Everyone who knows me knows: I have an impressive sweet tooth. (Trust: it’s well-documented.) Of course, this means that my list of bakeries to visit and cookbooks to bake from is never-ending. So when I was in the process of planning my recent trip to London, I made it my priority to eat everything I could from Claire Ptak’s East London bakery, Violet.
To confirm: the many tasty sweets I encountered and devoured made it well worth the trip. Claire experiments with flavors drawn from her California upbringing and elevates them with a true metropolitan sensibility. Everything I tried—from the mango cupcake to her famous egg yolk chocolate chip cookie—has forever altered the way I think about sweets. As soon as I came back stateside, I cracked open Claire’s newest book, Love is A Pink Cake, and got to baking. And because summer is upon us and I’ve set out to incorporate fresh peaches into every meal and treat, I’m starting with none than her peach tarte tatin.
And just in case you have any hesitation before diving in, take heart: Claire was the creative genius behind Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake. Keep reading for the recipe, Claire’s tip for peeling peaches, and why this peach tarte tatin is the ultimate party trick.
How would you describe your cooking and food philosophy?
My philosophy is that I bake for flavor first and foremost, and I like to keep flavors quite pure. Baking seasonally is something I’ve always done and I encourage everyone to make the most of what’s at the peak of its season. In almost all of my recipes, you can substitute a seasonal fruit for whatever is called for in the recipe.
How did you develop this recipe?
Classically, a tarte tatin will be made with apples. But I tried one with peaches at a friend’s restaurant and it’s become my favorite type of tarte tatin. The peach leaf custard accompaniment is something that may be difficult to source but is well worth it if you can get your hands on some fresh peach leaves. Their almond flavor goes so well with the peaches. It’s so refreshing and unusual!
What makes this recipe your go-to?
This is a time-consuming recipe, but really satisfying. It’s also a crowd-pleaser because the big reveal of the upturned tart is very theatrical! It’s the perfect summertime dessert. If you wanted, one way to simplify this would be to use a really good store-bought puff pastry.
Is there a kitchen tool you recommend we have to make this?
I would always recommend you buy a spider, which is a Chinese slotted spoon that is great for poaching peaches. It cups the peach perfectly and gently. It also works well for flavoring the custard with peach leaves.
Other must-haves: a heavy-bottomed baking dish, either cast iron or copper. A good heavy-bottomed saucepan for making custards and caramels. A heat-proof rubber spatula, a stand mixer, a good whisk, a sharp knife, and an offset spatula. With that, you can do anything!
What standout ingredients make this recipe special?
Fresh ripe peaches in season, peach leaves if you can get them, and a good homemade or store-bought buttery puff pastry.
Can we make any ingredient swaps?
For dairy-free, you wouldn’t be able to make the custard but would serve it with dairy-free ice cream. For the tart, you could use vegan butter and vegan puff pastry. That would work well and be delicious with vegan ice cream or a berry sorbet!
Any cooking hacks you’d like to share?
To peel a peach, you’re just very lightly poaching it in the water. It’s a great trick for a lot of recipes when you want a skinless peach. Just be sure you have an ice water bath so that the peels slip off easily and the peach doesn’t cook.
What advice would you give to someone who’s intimidated by baking?
Enjoy the process! It’s time-consuming but worth the effort. Read the instructions twice before you get started. And make sure you have all your equipment and ingredients ready to go before you begin. Timing is everything in this recipe!
What do you hope people feel when they make one of your recipes?
I really want people to think more like a cook when they’re baking. To think about balancing the flavors in my recipes because often desserts and baked goods are overly sweet. My role is to help people become more comfortable baking seasonally and to get them to trust their instincts as well as improve their skills.
What other recipes from your book should we make first?
My Brown Sugar Victoria Sponge is a great introduction to baking layer cakes. And I really love all of the cookies in this book, such as the Blonde Peanut Butter Cookies and the Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies.
What are your favorite, must-try treats at Violet?
The California Cake, and of course the cupcakes—especially the seasonal fruit cupcakes. And our famous egg yolk chococlate chip cookies!
Excerpted from Love is a Pink Cake by Claire Ptak. Copyright 2023 Claire Ptak.