Easy Cook: Fresh Peach Cockaigne

Yes, fresh peaches are here. I look forward to finding peaches in grocery stores in the summertime; this is one of my favorite fruits. The aroma and flavor of a fresh peach just can’t be beat. My recipe for “Fresh Peach Cockaigne” or “A Small Up-Side-Down Peach Cake” is a great way to highlight the aroma of ripe peaches. The recipe is a “one bowl” dessert — it takes just a few minutes to mix it up. My recipe is not too sweet, which makes a refreshing change from many cobbler recipes. And I prefer the flavor and texture of fresh peaches compared to canned ones in the recipe.

One Recipe – Two Variations

I found a recipe for “Peach Cockagine”  in the “Joy of Cooking” cookbook. It looked interesting and I decided to adapt it using Bisquick which I had on hand. The recipe is a cross between a cobbler and a cake — but really more like a cake since it contains an egg and the batter is not so stiff.

I had to make the recipe several times (what a shame) to get the cake to bake thoroughly without burning. And so I ended up with two variations — one with the peaches poured into the cake pan first and the second variation with the peaches arranged on top of the batter. With the first variation, I inverted the cake onto a platter after it was baked. I named this one, “A Small Upside-Down-Peach Cake.”  If you really like peaches — use this variation.

With the “peach cockaigne” cake version, I piled the peaches on top of the batter. But I found that you had to bake the cake until it almost appeared burnt on top in order for the batter inside to be completely cooked. However, the brown crust is only on the top of the cake, the rest of the cake is moist and cooked. It helped to reduce the quantity of sliced peaches in the cake recipe.

What is a Cockaigne?

The term “cockaigne” was popularized by the “Joy of Cooking” cookbook author, Marion Becker. She referred to the term for cakes and recipes which she really loved. Browsing through the cookbook, I noticed that many recipes were termed “cockaigne.” I never saw that before now — guess I can now identify one of the author’s favorite recipes. In fact, the cookbook authors apparently liked the term or concept so much that they named their country home “Cockaigne.” The unusual word caught my attention and I had to try the Joy of Cooking’s recipe for “Peach Cockaigne.”

The word, “cockaigne” is a Middle French phase, “pais de cocaigne”, which means “land of plenty.” A medieval French poem refers to cockaigne as a mythical “land of luxury and ease where comforts and pleasures were always available.” The Middle Low German term is kōkenje, or “small cake”, the equivalent to kōken or cookie. 

I have had my copy of “Joy of Cooking” for years, it was my “cookbook Bible” and reference for almost any food topic when I was first married and learning to cook. As you can see, my cookbook is tattered and falling apart. I still recommend it as an “easy to read” reference for just about anything food-related that you want to know and often refer to the explanations for ingredients and recipes. Hard to imagine that so much information can be packed into one book and that is still relevant today.

Fresh Peach Cockaigne Recipe

So the term, “cockaigne”, seems to apply to an idealistic and imaginary place. I think that my recipe for “Fresh Peach Cockaigne” will fit right into the scene. I used the “Joy of Cooking” recipe as the starting point and concocted my own dessert. My cake highlights the flavor of fresh peaches; I reduced the sugar in the recipe so the dessert is not too sweet, a refreshing change.

Making the Recipe

The original recipe for “Peach Cockaigne” is an “upside down” cake or cobbler. Arrange the peaches on top of the batter. As the dessert is baked, the peaches sink to the bottom and the batter rises to make a crust.  I found that it was difficult to get the batter to cook completely without burning the top — and hence tried the second version.

Making the Recipe

This is a very, very easy cake to make. It is an “one bowl” recipe using Bisquick mix for the batter. Here are the ingredients.

Stir together the ingredients for the cake in one bowl. You don’t need an electric mixer. Stir until just mixed together — it doesn’t matter if there are lumps in the batter from the Bisquick. Pour the batter into the cake pan and arrange fresh peaches on top. Bake. Can’t get much easier to make than that.

Variation

I also tried placing the peaches in the cake pan first and pouring the batter on top. Here you can use more peaches. (I used three cups of sliced peaches.) This one turned out well, too.

What peaches to use?

I like the aroma and flavor fresh ripe peaches much better than canned ones for this recipe. In this recipe, you need ripe peaches which are not excessively juicy. When purchasing peaches in the store, they are often very hard. Let the peaches sit at room temperature for several days. They continue to soften and ripen. But once fresh fruit ripens, it quickly spoils. This cake s a great way to use the ripe peaches up in a hurry.

Peaches are found in different sizes so it is difficult to state exactly how many peaches are needed for the recipe. You need about 1-1/2 pound peaches (3 cups sliced) for the “cockaigne” variation and about 1-3/4 lb to 2 lb (or 4 cups sliced) for the “upside down” variation. One large peach yields about 1 cup sliced peaches.

Trick for Peeling Peaches

Peeling peaches is easy if you dip them in boiling water for just a minute or two first. Then immerse the peaches in a bowl of cold water until they can be handled. The peels just slide off. This saves alot of time. Try it.

I have a few peaches left and am going to make this recipe one more time. (And I’ll bake it for longer than shown below.) I love this cake as much as the “Joy of Cooking” authors and I hope you do too. Here’s to an imaginary land where all the pleasures and goods you need are close at hand. Enjoy!

Fresh Peach Cockaigne

  • Servings: 6 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

    • 3 Tbsp margarine
    • 3 cups (approx 1-1/2 lb) peeled, sliced fresh peaches (3 large peaches or 4 small ones)
    • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 Tbsp
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1 cup Bisquick Mix
    • Ice cream or whipped topping, optional, for serving

Method and Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use a little of the margarine to oil an 8″ to 9″ Pyrex cake pan. Melt the remaining margarine in a microwavable dish in the microwave. Set aside for the cake batter.
  2. To peel peaches, bring water to a boil in medium-sized pot. Dip the peaches in the boiling water for one minute, then immerse in a bowl of cold water. When cooled enough to handle, immediately slip the peels off peaches.
  3. Slice peaches. Mix with 1/2 cup sugar. Set aside.
  4. In medium size bowl, add the egg. Beat until blended. Pour in milk and mix together.
  5. Add the Bisquick mix, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and melted margarine to the egg/milk mixture and stir to briefly to mix together. There will be lumps from the Bisquick remaining in the batter. Do not over mix, just leave the lumps.
  6. Pour batter into oiled cake pan.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, arrange peaches on top of the batter. Drain off any excess sugar and peach juice. Do not add to top of cake.
  8. Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until cake springs back when touched. Cake batter will rise to the top.
  9. Remove from oven, cut and serve hot.
  10. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping, optional.

A Small Up-Side-Down Peach Cake

  • Servings: 6 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

    • 3 Tbsp margarine
    • 4 cups (1-3/4  to 2 lb) peeled, sliced fresh peaches (4 large peaches or 5 small ones)
    • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1 cup Bisquick Mix
    • Ice cream or whipped topping, optional, for serving

Method and Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use a little of the margarine to oil an 8″ x 8″ baking pan. Melt the remainder of the margarine in a microwavable dish in the microwave, set aside for the cake batter.
  2. To peel peaches, bring water to a boil in medium-sized pot. Dip the peaches in the boiling water for one minute, then immerse in a bowl of cold water. When cooled enough to handle, immediately slip the peels off peaches.
  3. Slice peaches and place in medium size bowl. Mix with 1/2 cup sugar and then pour into the oiled baking pan.
  4. In the same (empty) medium size bowl, add the egg. Beat until blended. Pour in milk and mix together.
  5. Add the Bisquick mix, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and melted margarine to the egg/milk mixture and stir to briefly to mix together. There will be lumps from the Bisquick remaining in the batter. Do not over mix, just leave the lumps.
  6. Carefully pour batter over peaches in the baking pan.
  7. Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until cake springs back when touched.
  8. Remove from oven. When cooled slightly, loosen edges of cake with a knife. Place serving platter face down on top of cake pan. Quickly invert cake onto platter.
  9. Cut and serve hot.
  10. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping, optional.

 

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