Fare play: peach upside down cake
May 12th, 2011
03:45 PM ET
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Ashley Strickland is an associate producer at CNN.com. In her previous job as a traveling sports photographer, she picked up plenty of souvenir recipes that she'll be sharing over the next few months in her new Fare Play column.

Eating isn’t always on my mind, especially when I'm focusing on the task at hand. When I was working as a sports photographer over the last two years, this happened six days out of every seven. The phrase "starving artist" definitely hit home, but every once in a while during my travels, food was what drove me.

in February 2010, my adventures took me from my college town of Athens, Georgia across the state to Elberton (“Granite Capital of the World”) to pursue a community journalism project. I was hot on the trail of a tip that might turn an assignment into a sports shoot; the Brock University rowing teams had driven 15 hours down from St. Catharines, Ontario to participate in a one-week training camp on Lake Russell.  I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me and they had no idea I was about to show up.

I knew the first time head coach Peter Somerwil cracked open his cabin door and I smelled an heavenly aroma drifting from the oven, he had to be cooking comfort food.  I needed to know more so I could make it for myself later.  He shrugged in reply and said he was making a peach upside-down cake. Oh, Lordy.

It became a quest, not only for sports photography, but a fabulous recipe as well. 

I spent the next two days going out in the coach’s boat, photographing his teams as they ran through drills.  It was beautiful, exciting and absolutely freezing.  So much for coming down from Canada to escape the cold - ice decorated the shoreline. And bless their hearts, when Somerwil introduced me to his rowing teams, they cooked me up some French toast drizzled with honest-to-God Canadian maple syrup.

Of course later, in the midst of a photo-editing blitz, I called my mom to catch up. Gifted baker and creative cook extraordinaire, she asked the one question I couldn’t answer, namely "Why didn’t you ask for the peach upside-down cake recipe?"

This February, I found myself driving the familiar route, this time a few hours further from my own home.  Elberton was my destination once more, as the Brock rowers had returned for 2011’s training camp. I couldn’t wait to shoot the symphony of rowing again, see my old friend, and get that peach cake recipe.  This time around, I hung out with the coaches and marveled as they put together their favorite meals while staying in small cabins on the lake. 

Cooking is a part of their life during this week when they set up for a week’s stay to train rigorously, sometimes three times a day on the lake. It’s a mixture of eating healthy to sustain their top form and comfort foods they’ve grown up with in Ontario. 

Another few whirlwind days of beautiful weather and equally beautiful rowing passed and at the end, I nearly begged for the peach upside-down cake recipe.  Coach Somerwil was happy to share and wrote it down from memory, pausing to convert the measurements.  He’s been making it since he was eight years old.

“It was one of the two things I started making as a kid because I wanted dessert,” he said.  “For my mother, usually canned fruit was dessert and that wasn’t good enough for me.” 

He also uses peaches most of the time (although you can use pineapple or pears), because the Niagara region is one of Canada’s two micro-climates where they can actually grow peaches.

As I was leaving, some of the rowers asked that I e-mail it to them.  Somerwil didn’t share the recipe or the finished product with everyone, although it makes an appearance at the team cookout every year, and on the tables of other coaches visiting Georgia with their teams.

It was like a recipe for making gold, handwritten on a piece of notebook paper.  I wouldn’t have it if my unusual travels didn’t introduce me to kind, fascinating people like Coach Somerwil and his rowing teams. 

After making it for myself, I can say it is the perfect comfort food.  The scent wafting from it as it bakes wraps around you like a hug.  Digging into a slice, I can almost feel the breeze coming off of Lake Russell.  And for me, it summons the memories of making 30 new friends from St. Catharines, Ontario. 

But I warn you, it’s a test to make this cake without completely devouring it in one sitting. 

Recipe provided courtesy of Peter Somerwil 

Peach Upside Down Cake


  • Peaches (frozen, canned or fresh - amount depends on space in bottom of the pan)
  • 1/4 heaping cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or almond flavoring
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Dash of salt

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pie pan (we used a cast iron pan, traditionally used for pineapple upside down cake in the south).

  3. Spread brown sugar evenly in the bottom of the pie plate. If you want more caramelization on the top, head the brown sugar and butter over the burner until it slightly bubbles.

  4. Arrange peaches on pie plate. Just fill in with one layer until you can't see the bottom of the pan.

  5. Melt 1/4 cup of butter. Combine butter with sugar and vanilla extract.

  6. Whisk in a beaten egg, then add flour, salt, baking powder and milk. Beat until batter is smooth.

  7. Pour the batter over the peaches in the pan and spread evenly with a spatula.

  8. Bake for 40-45 minutes.Remove from oven when crust is golden and pulling apart from the sides of the pan.

  9. Invert on a plate and serve.

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Filed under: Baked Goods • Canada • Cooking • Fare Play • Make • Recipes

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Pat mathia

    This sounds so good, I am making it for dinner. Ashley, I love the story, behind your recipes.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  2. wildwildwest

    My family has peach orchards in Northeast Louisiana (Ruston area). If you've never had a tree-ripened peach, one that almost squirts sweet, sticky, heavenly peach juice all over your face when you bite into it, you've never had a real peach.

    Compared to the fresh "peaches" you buy at the supermarket? Not even the same thing.

    May 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  3. Mr MAN

    I LOVE peaches! This recipe sounds DELICIOUS! My mouth watered the minute I saw it.

    May 13, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  4. Shirley U Jest

    I'm saving this recipe for when the peaches are in the peak of their season. There is nothing better than a tree ripened peach, but an upside down cake recipe like this can only make it better. Vanilla or almond flavoring...interesting twist with the almond extract

    May 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • JBJingles@Shirley

      The almond does sound good, doesn't it? Where do you get the tree ripened peaches from?? Please share.

      May 12, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  5. JBJingles

    Oh that sounds/looks so yummy! With vanilla ice cream...must try this one.

    May 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  6. Truth@RichHead

    Hmmm...the recipe calls for brown sugar. On your next trip back, can you pick some up...It is, after all (as you know), ..Sold in a market, down in New Orleans...

    May 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  7. Queen of Everything

    Thanks for sharing the recipe! I'll be trying this out this weekend.

    May 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • RichardHead@Queen

      You can cook while standing on your head?

      May 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
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