As you are slowly finding out, I am obsessed with sunken ships. Every year, I plop down in front of the TV, pop in my VHS of the 1997 film, and snack on Titanic-shaped cookies. This year, I decided to do something new. I wanted to make a different dessert, maybe even one that was served on that fateful voyage. After several Google searches, do you know what I learned?
People did not know how to eat dessert in 1912.
The dessert options on Titanic range from exceptionally boring to unappetizing. Some boring options include ice cream of unspecified flavor, fruit, eclairs, and custard. There is also a mystery dessert called Waldorf pudding, which is different than Waldorf salad. While many people have guessed at its recipe, it seems to have gone down with the ship. What a shame.
Then, in the unappetizing column, we have plum pudding, rice pudding, and the mother of it all, peaches in Chartreuse.
First, I’ll give you a little background on Chartreuse, because if you’re like me, you have no idea what it is.
Chartreuse is a wine-based liqueur that is steeped in some 130 herbs. It was first thought to be an elixir of long life, which may be the reason that it landed a spot on the First Class dessert menu. French monks were the first to brew this concoction starting somewhere in the early 1600s. Slowly, the liqueur grew in popularity by the late 1800s, so much that it even lent its name to a popular color. (Three guesses which one.)
During the time that this dessert was served on Titanic, Chartreuse was very en vogue. A French law had banished the monks from their distillery, and they sold a type of bootleg from their refuge in Catalonia. They weren’t able to return to France until the 1920s.
Now, the reason I adapted this recipe is two-fold:
- Chartreuse is super expensive. It’s only made in that one distillery in France, and it’s a wine that has to age in its bottle for a few years to get a balanced flavor.
- It is described as tasting like munching on an herb garden.
I love a good herb, don’t get me wrong, but something about jellied herbs with peaches just felt . . . disgusting.
After much research, I stumbled upon Elderflower liqueur. It has the sweet, fresh flavor of a flower, but is light and not at all perfume-y. The brand I bought is organic, and made it a little expensive, but this liqueur goes great with raspberries, grapefruit, mangos, oranges–so I don’t think it’ll be sitting around long.
And oh my goodness does it make this peach cake sing. While I’m still not sold on a jellied herb garden, I can imagine what that fresh, cool taste did for this dessert. It must have been just the bit of land you’d be longing for while at sea.
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 15-oz can of peaches in 100% fruit juice
1 small can or individual cup diced/cubed peaches in 100% fruit juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mash the 15 oz of peaches (the mushier the better). Cream peaches with eggs and oil. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Sometimes the peach flavor is a little mild depending on how much fruit juice is in the can (it varies). I use the juice in the individual cup to kick up the flavor to preference, but be sure to reserve some for the frosting.
Once you’ve reached desired peachiness, evenly divide batter between two greased cake pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven. The fresh fruit keeps it pretty moist, which can be mistaken for doughiness, so keep an eye on this cake. A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean when the cake is done.
Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to wire rack to completely cool.
3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons Elderflower liqueur
1 teaspoon peach juice
peach cubes for decroation
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine butter and powdered sugar on low speed until fairly incorporated. Add Elderflower liqueur and peach juice. Allow time to mix in, then kick the speed up to high and allow to mix for 5 minutes or until semi-stiff peaks form.
When assembling the cake, I also brushed a bit of the liqueur on each layer before icing. I then garnished with the cubes of peach from the individual cup. They added a happy little pop of color to the cake, I think.
And there it is! Super easy recipe for a super impactful flavor. This cake is perfect for a spring time jaunt across the Atlantic–or you know, a nice spring time dessert here at home.