Featuring the best of summer’s fresh in-season ingredients, this Grilled Peach and Serrano Chili Upside-down Cake with Strawberries captures the essence of California cuisine. Now get outdoors and…bake!
Hello from staycation land. I’m enjoying some much needed time off while our son visits from out west. Today we’re actually moving “horsey” from one barn to another. If y’all could just cross your fingers for us that would be awesome. Ginger is not a big lover of horse trailers, new barns, new horses, new people, new surroundings, new things to spook at or pretty much anything ‘new” in general. So at this point we’re just hoping she gets on the trailer and we’re at the new barn quickly and safely.
Today I have a very special guest on Kiss My Smoke. My pal Brooks is here to entertain and delight you. This man can cook and bake his butt off. Brook is the talented genius behind the blog Cakewalker. I first took notice of Brook’s work through a foodie network called Foodbuzz. I saw a Meyer Lemon Snowflake Cake a mutual friend of ours had shared that belonged to Brooks. I could not believe my eyes. Being a Meyer Lemon lover I had to go check it out. I’ve been hooked on Brooks’ blog ever since.
Brooks is incredibly talented. He creates cakes that are complete works of art. I am endlessly impressed by his creativity and imagination. He also weaves beautiful stories around the recipes, which is not an easy thing to do. I am in awe of everything this man does.
And if that’s not enough this amazing man is the kindest, most positive person you could ever meet. Brooks has a way about him that sets the people he talks to at ease. He’s genuine and that’s a rare thing these days. He is a supportive and kind person, and I think his family is truly lucky to have this man in their lives. He inspires me in every way possible.
So welcome Brooks to Kiss My Smoke. I know you will adore this gentleman as much as I do.
Man Of The House by Brooks Walker:
When Kim put out the call for help so she could invest in quality time with her family, my first thought was, “I got this.” As a family man I can relate. This past summer break, I spent a great deal of QT with mine. My children, though now back at elementary and middle school, are with me 24/7 when not in the classroom. Before I know it, my kids will be off to higher education and life pursuits. Then I’ll know firsthand Kim’s desire to dial it back when a full house presents itself. I’m happy to relieve her from the grill today, so she may be undivided while the nest is full.
I’m Brooks, and I’ve been a stay-at-home dad since 2003.
Dads at home, with kids, and keeping house is not so unusual now. A decade ago, however, we were few and far between; a different thread in the family fabric, weaving redefined roles. Those days, people’s reactions to learning “what I do” were varied: many were excitedly intrigued, others judged, and some showed a degree of disdain. I could see it in their faces―a “What, can’t you hold a job?” type of furrowed brow. To them, I never bothered to elaborate on, or justify my wife’s and my joint decision for our family dynamic, Sometimes you just know a lost cause, moreover, it was none of their narrow-minded business.
I can look back at it now through older, wiser eyes. And while the challenges roll on like the hamster’s wheel, it has been, and continues to be a rewarding privilege. So much so, the times have shifted, and many coat & tie men now would trade the boardroom for romper room. As being here with you today is based on family, I’ll share a few things I’ve picked up along the way.
Know your limits. As a man, it’s impractical to copy and sell the Mother-child bond. It is uniquely theirs by nature, and you simply aren’t wired for it. I touch on it in this story. This doesn’t mean, of course, you can’t have a bond of your own―it’s imperative to have one. We’re meant to have a different tangibility with our kids for we bring our innate qualities to the equation. And when you look at the bigger picture, you’ll see it adds up to wholesome, well-balanced youngsters. At the end of the day, you’ll revel in the special bond forged.
Fill your cup first. Yes, I said that. You can’t effectively nurture, to give to others when you’re running at a deficit. Whether it’s a hobby, a trip to the gym, or a brief timeout to quiet your mind and get centered―do it. Take time tending to your needs, to feel good about you, so that you may be filled with happiness. You’ll find an abundance of zeal, enough to give to those you love, the very ones who count on you. It may require creative scheduling so that your bases are covered, like the 4:30 a.m. treadmill sessions I’d take before Mrs. W left for work, but it’s important. If something’s missing in your life, it very well may be you. Fill up, and be present.
Structure the day and week―kids silently crave routine. They want guidance. To the contrary, though, maintain a margin of flexibility because you’ll need it. Flexibility is a rope to pull situations back together when things go awry. All in all, structure puts child development on good footing, and it definitely helps to keep you on point too.
Go completely Looney Toons. Animate yourself. Bring yourself to your child’s level, eye to eye. Use funny voices and facial expressions, and watch them light up! Engagement never had it so good. Genuine glee in the moment is a gift for all. Go on, play.
Don’t be concerned about what the guys at the brew pub think. So you know all about Disney princesses, Yo Gabba Gabba, and can name more characters on My Little Pony than you can players for the Denver Broncos. So what? Listening intently to your kids, knowing what they like and don’t like, and how they articulate their thoughts and feelings provides keen insight to them and their growth. And you should care about how they tick; you are, after all, bringing up the next generation. This knowledge has served me well―it has enabled me to make some rocking birthday cakes for the kids!
Lastly, praise her. Let your wife know you appreciate her sacrifice and hard work; she’s likely bucking tradition too. Remember the small things like a fresh gardenia on her night stand. These kinds of gestures are huge. You needn’t get hung up because she brings home the bacon, just fry it up in the pan, put on a spectacular breakfast, and stand tall, proud, and shine in your role as man of the house.
We tend to have adventurous palates in California. More and more, savory ingredients are showing up in sweet desserts, and my grilled upside-down cake is a fine example. Here I grill fresh peaches and Serrano chili for a smoky kick. The strawberries and caramel nicely rounds out the topping on a moist vanilla cake. What truly brings the flavors together is a garnish of unsweetened whipped cream and fresh basil!
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing
- ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- About 4 medium-sized whole fresh peaches, washed, halved and pitted
- 8 fresh strawberries, washed and green tops sliced off
- 1 Serrano chili pepper, halved and seeded
- ⅛th teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1⅓rd cups cake flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Fresh unsweetened whipped cream
- Fresh basil chiffonade
- One, 10¼-inch diameter cast iron skillet
- Barbecue grill prepared for direct and indirect heat method to 350°F
- Place the skillet on the direct heated grill; allow it to warm for a few minutes. To the pan, add the 4 tablespoons butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir the ingredients with a spoon until well combined and smooth; set skillet aside.
- Brush the cut side of the halved peaches with the extra melted butter. Grill peaches cut side-down on clean grates, over direct medium heat, until nicely marked—about 4 minutes. Remove peaches from grill and cool. Grill Serrano chili halves over same heat, until both sides are slightly charred, about 4 minutes. Rough chop the chilies; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients; set aside. Add the vanilla to the buttermilk; set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer, creaming well, until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl down with a spatula. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time, beating well, and scraping the bowl after each addition. The mixture might take on a curdled appearance, no worries, it will come together. Alternately add the flour mixture and the wet mixture to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Intermittently scrape the bowl through the additions.
- Tuck a strawberry into the pit cavity of each peach half—you’ll likely need to pare down some of the pointy end of the berry to get a good fit. The end result is to get the cross section of the berry to sit flush in the pit. Carefully arrange the filled peach halves with strawberries, cut side-down on the bottom of the skillet containing the brown sugar mixture. Sprinkle the chopped chili around in the voids left by the peaches.
- With a rubber spatula, transfer the cake batter to the skillet. Smooth the top of the batter evenly over the peaches to the edges of the skillet—an offset spatula makes nice work of this. Place the skillet on a sheet pan as an under liner, then transfer to the barbecue grill. Bake the cake over indirect medium heat, maintaining the grill temperature to as close to 350°F as possible, keeping the lid down. The cake is ready when the top is set, golden brown, and a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean; about 45 to 55 minutes. Using heavy duty heat pads, remove the skillet from the grill. Cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife around the inside edge of the skillet to loosen the cake. Place an appropriate sized platter over the top of the skillet. Don the heat pads or oven mitts again and invert the skillet onto the platter simultaneously; slowly lift the skillet away. The cake should easily slip out of the skillet. Allow the cake to cool slightly. Cut the cake using a peach half as a serving guide. Serve the cake warm, garnish with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of fresh basil chiffonade.
Notes: Some peach varieties may leave woody residue behind when the pit is removed—use a measuring spoon to gently scrape it clean from the hull. You may peel the peaches free from the skin, if you prefer. The cake may be made without the chili pepper or basil ingredients.
Kim―many thanks for the opportunity to visit with your readers. Your friendship, and the stories you share garner the biggest smiles and heartiest laughs. My wish is this past week with your family has been everything you wanted it to be. Cheers to you and yours!
Thank you SO much Brooks. I am so over the moon happy you were willing to guest post for me today. It’s both an honour and a thrill. You raised the bar for desserts on the grill today. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind words. It’s so nice to have a friend like you, one who truly understands the value of family time, and how utterly important that is. It means everything to me. xx
I encourage all my readers to head over to Cakewalker and follow Brooks there. You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube. I vote you stalk him everywhere. You won’t be sorry once you see this man’s recipes.
Now be confident and get your grill on!