Monday, May 21, 2012

Peach Blossom Cake - Merle Parrish

I’m a lover of cookbooks. I try to reign in my obsession but sometimes it overtakes me. Like the other day, when I was looking at buying Amy Atlas’ new book Sweet Designs and I accidently hit the purchase button (as well as purchasing a Hungarian cookbook). I’m very excited about both books arriving. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about Merle Parrish. She was a guest on Masterchef Australia 2011, although some people confuse her as being a contestant. I had no intention of buying her cookbook, or knew it existed until I was browsing through the titles at the local Big W and there it was for $19.93. I had a quick flip through on the way to the check out. I spent that afternoon on the couch reading the book from cover to cover, a number of times, excited about all the luscious things to try. At the top off my to-do list, her famous Peach Blossom Cake, which was part of an immunity challenge last year.
Cover Photo courtesy of Random House
I decided to try it for Mother's Day. I was a little apprehensive about making it because of the whole Masterchef accolade but I wanted to give it a go, the ingredients were simple enough and all staple items:  

For the cake
  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • ¾ cup cornflour
  • 1 ½  tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 egg whites
  • 190g butter
  •  cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¾ cup milk
  • Rose-pink food colouring
For the Icing
  • 1½ cups icing sugar
  • 10g butter
  • 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 1 to 2 drops rose-pink colouring

Cake tin ready and waiting (oiled and lined with baking paper)
First step was to grease and line my 8” (20cm) cake tin with butter and baking paper, and switch my oven on fan forced to 150°C (what Merle calls a moderate heat).
I prepared all my ingredients (I know all recipes say to sift the flours etc together and Merle herself said to sift 3 times, but I can't do it, I find it a waste of time so I mix the flour ingredients into a bowl and whisk them together with a hand whisk).

With my ingredients ready to go and I started creaming the butter and sugar together for around 3-5 minutes (or until light and fluffy and the sugar almost dissolved) in my Mixmaster.
Butter and Sugar on the way to be creamed
Next I added half the milk to assist the dissolving process.
Batter so far
Then I whisked together my eggwhites using electric beaters until stiff peaks formed, in other words, the egg whites had tripled in size and were white and glossy.
Beaten Eggwhites
In with the flour mixture and then I folded the eggwhites in two batches in with the butter mixture, using the slowest setting on my Mixmaster.
Batter with Eggwhites folded in
Merle warns at this point that the mixture may look curdled but mine looked fine, like any normal cake batter. Reserve a cup of the batter and add 1 -2 drops of the Rose Pink colouring, combining thoroughly. Pour ¾ of the regular batter into the tin. Pour half the pink batter in a circle at the rim of the tin, about 2cm in from the edge. Pour half the remaining regular batter on the top and then the pink batter in the centre and the remaining regular batter over everything (confused yet? Sorry for the lack of photos, by this stage I had completely forgotten about taking them). Bake in the oven for approximately 60-70 minutes or until it springs back from under your touch (I remember Merle being horrified that people stuck skewers into their cakes but if your top has cracked, which is common, then gently stick a thin skewer in the crack to see if the cake is done). Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before removing it from the tin and onto a baking paper lined tea towel. Allow to cool before icing.
Completed cake - cracking on top is normal for this recipe
To make the icing melt the butter with 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Add this to the icing sugar and rose pink food colouring and combine thoroughly. Ice the cake as you desire. The icing was a little more tricky and mine definitely doesn’t look like Merle’s version but this was done on purpose. DH doesn’t like a lot of icing so after I had done the first layer, drips and all done the sides, he said to stop. In his opinion, it looked great (very rustic) that way and what a cake should actually look like.

Completed cake - you can just make out the pink swirl
It’s hard to see in the images the light pink swirl throughout but it’s definitely there.

Because I made this cake for Mother's Day, I made two - one for my side of the family and one for DH's side of the family. Before I did the made cake, I did a quick search online to see if could find a video of anyone making it and to my surprise, I found a YouTube video of Merle herself here Definately worth the effort and time. It is really very simple and a lusciously dense cake, suitable for all ages.


  1. This looks like a beautiful and delicious cake. I have never heard of this cookbook author. Thanks for sharing on Foodie Friends Friday!

  2. Thank you for visiting. It's a great little baking book. Merle Parrish is a long standing Country Women's Association of Australia baking judge and contestant (and winner!). I have to try some more recipes from her book and blog about them. Most of the recipes are morning/afternoon tea items.