The peach is a member of the rose family, a cousin to apricots, cherries, plums, and almonds. Peaches are usually classified as clingstone (the fruit of the peach clings to the stone or pit), semifreestone (the fruit pulls away from the stone when the peach is fully ripened), and freestone, the most popular, where the fruit of the peach readily pulls away from the stone.
July and August are peak months for fresh peaches. The fruit is extremely perishable, so buy only the amount you intend to use or eat within a few days. Choose peaches that are firm to the touch, but whose flesh yields with gentle pressure. The fruits should be free of bruises with a warm, fragrant aroma.
Game plan: To remove the skins, blanch the peaches in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes and then immediately plunge the fruit into ice water to cease the cooking process. The skin should easily slip off. Do not let the peaches soak in the water.
The cake can be made several days ahead of time and refrigerated. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
For the peach syrup:
Variations: In place of the peaches, substitute other stone fruit such as plums, apricots, or substitute tree fruit such as apples, figs, or pears. Make sure the fruit is thinly sliced so that it will be cooked through when the cake is baked.
Beverage pairing: A slightly sweet dessert wine with peach overtones will put you over the top. We recommend Casta Diva, Alicante Muscat, Bodegas, Spain.