With almond extract in the batter and a topping of hazelnuts, pine nuts and whipped cream, this pear cake is simple, but simply stunning.
So, the story behind this cake: my brother-in-law and soon-to-be sister-in-law are getting married and I’m baking the wedding cake (!!) After testing out a few different cakes over the course of the past year, I have found a recipe (with a few minor tweaks of my own) for the base of the cake that I really like (and fortunately, they like too). Since deciding on it, I’ve been finding excuses to practice baking it. As you can imagine, we’ve been eating a lot of cake around here.
A few deliciously ripe clapp pears from my CSA gave me my latest excuse. I figured what more delicious than a pear-filled white cake? In fact, two tiers of the wedding cake are going to be filled with a pear compote, so it seemed reminiscent of that too. If you haven’t had clapp pears before, when ripe, they are incredibly juicy and sweet, making them a perfect baking pear. They have a really short season though, and bruise really easily, so you don’t often find them in grocery stores. If you have a local farm that grows pears, I encourage you to see if they grow them. If you live in the NY area, mine are from Fix Brothers Fruit Farm in Hudson. If you can’t find them, just use another small, soft variety of pears (like anjou or bartlett). Avoid firmer pears like bosc or forelle, as their texture isn’t right for this.
In any case, this recipe is adapted from Cook’s Illustrated white layer cake, with the addition of the pears. The cake has a very delicate crumb – like an angel food cake in the best way possible. The pears sink and almost melt into the cake as it bakes, so every bite is pear-filled and delicious. I topped mine with whipped cream and a sugar / nut topping, but really anything here would be delicious — ice cream, whipped mascarpone, buttercream, or even just plain.
I should note that since I didn’t think I would be posting this recipe, I baked this in an unconventionally-sized cake pan (7.5-inches). I’ve written the recipe for an 8-inch, as I don’t feel the baking time would change that significantly. But, just make sure to test your cake with a toothpick to ensure it is done — to test, just insert the toothpick into the center of the cake (find a spot without pears); if it comes out clean, you’re good to go.
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (4.5 ounces) cake flour, plus more for dusting the pan
- ½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (6.1 ounces) sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 ripe clapp pears (or other soft pear variety, like anjou or bartlett), halved and cored
- Click the link above.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch* springform cake pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the inside of the whole pan with cake flour, tapping out any excess. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk the milk, egg whites, and extracts together until combined. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and beat on medium, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, without powdery streaks of flour. Add all but ¼ cup of the milk mixture and beat on medium for 1 - 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the remaining milk mixture, and beat on medium for another 30 seconds.
- Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and arrange the halved pears on top (cut sides down) so they are evenly spaced. Transfer to the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes*. Allow to cool in the cake pan for 10 - 15 minutes, before releasing the spring and removing. Let cool completely.
- Make the topping, click the link above.
* I baked my cake with a 7.5-inch cake pan. If you have that size, use it, otherwise the baking time shouldn't change much with an 8-inch.