water. You may need to add additional sugar to taste. If you've opted to use canned peaches, skip this whole step and just reserve the juice from the can.
While the peaches are resting, whip the heavy cream and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until the mixture begins to make stiff peaks and it whipped cream consistency. Be careful not to over mix or you may wind up with butter.
Place the bottom of the cake on a serving plate, cut side up and spread with whipped cream. Top with two-thirds of the fruit and juice. Place top of cake, cut side down, on top of fruit. Cut into wedges to serve, spooning on remaining fruit and a dollop of whipped cream.
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