This tasty variation of the classic pineapple cake is equally good with fresh apricots or cooked dried apricots.

Makes one 10-inch cake, about 8 to 10 servings


Topping

1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
6 medium peaches
6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup light brown sugar

Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk or buttermilk
1/2 cup (about 4 large) egg whites

One 10-inch round cake pan, 2 inches deep

  1. To prepare the peaches for the topping, combine the sugar and vanilla bean with 3 cups water and bring to a simmer in a large pan. To peel the peaches, bring a pan of water to a boil. Cut a cross in the blossom end of each peach and drop into the boiling water. Lift out with a slotted spoon after about 15 seconds and peel peaches. Halve and pit peaches and add to vanilla syrup as they are ready. After all the peaches are in the syrup, bring the syrup to a simmer and turn off heat. Leave peaches in syrup until ready to assemble cake. Peaches may be refrigerated, covered, up to 1 day.
  2. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  3. For the cake, combine the cake flour with the baking powder and salt; stir well and set aside. Beat the butter and sugar with the paddle on medium speed until soft and light, about 5 minutes, then beat in the vanilla. Whisk together the milk and egg whites. Add about a third of the cake flour mixture to the mixer bowl and beat until it is absorbed. Add about half the milk and egg white mixture and beat smooth. Stop and scrape bowl and beater. Continue with another third of the flour mixture and the remaining liquid. Finally, add the remaining flour mixture and beat smooth. Take the bowl off the mixer and give the batter a final mixing with a large rubber spatula.
  4. To assemble, drain the peaches and set on a pan lined with a towel or paper towels. Melt the butter for the topping and pour into the cake pan. Stir in the light brown sugar and place over heat for a few seconds to melt sugar, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat and add peaches, rounded side down, arranging them evenly over the sugar and butter mixture. Pour cake batter over peaches.
  5. Bake the cake until baked through, about 30 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting the point of a knife or toothpick in the center; it should come out dry.
  6. Cool the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then place a platter over the pan. Flip the pan so that it sits on top of the platter, but let the cake sit for 10 minutes or so inside the pan and on top of the platter before lifting off the pan. If some of the peaches stick to the pan, pry them off and place them on the cake.