French Pear Cake
A couple of weeks ago I found these gorgeous looking pears at our local market and brought them home, anticipating to have them as part of a cheese and fruit platter. Then our dinner plans changed, and the poor things sat pretty in the fruit bowl, completely neglected by all members of the family. I must say that my lot loves fruits, as long as they are cut and prepped for them ready to eat, like in a fruit salad or freshly juiced. Except for bananas and apples, which I regularly put into lunchboxes for the very reason that they take minimum effort to peel and are not as messy to eat ( read dripping juice all over your school uniform ).
Anyway, back to the pears, they had grown that pale green ripe look begging for action.
The fruits were too juicy to have with cheese but still firm enough to hold their shape in a cake. The pear cake I had in mind is one of our favourite recipe I came across over 25 years ago. It is from France The Beautiful Cookbook, by the Scotto sisters who take you through the regions of France describing the link between their landscape, history and of course gastronomy. This is one of the first cookbook I owned and as a novice cook and one away from home, I cannot tell you how many watches were spent on the boat pouring over recipes of Sole Meuniere, Duck with Olives or Potato Gratin. Some of the ingredients were sometimes a challenge to find while cruising ( foie gras in the Solomon Islands, artichokes in South America? ) but somehow I managed to cook a few meals from it, as evidenced by the well worn cover and a few dog-ear marked pages.
One of them is page 233, Poirier D’Anjou or Pear Cake.
I have made this cake a few times, both on and off the boat, it is quite homely ( ahhhh the aroma while baking !!) but good looking enough to pass as a classy dessert ( as it did once, when I donated one to my daughter’s school fete, labelling it French Pear Cake and packaged it in a pretty box . Someone paid $20 for it !!)
I have altered the original recipe “to bring it into the 21st century” as a friend of mine would say, using very ripe fruits thus allowing me to skip the syrup making stage and using less sugar, substituting wholemeal spelt flour for some of the plain flour ( for a bit of goodness without tasting too healthy ) and omitting the cointreau in the glaze because I was planning to feed young children with it ( feel free to add it for an adult version! ). And while the recipe makes enough for a large cake, I split it into 3 smaller baking moulds so that we could eat one cake and give away the other two. Why do such a thing? I hear you ask. Because, we are supposed to eat healthy, and since I don’t like the idea of dieting and depriving ourselves, I still bake cakes. Except that instead of a large one that the four of us can’t really finish, now I bake several small ones to share.
Sharing is caring, right?
French Pear Cake
Adapted from France The Beautiful Cookbook
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 kg ripe but still firm pears ( about 3 pears )
1 cup plain flour
2/3 wholemeal spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp black currant jelly
1 tbs water
3 tbsp cointreau or grand marnier ( optional )
- Preheat oven to 200C. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and let cool slightly. Line 3 11x17cm cake pans with baking paper.
- Combine the flours and baking powder in a food processor. Add the eggs, the sugar, the butter, vanilla essence and milk. Blend to form a smooth batter. Pour equally into the cake pans.
- Half, peel, and core the pears. Cut each half vertically into thick slices and arrange on top of the batter in rows. Bake for 35 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, heat the jelly and the water until the mixture boils. Mix well, add cointreau if using and remove from the heat. Coat the cake with the syrupy jelly and bake for another 5 minutes.
- Let it cool for a while before unmolding. Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh cream.