Caramelized Pear Cake

Happy New Year!

I know what you’re thinking…”But I just swore off butter!” or “‘Tis the month of kale, woman!  Can you not see my holiday muffin top!” Or maybe you’re so intently into your new CrossFit routine that you’ve abandoned all semblance of your 2015 life, including scouring local food blogs for options to enable your sweet tooth.  I understand 2 out the 3, even empathize.  But this post is really a tribute to the year that’s now behind us, a toast to the year ahead and a recipe to tuck away for a time when you’re ready to give up on kale.  And CrossFit.

Personally, 2015 was a year of firsts.  I launched BBB, ran my first 10K, survived (and, much to my surprise, actually enjoyed) my first hot yoga class, sold a house, moved to California, learned to analyze crime maps, lived my personal nightmare of fainting on crowded public transportation, saw my first crack rock.  The usual.  It was yet another year of sweeping life changes.  One speckled with ups and downs, mountains of logistics and resume revision, never ending newness and adaptation and a hell of a lot of butter.  And here we are, on the other side of it all, ready for another trip around the sun in all the blustering, wonderful life chaos that the one trip ticket entails.

Bodega

New Year’s Day in Bodega Bay.

As the seasons changed, I was expecting our local farmers market to tailspin into the inevitable root vegetable bonanza I’ve experienced elsewhere.  And while figs, peaches and other summer classics made their exit, I was pleasantly surprised at the endurance of some items and entrances of others.  Discovering that pears and apples are apparently here to stay, I was on a mission to take full culinary advantage.  And a mission that integrated caramel, fruit and cake?  Sold.

Caramelized pear cake has quickly become a staple in our house, giving Nutella Cake a run for its money as the all time favorite in the cake category.  Over the weekend, during it’s third appearance for a social occasion, I watched in amused dismay as my husband tried to coax back the slices I’d wrapped and given to our departing party guests to ensure he’d have enough for breakfast the next morning.  Questionable social etiquette aside, I can’t blame him for the gesture: it’s light and airy, subtly, fancily sweet and magically improves overnight.  Not the worst thing to wake up to by a long shot.

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If you’ve made my bread and butter Salted Caramel Sauce, you should be warned that this is very different caramel.  It hardens quickly and that’s that point.  You will be convinced that you don’t have enough caramel in the bottom of the pan, but I assure you, it’s supposed to be that way.  The second time around I doubled the caramel portion of recipe and it was too much, which prevented it from fully caramelizing the pears before the cake was done.  Aside from requiring 3 bowls and a saucepan for prep, it’s overall pretty easy, but looks and tastes like a dessert that required much more extensive talent and technique.  I won’t tell them if you won’t.

So, to a new year, dark leafy greens and compulsive exercise in moderation only and new, classic cake: cheers!

Caramelized Pear Cake


Recipe compliments of Bon Appetit with only minor technical adjustments

IngredientsIMG_0961

Caramel

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Cake

  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup + 3 Tbsp flour
  • 3 Tbsp yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 medium sized pears*, washed, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Vanilla whipped cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter an 8 inch round cake pan and cover the bottom with parchment paper.
  3. In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, add water and sugar and swirl to dissolve over medium heat.  Occasionally swirl pan as sugar heats and boils until it turns a deep amber color after approximately 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and add butter, stirring quickly to combine with a wooden spoon.
  4. Pour caramel into the center of the pan and spread to coat the parchment paper.  It will not be enough to completely cover the bottom of the pan, but will spread while baking.
  5. Layer pear slices around the edge of the pan with their tops pointing toward the center.
  6. In a small bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  7. In a large bowl, mix 3/4 cup sugar, butter and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolks one at a time.
  8. Add flour mixture, alternating with additions of milk until combined.
  9. In a clean, dry bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
  10. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the cake mixture.  Gently fold in remaining egg whites until just combined.
  11. Pour over pears and smooth the top.
  12. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes.  Rotate pan 180 degrees and cover loosely with aluminum foil after 30 minutes.
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 1 hour.  Run a knife around the edges to release from the pan.  Firmly hold a plate or platter over the top of the pan and flip the cake.  Remove the parchment paper and smooth the edges.
  14. Serve warm or at room temperature.  Won’t disappoint if served plain, but won’t get worse topped with homemade whipped cream or vanilla gelato.

Notes

  • I’ve used both Bosc and Bartlett varieties.  Boscs tend to make for longer slices, more coverage of the cake and hold their shape better, but I find Bartletts to be sweeter and juicier.  Either way, pick fruit that’s tall and still fairly firm.
  • The cake and pears cook at different rates and the cake will brown long before the pears are ready.  Or perhaps it’s just my oven that leaves the cake top looking golden and perfect by 30 minutes.  I’ve found that covering with foil prevents it from drying out and nips my “but if I don’t take it out now it’s going to overcook” anxiety in the bud.  First world problem anxiety, you say?  100%.

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