Pears of many varieties are coming into season, and to highlight them we chose to make this perfect and casual recipe for a quick cake scented with cardamom. This recipe offers some really great opportunities for the home chef!
First, it’s a great way to introduce yourself to poaching fruit if you haven’t done it before. The process is one to get familiar with, as the resulting fruit (it doesn’t have to be pears) is tender and infused with the flavor of its cooking liquid (an added benefit is that your home will smell delightful as the aroma of fruit, wine, and fall spices wafts into the kitchen, down the hall, and up the stairs). Second, the reduction of the cooking liquid offers a starter course in caramel making, as the dissolved sugars darken in color and lend viscosity to the syrup near the final moments. Third, it is a reminder of how fun different textures can be, and why they’re so important in a well balanced dish. The texture of the pear is soft and gentle… but so is the crumb of the cake! While similar in description, each component brings a very different and harmonious element to the dessert.
We hope you take the time to make this cake, play with the flavors, and create your own version. (The recipe and a photo gallery are included at the end of this post.) It is the perfect project for a leisurely afternoon at home; the smell of pears and cardamom are sure to warm your baker’s heart.
Cardamom Cake with Whole Pears & White Chocolate Recipe
Makes one 1 ½ lb. loaf. Adapted from a recipe in Homemade: Winter, by Yvette Van Boven.
For the Pears
3 medium-size crisp, firm pears (such as Bosc) peeled but whole, with the stem left on.
1 (750-ml) bottle dry white wine
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 star anise
8 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
For the Cake
1 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups self-rising flour
1 generous tbsp ground cardamom
pinch of salt
3 oz white chocolate, in chunks
Poach the pears: In a large saucepan, combine the pears, wine, sugar, cloves, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon and poach for 30 minutes over low heat.
Take the pears out of the liquid and set aside to cool. Add 2 ½ cups water to the poaching liquid and boil to reduce the liquid by half. Let cool.
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until cream. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Don’t add a new egg until the previous one is incorporated. Sift the flour, cardamom, and salt over the batter and fold in.
Butter a 9-by-5 (1.5 l) loaf pan and line it with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper.
Spoon the patter into the pan. Press the pears in, stem end up. Bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake part comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan, then gently remove the cake from the pan to a rack to cool completely.
Very carefully melt the chocolate: Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir the chocolate in the bowl until melted. Using a spoon, drizzle the chocolate over the cake and create nice stripes on top.
Let the chocolate dry for a bit and serve the cake in thick slices, with the reduced pear syrup poured on top.