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Love You, Baby Cakes

September 17, 1997|BETTY ROSBOTTOM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Rosbottom is the author of "American Favorites" (Chapters Publishing, 1996)

When I recently ordered baby cakes with strawberries and rhubarb from the menu at Il Capriccio in Boston, I wasn't sure what to expect.

The waitress brought a mini-cake about 4 inches wide and 2 inches high mounded with fresh strawberries and rhubarb napped in a sauce made with the same two fruits. Alongside the cake was a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprig of mint. For me, this was the ultimate "cake and ice cream" invention.

When I got around to making these diminutive cakes at home, rhubarb was past its prime and strawberries were not as good as earlier in the season. I decided to try sliced peaches in a honey-butter sauce for my version.

The restaurant's cake was moist and buttery, so I prepared the same type of ga^teau but added grated lemon zest to my batter for extra flavoring. I baked my little ga^teaux in mini-Bundt pans, but either standard or large cupcake molds could also be used.

The cakes and the honey-butter sauce can be prepared a day ahead so that all that is necessary at serving time is to peel and slice the peaches.

*

LEMON BABY CAKES WITH WARM PEACHES AND ICE CREAM

CAKES

1 3/4 cups flour, plus extra for preparing baking pans

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

4 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Nonstick cooking spray

1 pint vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt

6 sprigs mint

SAUCE

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup honey

4 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

3 cups peaches, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch wedges

Unpeeled nectarines or plums could be substituted for the peaches.

CAKES

Sift together flour and baking powder. Set aside.

Combine milk and almond extract in measuring cup. Set aside.

Cream butter with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar and beat until mixture is light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and liquid mixture alternately, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Stir in lemon zest.

Divide batter among 6 mini-Bundt pans or 12 standard muffin cups sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and dusted with flour. Bake cakes at 350 degrees until tops are light golden brown, cakes have shrunk slightly from sides of pans and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Mini-Bundt cakes will take 20 to 25 minutes; muffin cakes, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool and unmold.

SAUCE

Heat butter, honey, lemon juice and zest in large, heavy nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. (If prepared ahead, reheat, stirring as needed.)

To serve, remove 1/3 cup warm sauce and set aside. Add peaches to remaining sauce and heat, stirring, until peaches are warm. Remove from heat.

Nap each of 6 dessert plates with some of reserved 1/3 cup warm sauce. Arrange 1 mini-Bundt cake on each plate or slice tops from cupcakes and arrange 2 bases on each plate. Mound peaches in sauce over mini-Bundt cakes or over cupcake bottoms and replace cupcake tops.

Garnish each serving with scoop of vanilla ice cream and mint sprig.

6 servings. Each serving:

727 calories; 489 mg sodium; 175 mg cholesterol; 38 grams fat; 92 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 0.64 gram fiber.

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