Guess what? I found an exciting hybrid fruit at the market
the other day. I know hybrid fruit doesn’t sound all that appetizing but Black
Velvet Apricots might be worth some hype. Fruit has hype in my world. Have you
heard of them? They're really something. I know - the name is just a little too sensual for an innocent piece of fruit, right? Maybe that's just because I
can’t stop singing about that little
boy’s smile while I bake.
Black Velvet if you please (sorry, I can’t stop) Apricots are hybrids of apricots and plums created by Kingsburg Orchards. Those guys have grown a whole Velvet series – Red, Blue, Crimson, Gold, Black, and Ruby Velvet Apricots so that we can get into apriums as early as May and all the way to August – much longer than regular apricot season. The Velvets have been around for a few years but this is the first I’ve seen of them. Clearly I’ve been delinquent in my aprium research.
They’re so very lovely. That’s what got me involved in the first place. I’m a superficial fruit consumer. They’re cute and fuzzy like apricots with the gorgeous fuchsia and orange colors of a plum. Pretty and pint-sized. I had no intention of buying anything besides milk at the store but they wooed me with their mysterious name and good looks. Like small handsome strangers.
When I got to the register the cashier charged me for the
less expensive, clunky old black plums that had been in the bin next to the
apricots. I alerted her to the mistake and she looked at me with big skeptical
eyes and told me to forget about it. She didn’t have a code for any black apricots. She was looking at me like I was nuts but I felt like she was telling me something. She might have winked. Hush. Take this
magical hybrid fruit and go. Don’t look back.
So I did. And what did they taste like? Super sweet and far juicier then any apricot I’ve had in all my years. So juicy that my multiple attempts at a Black Velvet Apricot Upside Down Cake came out all beautiful, rainbow-colored soggy, and steamy. They sort of had a British pudding feeling to them. Not terrible but not at all what I was going for hence the delay in getting you a recipe using this almost out of season fruit. I wanted to make something good for you! You may just have enough time to get your hands on some Velvets and I hope you’ll try them right this second. Maybe you should stop reading and go shopping.
If they’ve already vanished when you get to the market don't fret. They’ll be back. And I have a secret - this tender brown sugar almond cake would go really well with so many fruits. I bet plain old apricots or plums would be great. I’d even go so far as to suggest a departure from stone fruits with sweet cherries or fat blueberries. Consider this a yummy nutty base cake recipe to get you going on a fruit and cake binge bonanza. You needed one of those, right?
Black Velvet Apricot Almond Cake
Serves 8 to 10
I'm very into almond extract. I used a 1/2 teaspoon in this cake. Feel free to use less if it's not your favorite of all the extracts.
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar, divided
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
¼ to ½ teaspoon almond extract
⅓ cup buttermilk
6 black velvet apricots, halved and pitted
¼ cup sliced almonds
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter and ¾ cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
2. Add eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating between each addition. Add almond extract and buttermilk. Then add flour mixture and beat just until just combined. Transfer to prepared pan and smooth top.
3. Arrange apricots halves, cut side down, on top of batter. Sprinkle with almonds and remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes. Cut around the edges and then release the sides of the pan from the cake. Serve cake warm or at room temperature.