After a long day of bad news from Israel and Gaza, I just had to do something relaxing and positive. I baked a bundt cake. Flipped it over on the cake stand. Buried my nose in the midst and indulged in the comforting steam of baked butter, honey, spice and caramelized Flemmish pears. I wish I could send some of this comfort to all my family and friends in the war zones.
Pears are a relatively new obsession of mine - poached, or in a brie sandwich, or better yet - in a frangipane tart - there is something utterly luxurious and elegant about this rather humble-looking, delicately flavoured and subtley textured fruit.
This cake is another way to enjoy pears, especially if you happen to be greedy like me when they are in season, and buy a few extra ones that got a little too soft for poaching or sandwiches... It requires making a home made caramelized pear sauce or puree - which sounds complicated, but is really a breeze. The original Martha Stewart recipe
that this one is based on instructs you to peel the pears. But I felt that this took away a bit of the texture. So my recipe is my own little twist on the theme, and in my opinion feels more pear-y, which is what I'm after. You will need at least 5 pears for this recipe (6 pears if you are decorating it with the pear chips).
A little note about the bundt mold: Yes, you will need it. I'm not a fan of having a special piece of equipment for every type of cake under the sun. However, there are some exceptions (i.e.: Madeleine molds, heart cookie cutters...). But yes, even though I waited about a million years to get my bundt mold - it's totally worth the investment. It has opened up a whole world of recipes for simple yet elegant and impressive cakes right before my eyes. And now also yours. Do it!For the Caramelized Pear Sauce:1/3 cup evaporated cane sugar5 pears, cored and cut into medium chunks (peeling optional)
- Spread the sugar evenly in a wide sauce pan and cook on medium heat until the sugar on the edges starts to brown.
- Stir just until all the sugar has melted, and immediately add the pears.
- Cook the pears while stirring occasionally.
- Once the pears are soft, use a potato-masher to make a chunky pear puree.For the batter:1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened in room temperature 1 cup evaporated cane sugar4 large eggs, in room temperature1/2 cup honey1 tsp pure vanilla extract 1/2 cup buttermilk1 Tbs freshly grated ginger root 2 cups spelt flour1 cup (100gr) ground blanched almonds (aka almond meal)2 tsp baking powder1/2 tsp baking soda1/2 tsp salt3/4 tsp ground cinnamon3/4 tsp ground cardamom1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180c).
- Sift together dry ingredients (flour, almond meal, spices, salt, baking powder and soda).
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter, honey and sugar in medium speed, until fully creamed and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time and continue beating for .
- Add the vanilla extract and continue beating for a few more seconds.
- Reduce to low speed and add about third of the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
- Add the pear sauce and beat shortly.
- Add another third of the flour, and continue beating just until combined.
- Add the buttermilk and continue beating just for a few more seconds.
- Add the remaining flour, and beat briefly - just until the last bit of flour is incorporated into the batter.
- Butter a bundt pan and dust with more spelt flour. Tap out excess flour.
- Carefully pour the batter into the pan and spread until even.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake ring comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. While the cake is still warm, invert it on a cake tray or case, and allow to cool completely before decorating it with powdered sugar or the suggested decoration below. Only once cooled, you may cover it with a lid or a glass dome.
To decorate the cake:
A simple decoration for this cake would be a little dusting with powdered sugar, which is elegant and pretty and perfect if you're just making the cake for yourself and your family or casual entertaining. If this is for a special occasion - this cake can make an entrance that is in my humble opinion more impressive than some of the most sophisticated layer cakes I've ever made. And still quite simple to carry out.
For that, you will need to create a cream cheese icing, and candied pear chips (recipe below). The white icing looks regal and sensual set against the dark, caramel-coloured spiced cake. Add to that homemade candied pear chips - and you're up for a memorable fall cake that is reminiscent of fallen leaves on fresh snow. Delightful for both your eyes and taste buds! For the Cream Cheese Glaze:4oz cream cheese at room temperature1/2 cup powdered sugar1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice3 Tbs milk, more if needed1/2 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract, or the "seeds" scraped from half a vanilla pod.
- Whisk the ingredients together with a wire whisk or with an electric mixer.
- Drizzle all over the cake once it is cooled, one tablespoonful at a time on the top - it will run down the streams created by the bundt mold and is sure to be pretty!
For the Candied Pear Chips:1 unripe pear1 cup granulated or evaporated cane sugar1 lemon, cut into half1 cup Water
- Preheat the oven to 200F (95c). Line a baking sheet with parchament paper or Silpat.
- Shave the pear lengthwise using a mandolin (I tried it without a mandolin and it does not work - so here's another kitchen investment I had to make...). There is no need to remove the core of the seeds - they will add to the visual appeal of the pear chips, and during the baking process they will become easily edible.
- Rub half a lemon on each pear slice (to prevent it from browning).
- In a saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar has completely dissolved, and keep it simmering.
- Put the pear slices in the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon, and drain on a sieve.
- Spread the drained slices on the lined pan. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes - until crisp but not brown.
- Once cooled, place the slices atop the glazed bundt cake. Doesn't it look spectacular?