Each summer my exercise routine consists of repeatedly running frantically out of my kitchen to the backyard, flapping my arms and yelling “ch ch ch ch” to scare away the scrub jays from my nectarine tree. When I’m tired, I make the boys do it.
I can’t really blame the birds (or squirrels) for stealing my nectarines. After all they are pretty tasty. I just wish they wouldn’t peck at so many, leaving much of the fruit behind to just fall to the ground and rot away. I kind of wanted to eat them myself, hence the reason I planted the tree in the first place!
In many ways, nectarines are just naked peaches, having a thin, smooth skin rather than a fuzzy one. The nice thing about this is that when baking with them you don’t have to worry about peeling the nectarine at all. Nectarines also have a firmer flesh than peaches which is part of why you don’t typically see them used in pies , and I find their flavor to be a little more acidic than that of peaches. However, that combination of texture and taste make nectarines a perfect choice for embedding into something like a cake batter. They’ll hold up to the heat of baking and you’ll definitely taste their flavor peeking through.
In this case, the tangy but sweet sourdough batter creates a spongy base that envelopes fresh slices of sweet nectarines. It’s all covered with a luxurious layer of a crunchy crumb topping made with oats and almonds, and most importantly, butter. But because it has fruit we can all say it’s healthy. Sounds good to me!
Some quick notes before you begin:
Check out my recipes for sourdough starter (both old fashioned and a quick version). People make and feed their starters in slightly different ways and you’ll want to be sure you have a similar level of moisture in yours as what I use if you already have a starter. I also use whole wheat flour in my starter, but you can make this with any kind.
The starter doesn’t need to be fed as the rise will come from the starter’s acidity interacting with the baking soda. I do a no-discard process for my sourdough (I hate waste), but if you have extra starter, this is a great way to use it!
The “toothpick method” for checking if the cake is done won’t work here due to the moisture from the fruit. Instead, an instant read thermometer should register between 200 – 205 F.
Nectarine Sourdough Coffee Cake Recipe
For the crumb topping:
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup rolled oats (like those used for oatmeal cereal)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 6 Tbsp. chilled butter, cut into pieces
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/3 cup finely chopped almonds
For the cake:
- 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour (fluff the flour with a whisk and then gently scoop it into the measuring cup)
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- generous pinch each of ground cloves and cardamom (if you don’t have cardamom, use nutmeg)
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 3/4 to 1 pound nectarines, fresh or frozen (do not thaw completely), sliced in half, and each half cut into four equal pieces
Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease an 8 in x 8 in baking pan. Make sure you are using a pan that you will want to serve from as this cake will not be removed to a serving dish.
If you have a food processor, place all the ingredients for the crumb topping in the bowl, except the almonds, and pulse together until the mixture is crumbly. Otherwise,place the same ingredients into a bowl and cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or a butter knife until the butter chunks are roughly pea size. Stir in the almonds, and place the mixture into the refrigerator while you prepare the cake batter.
In a large bowl measure out the dry ingredients for the cake (flour through the spices). Whisk together thoroughly. Set the bowl aside.
Use a hand mixer beat the egg in a bowl until it it light yellow and foamy. Add in the oil, milk and brown sugar and beat until well combined and the sugar is dissolved. Mix in the sourdough starter gently until thoroughly mixed in.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of flour and gently, but quickly, fold the ingredients together until combined. It is okay if there are small lumps so don’t over mix the dough trying to get it smooth. You will only get a tough cake by doing that.
Quickly pour the batter into your prepared cake pan. Arrange as many of the nectarine slices as you can fit over the top of the batter. It is okay for them to touch but try not to let the slices overlap. Gently push the slices into the batter a little. Evenly distribute the crumb topping over the entire cake all the way to the sides.
Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, though it may take up to 10 minutes more time. The “clean toothpick” method won’t work due to the fruit, so check with a thermometer to see if your cake is done. It should register between 200 – 205 F and the crumb topping should be somewhat golden brown and crispy.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into it. You don’t want to cut too early as that will release the steam that will keep your cake moist. This is best served at room temperature, or you can rewarm the cake a little if desired. This is the perfect pastry to go along with your morning coffee, afternoon tea, or after dinner dessert with a scoop of ice cream. Or just any time you want! Enjoy!