Definitely that time of the year. Time for comfort cakes with a hint of spice - very early prediction of coming Christmas - although shops all around us have a little different than subtle reminder of coming Christmas and shopping craze they always count on... crazy! Let me enjoy the Fall and all it has to offer, it's barely after Halloween and not even after Thanksgiving! Well... I haven't seen Coca-Cola light up trucks commercial on TV yet, so Christmas season hasn't officially started yet ;).
Going back to our cake today. I absolutely loved it! All the different textures (soft and the bottom, juicy pears in the middle and crunchy crumble topped with sticky and sweet syrup). The cake is sweet, spicy, little tangy from the pears - perfect! OK, I have to admit that there is a little bit of work involved in this one - but believe me, it is well worth it! Once you've read the recipe till the very end (it is very always a good thing to do, but especially on this occasion), once you've prepare all the ingredients ahead, have them at hand on your worktop, this cake won't look as scary to make as it might seem.
The recipe isn't mine (although I would love to take credit for something SO delicious!). It's by Nigel Slater, a very trusted person to whom I always turn to when I have an abundance of a particular fruit or vegetable and don't really know what to make out of it. None of his recipes I already tried failed me, and I highly doubt that there will be a day that it will fail me...
So, gather your pears, prepare that baking tin and then enjoy that well deserve cake!
How to make it...
For the pears:
- 1 large, juicy lemon
- 750 g pears
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar
- pinch of ground cinnamon
For the cake:
- 175 g butter, softened
- 85 g golden caster sugar
- 85 g light muscovado sugar
- 80 g skinned hazelnuts
- 2 eggs
- 165 g self-raising flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- few drops vanilla extract
For the crumble:
- 100 g plain flour
- 75 g butter
- 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
- a little cinnamon and extra demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line the base of a 21-22 cm square tin with baking parchment. Squeeze the lemon into a mixing bowl. Peel the pears, core them and cut them into small chunks, dropping them into the juice. Put them and the juice into a saucepan, bring to the boil and turn down to a gentle simmer. Scatter over the sugar and cinnamon. Let the pears cook, with the occasional stir, until translucent, tender and soft. Set aside.
Beat the butter and sugars in a mixer until light (5-10 minutes). Toast the nuts in a shallow pan till golden brown then grind quite finely. Beat the eggs gently and add to the mix with the beater on slow. Fold in the nuts, flour, cinnamon and vanilla. When all is smooth, scoop into the tin and smooth flat.
Lift the pears from their syrup with a draining spoon, reserving the juice. Put the pears on top of the cake mixture.
Blitz the flour and butter to crumbs in a food processor. Add the demerara and mix. Remove the bowl from the stand. Add a few drops of water. Run a fork through so some of the crumbs stick together. Scatter this loosely over the top, followed by a pinch of cinnamon and a little demerara.
Bake for about an hour, checking for doneness with a skewer. Remove from the oven. Bring the juice from the pears to the boil for a few minutes till there are 3 or 4 tbsp left. Trickle over the cake. Let cool.
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Apple and pear butter
Apple and pear cinnamon muffins