I am absolutely fascinated by airplanes. I have always thought it would be really cool to learn how to fly. When I look at jets overhead, I always wonder where they came from and where they are going. I wonder what kind of plane it is, what the crew is doing at that moment, I wonder how many people are on board and even wonder about the inflight movie. I start thinking about all the things that go into getting that giant piece of aluminum foil aloft. I don’t just mean the science of the air pressure on the wings creating lift, I mean all the stuff the pilots do, the control towers, the grounds crew, the flight attendants… everything. I wonder what it would be like to be a part of that and to be the pilot specifically. What is it like to sit behind the wheel of a plane and basically “drive” it through the air? I am also fascinated by the way they talk to each other; the language between the pilots and the air traffic controllers… “Poppa, Poppa November, maintain VFR, turn right heading 180 and hold at 3500”; “Delta 210 heavy, pushback tail east then taxi on the alley holding short of Charlie”; “UFO you’re passing through restricted airspace at Mach 20”…wait… what? I think a part of my fascination with planes is the mystery of what every one of those little switches, dials, and knobs are for... tho I suppose if I actually knew how to pilot a jet some of that fascination would wear off.
I was recently looking at the flight paths of jets (there’s an app for that of course) watching how everything lines up in the sky. Airplanes take off and align with each other into what appears to be perfect lanes, working together to form lines of outbound and inbound traffic. I started watching the planes as they passed overhead, deducing from their height and direction where they were heading and where they originated. I also started watching the planes as they approached our local airport. I always assumed that there was just one main path they follow but as I watched I began to notice they actually take two different paths when approaching our main runway. Some planes approached over the water and some planes would make a significant turn and approach well inland. I have yet to discern why some planes make this turn and others don’t but my hat is off to all the air traffic controllers out there, keeping everything in order, honestly it can’t imagine that it could be an easy job. When I think about what they have to do on a daily basis, well… think about it this way:
Air Traffic Controller: Today, I kept every plane in my area safe, helping to make sure hundreds upon hundreds of people arrived safely at their destinations.
Me: I made brownies.
Anyway, several miles away from the airport there is a park where I often walk Riley and is directly under the approach path for our airport. The planes by this point are pretty low and I am sure that all the passenger seat backs are upright, their tray tables have been stowed, and the flight attendants have prepared for landing as they pass overhead. I often stand on the hill waving my hand in a polite greeting, imagining there is a passenger looking out of their window. They see me and think: “Gee what a friendly town this is”. David says they can’t see me, but I’m sure they can. Another place to see planes as they land is on the road that passes right next to the end of the runway. Long before airport security was tightened up you could simply pull your car over and park just off the road, right next to the fence, literally 30 feet or so from the tarmac and watch as the planes came in. It’s quite thrilling to be so close, to hear the engines roar and to feel the vibration and be hit with the air blast from them. They seem so close to the ground at that point you instinctively duck as they pass overhead.
I am by no means a frequent flyer, but I have flown a good number of times. Most of the time it’s been in a big plane. I remember the first time I got on a stretch 727. The plane looked so long at the gate and when I got on it was row after row after row after row of seats. It didn’t seem possible that the plane could be that long and be aerodynamically sound. Then I remember seeing my first 747 and thinking… ok, wow, now that’s big. The first 747 we ever flew in was when David and I went abroad. That was also the first (and turned out to be last time) we ever had to fly anywhere that far non-stop. I don’t consider myself a nervous flyer but this flight was a going to be at least 579 hours long (give or take an hour or two) and the whole flight is over shark-infested waters. I remember that flight very well. The first 10 minutes of the flight were unforgettable. The plane seemed to take forever to get down the runway. It just kept rolling and rolling… still on the ground… gaining speed… still on the ground… going faster… faster… still on the ground… gripping the arm rests tighter and tighter… still on the ground… feeling every bump on the tarmac… still on the ground… looking out the window trying to see how much runway is left… still on the… oh wait… suddenly there was no more vibration from the wheels, suddenly it was quieter, and suddenly it seemed like we were going straight up in the air. After a short time, I remember loosening my grip on the armrest as the plane continued it’s very steep climb when all of a sudden the was a loud BANG (really, it was seriously loud), a bright flash of light, several people screamed, the interior lights went out… and then nothing for what seemed like a very long time. When the lights flickered back on I was sure I saw smoke coming out of the vents, but soon the captain came on the overhead and announced that the plane had just been hit by lightning, pause, pause, pause, but there was nothing to worry about, pause, pause, pause, the aircraft is designed to take lightning hits, pause, pause, pause and we should just relax and enjoy the flight. 578 hours and 50 minutes of flight time remaining... my heart was beating a billion miles a minute and I was gripping those armrests again, but I was also trying to act cool, like it didn’t faze me at all.
I don't remember the flight home from that trip very well but I do remember saying to David, as we took off, let's hope we don't get hit by lightning again. We didn't. The flight home was uneventful, the only exciting part is the landing. If you have ever flown into JFK airport in New York you may have had the same experience as I did my first time. You see, I always look out the window as we fly, I really don’t know why, it’s just more interesting than watching the seat back in front of you I guess. Anyway, as you approach JFK you do so over the water, and as the plane descends you’re still over the water and as you watch through the window, all you can see is water. Lower and lower… water; Lower… still just water; Lower… still only water; Lower and lower until you start to think OMG we are definitely going to land in the ocean. Lower still… and still all you can see is water. Now, you’re convinced of a water landing because you swear you can see fish swimming you’re so close (wait… are those sharks?). Suddenly you’re thinking - where was that floatation device they said was in the seat? Then, in the blink of an eye, the tarmac appears and bam the wheels hit the ground literally just seconds after that and all you can do is let out the breath you’ve been unknowingly holding in.
I have no idea how airplanes connect to this raspberry peach cake. In fact I might just go out on a limb and say I don’t think there is any connection between the two at all. There is no cute story of eating a piece of cake on a plane. There is no story about eating raspberries and then getting on a plane, though I do have a story about eating a bag of Dorito’s and a half of a cantaloupe with a scoop of ice cream, at the fair, then riding the Tilt-o-Whirl outside of Fred Meyers and then getting on a tiny little plane to go sightseeing… but we won’t talk about that here. Suffice it to say it didn’t go well. So there’s no connection, is that a crime? I told you at the beginning that wasn’t the type of blog I wanted to write.
It was 2006 when I pulled this recipe from the pages of the August/September issue of Fine Cooking magazine. You can view the original recipe here. At the time I was looking for a simple cake that could be served after Saturday dinner. Nothing too fancy, no complicated procedures, something that didn’t take long to bake, and yet still had some style, if you know what I mean. I will also add here, that I am not the biggest fan of raspberries. They're ok and all, but I don’t go out of my way to eat them, so I almost passed this recipe up. When I got my first taste of this cake, I pretended to take my plate back into the kitchen to put in the dishwasher and instead grabbed another piece. Then when I actually did take my plate to the dishwasher, I cut another piece and just ate it while standing over the sink. I really like this cake because it’s so simple. I am glad I didn’t pass it up. The flavors of the orange zest, peaches and raspberries just align so well with each other… (There’s your airplane connection) and you can serve it after any dinner, serve it with tea in the afternoon, or take it with you on a picnic lunch. Equipment wise, you’ll need a stand mixer (or electric mixer) and a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch high sides along with a piece of parchment paper cut so it covers the bottom of the pan, and that’s about it.
So here is how I made it:
For the cake:
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
⅔ cup plain yogurt
For the topping:
½ large, ripe peach (about 3¾ ounce), halved and cut into very thin slices (try for 1/16 inch slices)
¾ cup (3¾ ounces) fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
To begin with, preheat your oven to 350°F with the rack in the center position.
Next, grab that 9x2-inch round cake pan and lightly butter the bottom and sides of it, then line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit. Add a little flour (a tablespoon or so) to the pan and shake it to coat the sides evenly then tap out the excess flour.
Whisk the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt in a medium sized bowl making sure it is well blended.
In your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with your electric mixer) beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, which takes about 3 minutes.
Turn the mixer to medium speed and add one of the eggs, mixing until it is just incorporated, then add the second egg, orange zest, and vanilla again mixing just until the egg is incorporated. From here on out we will use a rubber spatula to fold the rest of the ingredients in, so…
Take a rubber spatula and fold in one half of the flour mixture. It does not have to be completely mixed in at this point.
Next, fold in the yogurt, and when that’s mixed in, fold in the other half of the flour mixture.
Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and spread it evenly, smoothing the top.
Pop it into the oven for 15 minutes – Set your timer!
While that bakes you will make the topping.
Put the peach slices, the raspberries, the sugar, and the flour into a bowl.
Use a spoon or a fork to mix everything together so that the fruit is evenly coated. While mixing lightly crush the raspberries (just a little) you want to break them up a bit, but not obliterate them.
When your cake has been in the oven for 15 minutes take the pan from the oven and scatter the fruit evenly over the top of the cake. You want to work quickly here so you don’t lose too much heat from the pan. Tip: Don’t pile a lot of fruit into the very center of the cake as it has not yet fully baked and will cause the center to be slightly sunken when finished.
As soon as the fruit is on, return the pan to the oven and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes more. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake, which should come out clean.
Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes then run a small knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan.
The pan may still be hot so use a kitchen towel or oven mitts to protect your hands in the next step!
Place a wire rack on top of the cake pan then holding onto both the rack and the pan, invert the cake and remove the pan. Your cake is upside down at this point.
Take off that piece of parchment paper from the cake (unless it stayed in the pan, that is) then re-invert the cake onto your serving plate – just place your plate on the bottom of the cake and hold onto both that and the wire rack and flip it back over. That’s all there is to it.
Serve this cake warm or at room temperature, maybe with a little dollop of whipped cream either on top or on the side, or maybe even just a dusting of powdered sugar on each slice… or just serve it as is, which is simply perfect as well.