Though not currently in season, I was surprised to find a box of beautiful English pears being sold at my local grocer. On the look out for cake ingredients, I dutifully filled my basket with this succulent, juicy fruit – perhaps my favourite – and retreated to the kitchen to bake my Pear and Almond Cake.
Pear and almond cake is a real no-brainer. Both headline ingredients help to create such a wonderfully textured cake, developing a moisture that you couldn’t in your wildest dreams achieve in a regular sponge. There’s little need to be delicate; even over-baking the cake wouldn’t be terminal.
But the almond and pear combination doesn’t just make for a cake that’s a pleasure to eat; the flavour is also tricky to parallel. If you were to ask me about my favourite cake ingredients, almonds would be right up there. Perhaps at the top. Their subtle nuttiness – forget almond extract – elevates any bake above most others.
Perhaps the one aspect of a pear and almond cake that requires a little thought is the preparation of the fruit. The caramel is simple enough to make, but you need to be sure that the flame isn’t burning too hot. Burnt caramel isn’t pleasant. Remember, you’re looking for a dark golden brown colour. Any darker and your cake could turn out a little bitter.
If you were in any doubt of the versatility and sheer joy of almonds in baking, hopefully this cake has changed your mind. If not, my recipes for Chocolate Prune Cake and Raspberry, Orange and Almond Traybake might do the trick.
Pear and Almond Cake
Makes one 23cm cake
- 3 pears, peeled and quartered
- 200g butter
- 125g caster sugar + 1 tbsp
- 2 eggs
- 100g self-raising flour
- 80g ground almonds
- 2 tbsp flaked almonds
- icing or caster sugar to dust
- Melt 25g of butter in a frying pan, adding 1 tbsp of sugar. Continually shake the pan to create a golden brown caramel. Add the pear quarters and simmer for 5-10 minutes until browned. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven the 190C/170C(fan). Grease and line a 22cm springform pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the remaining butter and caster sugar. Thoroughly incorporate the eggs one by one, before folding in the flour and ground almonds.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Arrange the pears in the top and spoon over a small amount of the surplus caramel and juice. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
- Once cooked, set the cake aside to cool. Meanwhile, gently toast your flaked almonds. Turn the cake out, sprinkle with the almonds and icing sugar, and serve.
Cost: Pears aren’t expensive at any time of year, but do try to buy British (or local) if possible. Almonds are a little more costly, but not prohibitively so if you shop around a little. Indeed, all ingredients considered, this pear and almond cake recipe shouldn’t set you back more than £3.