Reginald, and the Peach Cake that Almost Wasn’t

So there’s this thing with me, (we’ll call it a personality quirk) that sometimes exceeds its designated emotional margin to become a elephantine, character flawed-monster. It would be too simplistic to call this monster ‘Perfectionism,’ so I’ll just refer to it as ‘Reginald’ for the purposes of this article.

Reginald likes to poke his nose/trunk into every corner of my life. He harasses me at work, follows me around the house, interferes in my relationships, and yes, even jacks with my baking. You see, the thing about Reginald is that he’s great in small doses, but he’s impossible to bare 24/7. He showed up the other day and made this Peach Streusel Coffee Cake almost not happen, the bastard.

Here’s the back story:

For the last two years, I joined my in-laws in ordering the famed Peach Truck Peaches. I was recovering from surgery when the Truck came in 2019, and so my husband, who’s culinary skills peak with turkey sandwich making, and father in-law did their level best to process the peaches on their own. They halved and pitted the peaches but left the skin on when they froze them, rendering the fruit a little difficult to work with. This summer I made sure to process the peaches myself.

I hadn’t yet done anything with this year’s peaches, so utilizing my very expensive frozen fruit became this week’s baking quest. I located a recipe that looked promising in one of my William’s and Sonoma cookbooks, but I committed to it before reading all the way through. I guess I thought it said that frozen peaches could be used…but it didn’t. I totally made that up. Complete magical thinking. This recipe called for 2 FRESH peaches, or about 1 pound of FRESH peaches.

Now here was the real situation.

A lot a times recipes will say you can use frozen fruit (like berries) but you aren’t supposed to defrost them–you just add it right to the batter. I knew there was a much higher moisture content with frozen peaches than frozen berries–it wasn’t an apples-to-apples thing. At all. But I decided to risk it, and then got a wild hair to partially defrost the peaches. I don’t know why. Don’t ask.

My plan was to make the cake after I watched my show. (I’m watching The Handmaid’s Tale. Several years late to the series. I’m a big Margaret Atwood fan.) The problem was that I forgot about the peaches during my show, went to bed, and then left them in the fridge overnight. This is what they looked like in the morning.

They were a disgusting, brown mess. That’s when Reginald showed up. All of the sudden he was yammering at me to tip the entire slimy mess into the trash. I came perilously close to a final destination deposit. I’m glad I hadn’t opened the blinds yet, because I’m not sure how long I stood there contemplating the fruit and the bigger picture the fruit was providing.

Couldn’t I use this opportunity to have an authentic baking experience? Surely I’m not the only person who has stumbled their way on to a slimy peach scenario. Isn’t this the EXACT vibe I’m wanting to chase with this whole blog? Writing about real life that that hasn’t been airbrushed and filtered and made pretty for the world wide web?! Why NOT go through with making a soggy peach cake and write about it?! I WOULD DO IT! I would make a soggy peach cake!

It was PERFECT for about 23 seconds.

Then Reginald started yacking at me again. What if I knowingly accepted these odds and made this cake and it turned out poorly? My last documented project turned out poorly. What if I make a third thing and then it ALSO turns out poorly? It’ll look like I have no baking skills at all! That’s not true! I had a bum recipe! OH MY GOD! If it looks like all my recipes suck and my products suck then no one will read this or if they do read this then they won’t want to read anything else and then I’ll never be able to write anything ever again and soon I’ll be suck writing ad copy for some stupid made-for-TV microwave egg scrambler for $19.99 that has a ‘BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!’ gimmick to it and I’ll never get a chance to write anything of importance or substance at all because I seriously fucked up a recipe with peaches OMG!

Yeah. That’s how Reginald talks and I’ve listened to him a lot in the past. I’ve thrown out whole trays of cookies because they were only marginally overbaked. I’ve dumped out loaves of bread because they rose too high or not quite enough. My kitchen trashcan is particularly susceptible to a baked good deposit if I’m having company over, or if I want to give my treats away. My sense of pride in what I bake can become so consuming and crippling that if I have a kitchen misfire, even a very small one, then I don’t want anyone to see it, or taste it. Neither does Reginald.

But I decided I needed to go through with making this cake with these peaches regardless of the outcome. I had to stand up to my inner perfectionist bully. But I also gave myself a bit of a crutch. Since I was fairly certain my cake was doomed, I decided to make two cakes side by side. I’d make one with the nasty peaches, and I’d make one with frozen peaches. There was a high possibility that they would both go under as I was right back to my original quandary, but I felt some hope that perhaps the cake gods would bless one of my projects, if for no other reason but to honor my emotional transparency.

You wanna know what happened?

THEY TURNED OUT EXEACTLY THE SAME!! Both positively delightful and delicious. After all that drama, angst, and self-doubt, the cakes were lovely. Granted, the cake made with the frozen peaches did take almost twice as long to bake as the slimly peach cake, but they both survived the process. My husband and I sampled them both, and he declared he couldn’t tell them apart. After I deemed that my reputation wouldn’t be forever marred, I wrapped one of them up and took it over to my in-laws. My brother in-law told me it was “epic.’ I don’t know about epic, but I’ll make it again. And next time, all the times really, I need to listen to the people who count, not Reginald.

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