Pear Bundt Cake

Spiced Pear Bundt Cake by Ayala Moriel
Spiced Pear Bundt Cake, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
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 sugar
5 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 sugar
4 large eggs, in room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbs freshly grated ginger root 
2 cups spelt flour
1 cup (100gr) ground blanched almonds (aka almond meal)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 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 temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbs milk, more if needed
1/2 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 pear
1 cup granulated or evaporated cane sugar1 lemon, cut into half
1 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?

Comforting Scents for Uncomfortable Times: Joint Blogging Project + Giveaway

There are moments in life that none of us would have chosen to be in. But they are inevitable, unexpected and when they land on our heads out of the blue are extremely uncomfortable to say the least. Something just has to be done to ease the shock and discomfort. 13 other bloggers joined forces to help you find a sweet spot even in the worst of times (links at the bottom of the post).

Some of us find comfort in reading a book by the fireplace at the end of a rough day, some would cuddle up with a teddy bear, some would drown their misery in Southern Comfort, a bag of chips or a bucket of ice cream; and others will do all of the above. For us strange perfumista birds, the situation gets even trickier because when things get rough, it seems like the last thing you’d want to do is commemorate it with a beautiful scent that you’re bound to hate or dread for the rest of your olfactory life. So the damage is even greater when this one thing that brought so much pleasure, excitement and intrigue to our lives is all of a sudden out of the question.

So I’ve been thinking: What if instead of depriving myself from my favourite scents in those uncomfortable times – I’ll find some really fantastic scent to wear that will help to cope with the downright dreadfulness of the situation? Perhaps if I don’t wear it in the midst of the painful event, it will have the positive effect of comfort without the risk of becoming forever engrained in my memory as part of the pain itself?

Here are some ideas, for various degrees of non-fun situations and which scents I’d pick as an antidote. Keep in mind, that most likely the scent would be worn after the event has taken place. Just in the same way you’d brew yourself a cup of tea after hearing bad news.

Going to the dentist:
Opium Fleur de Shanghai. There’s enough cloves in this one to stop a tooth from aching. If that’s not enough try Opium in parfum extrait strength. A great tranquilizer.

Broken heart:
When I created Immortelle l’Amour, I made it exactly so thick with sweet intentions to remedy precisely that condition, that I’m quite convinced by now it might be sticky enough to glue together the fragments of a broken heart. And if it doesn’t, just take that blue heart bottle of L de Lolita Lempicka to replace the missing organ on your left side.
I think because both vanilla and cinnamon have such a positive association in my mind (from my grandmother’s baking!) that any perfume with high doses of both will never become a sad scent for me. Thank you grandma!

Learning that a close family member who lives far away is very ill, in the middle of the summer:
Sothing about Sofia. The lightheartedness of this flower and mango concoction could have been another fruity floral disaster, but it’s actually well done. The fruit is tart and refreshing and the flowers are just cheerful enough to keep your chin up and iron out some of those inevitable worry wrinkles unlit you find a flight.

Over 14 Hours Trans-Atlantic Flight:
The purest hydrosols and essential oils seem to bring the most comfort to long flights. Lack of air, lack of sleep, H1N1 and dry skin can all be made a little less terrible with some good lavender oil, tea tree oil, and pure rosewater or orange flower hydrosol.

Frequent visits to the hospital to take care of a family member whose life is in danger:
Well, life really is full of lemons sometimes. And in such a situation, anything too strong will probably not be appropriate to wear at the hospital. So I would stick to exactly that – but in a body lotion form. J.R. Watkins Lemon Cream was just perfect for that nightmare-ish summer visits at the hospital. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s disappeared from from the shelves of the local drugstores I would easily continue to enjoy it even now. Applying the cream after shower provides just the right balance between lemony freshness and comforting vanilla and shea butter.

A cup of tea wouldn’t hurt either, and what better choice than Chartreuse Eau de Vie with its soothing chamomile, tarragon and osmanthus flowers? And finally, daily morning trips to the local bakery ensure that you get your doze of sanity (and something for breakfast), just by walking there and smelling the freshly baked bread and wood fire…

Paralyzing Back Injuries:
Anything with angelica, and better yet – Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis). A few years ago I could enver believe I would like anything with it. Now the scent of this, especially in my TCM’s is the most reassuring scent in the world. You know you’re going to come out of there feeling ten times better, and with packets of bitter powdered herbs that will make you wish you never had taste buds, but will also make you feel better.

In fact, I’m loving angelica so much now that I have created a new amber base which I call “Angelic Amber” to be worn alone or as base for my new dark osmanthus-rose Chypre.

Attending a family dinner party where you know you’re not welcome by the racist hosts: Eau d’Hermes. It has enough sunshine and cumin in it to make me feel at home (in my own skin at least) and proud of my Middle Eastern heritage and my own family values. No one could take that away from me.

Really nasty breakups that makes you not want to eat anything:
Un Crime Exotique, with its stark likeness to a curvy poached-pear in star-anise infused almond tart. There is enough softness in that flask to make even Chinese water torture seem amusing. Besides, with this kind of dessert, I’d skip a meal anytime.

Good tea to go with it: Milky oolong.

Getting fired:
Being self-employed it's hardly unlikely I'll run into that situation, but if I did, I would have to make sure I have with me one of those travel size sprays of Vetiver Tonka: some would go towards releasing any anger by macing the bearer of the bad news (how civilized), and the rest would go on my wrists and sweater, with this cereal-like rendition of caramelized vetiver. Nothing could be more soothing, grounding and centering than vetiver, and those sweet surrounding notes make it even better. Only downside: it would be hard to replace it unless a new job is found, and fast.

Spring Allergies:
An experience that is completely new to me (started last year). Sève Exquise provides a non-floral counterpoint between sneezing sessions!

Do you go "sans-parfum" or wear comforting scents when uncomfortable situations happen in your life? If so, what are your comfort scents?
Comment below with your and enter the giveaway of two cute and comforting miniatures: Immortelle l'Amour, and L de Lolita Lempicka.

Visit the following blogs for other ideas for comforting scents:

Roxana's Illuminated Journal

BitterGrace Notes

Perfume Shrine

Notes from the Ledge

Scent Hive

The Non Blonde

Perfume in Progress

Katie Puckrik Smells

A Rose Beyond the Thames

I Smell Therefore I Am


All I Am A Redhead

Savvy Thinker

P.s. This article's title is an homage to Michelyn Camen's original article of this same name on Sniffapalooza Magazine in 2008, in which I was interviewed to comment on what botanical elements make some of my perfumes comforting. Michelyn Camen is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of www.cafleurebon.com and the Editor-at- Large for www.Fashiontribes.com.


There are a few perfumes that I particularly like to wear for bedtime. This is a strange phenomenon, and only the truly addicted perfume connoisseur will even think of such a use for perfume. I am referring to scents that are seductive borderline sedative (or the other way around). Although these could be also seductive in their own way, for some reason they have a very calming presence. In the next couple blog entries I will talk about some of the perfumes I like to wear to bed – and rarely for any other occasion. In fact, I may not quite know how it feels to wear them during the waking hours – that will be as odd as wearing my pyjamas out of the house. This is, of course, a totally personal choice. To each their own bedtime scents. I would love to hear about yours!

I would like to close this round of floral perfume reviews with my two favourite bedtime perfumes - No. 5 and Tocde.
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