MEET THE SOUS CHEF
MARJORIE MEEK-BRADLEY, CHEF DE CUISINE, GRAFFIATO
Perhaps it was her father’s Top Ramen Surprise that compelled Marjorie Meek-Bradley to become a chef. Dad’s creation--a stir-fry made with noodles, leftover meat and vegetables, an egg, and the contents of the ramen-seasoning packet--is one of the Graffiato chef de cuisine’s favorite food memories.
Born and raised in Ukiah, California, Meek-Bradley has lived in New York, Sweden and Napa, and now calls Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood home. At Graffiato, she works with longtime friend (and former Top Chef hopeful) Mike Isabella, whom she met when they were both cooking at Marcus Samuelsson’s Washington Square restaurant in Philadelphia.
Meek-Bradley’s early formal culinary training was in baking and pastry, a foundation that has served her well. Graffiato has no pastry chef, so it’s Meek-Bradley’s job to create the dessert recipes in addition to the savory dishes. For Sous Chef Series, she made a sponge cake topped with roasted peaches, the ultimate summer dessert.
TRACK THIS CHEF
DAY IN THE LIFE
Meek-Bradley spends much of her time off at the Smithsonian museums, exploring the various collections, including visits to Julia Child's kitchen (which is temporarily closed while that wing of the museum undergoes renovation).
TIPS & TECHNIQUES
Meek-Bradley advises baking with room-temperature eggs, particularly when making desserts like sponge cakes, soufflés or meringues. Her reasoning: Not only are room-temperature eggs easier to separate, but they also beat up fluffier, and in less time.
When making her sponge cake, Meek-Bradley doesn’t grease the pan, which could cause the cake batter to deflate. Batter clings to the walls of an ungreased pan, climbing higher, ultimately resulting in a fluffy, airy cake. But for beginning bakers, using a nonstick cake pan (or lightly greasing it, as we recommend in the recipe) provides extra insurance against sticking.
One 9-inch cake
Unsalted butter, 3½ tablespoons at room temperature
Large egg yolks, 12
Large eggs, 4
Granulated sugar, 1½ cups
Cake flour, 1½ cups plus 1½ tablespoons
Ripe peaches, 3 (halved and pitted)
Dark brown sugar, ⅔ lightly packed cup
Water, ¼ cup
Mascarpone cheese, ¾ cup
Heavy cream, 1½ cups
Ground cardamom, 2¼ teaspoons
Stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment
Cake tester or toothpick
Cake plate or a large rimless plate for the cake
Offset metal spatula or butter knife
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Place a cake pan on top of a sheet of parchment paper and trace around its edge to make a parchment circle. Cut the circle out and set aside. Repeat so you have 2 paper circles. Lightly grease the cake pans with
- 2 tablespoons butter (1 tablespoon per pan)
Fit 1 parchment circle into each cake pan, then turn the paper over so the greased side faces up. Set the pans aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place the
- Egg yolks
- Whole eggs
Beat on medium, and in a slow and steady stream, add
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
Increase mixer speed to high, and whip until the eggs are thick and pale, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the stand and place on your work surface. To a fine-mesh sieve, add
- 1½ cups cake flour
Use the whisk to fold it into the egg mixture until no dry streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans using the rubber spatula and smooth out the top so the batter is even. Bake until golden and the cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven using oven mitts and set aside to cool for 10 minutes before turning the cake onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
3. On the small plate, place the remaining
- 1½ tablespoons flour
Into the flour, dip the cut side of each
Set the peaches on a plate, floured side up. Heat the large skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the
- Dark brown sugar
Stir occasionally with the wooden spoon, and once the sugar is dissolved, stir in the remaining
- 1½ tablespoons butter
Place the peaches in the pan floured side down and cook until the sauce begins to thicken and pool around the peaches, about 5 minutes. Use the metal spatula to turn the peaches over and cook the other side until the bubbles around the peaches begin to burst and the syrupy mixture smells toasty, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the peaches back to the plate and set aside to cool, then cut each half into 5 slices. Set the syrup aside for finishing the cake.
4. Make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place the
- Mascarpone cheese
Beat on medium speed, and in a slow, steady stream, add the
- Heavy cream
Once the cream is incorporated, add the
- Remaining ¾ cup granulated sugar
- Ground cardamom
Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the mixture forms medium-stiff peaks, about 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Place 1 cake layer on a cake plate. Arrange the peaches evenly over the cake, then set the second cake layer on top of the peaches. Use the offset metal spatula or butter knife to frost the top and sides of the cake with the mascarpone frosting. Drizzle with the reserved peach syrup and refrigerate until serving.