Melba. When I see that word, the image of a stereotypical little old lady comes to my mind. Is that weird?
It's just such an old-fashioned name. Like Gladys or Maynard. I definitely don't associate it with Melba toast or Peach Melba, probably because I've never eaten or even been in the presence of either of those. Apparently (for those of you as oblivious as I), Peach Melba is a dessert consisting of poached peaches and raspberry sauce served with vanilla ice cream. It was invented in the late 1800s by a French chef to honor a singer, Nellie Melba. Whoopadeedo. It doesn't sound all that impressive to me, but as I said, I've never tried it.
I had some leftover peach filling from a cake I had made at work (hopefully I'll get an opportunity to recreate it and share it with youse guys--it was awesome), so I decided to see what was so great about the vanilla-peach-raspberry combination. I began with what has quickly become my favorite white cake recipe--it's easy and it almost always yields soft, fluffy, nicely domed cupcakes. The filling was perfectly spiced and nestled down into the cupcake very well. I flavored the frosting with raspberry preserves, but you can use jam or puree or whatever raspberry goodness you have on hand.
These are lovely in appearance and upon that first bite, you can easily tell why the peach-raspberry combination is so popular. Those two fruits seamlessly create a really pleasant sweet-tart balance. Forget the traditional Peach Melba and make these surprisingly wonderful cupcakes instead!
Peach Mabel* Cupcakes
- 2-1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/4 cups buttermilk
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups peaches, pitted and chopped (peeling optional)
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons raspberry preserves
To make the filling, in a large saucepan, combine the water, lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch; blend well and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook for 2 minutes, constantly stirring, then remove from heat and stir in vanilla and peaches. You can actually cook the peaches a bit first if you prefer them a bit softer, and that's what I did.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake tins by using liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg whites, and vanilla. Beat together the butter and sugar and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, for a full 3 minutes, until very light. Add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well-aerated. Place the batter into the cupcake tins.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch--a tester inserted into the center should come out clean. Cool completely on wire racks.
To make the frosting, beat the butter with an electric mixer for a few minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add the preserves and briefly blend. Add the powdered sugar gradually until the frosting is thick enough to pipe easily. Add powdered sugar or more preserves as needed to achieve the correct consistency.
To assemble the cupcakes, carve out a cone-shaped hole in the delicate white cupcakes and spoon about a tablespoon of peach filling inside. Apply the frosting generously to the cupcakes, give the components a few minutes to get friendly, and devour.
*Mavis or Myrna work too, though they are not anagrams.