This cake is an autumn treat. A light moist sponge, with subtly-spiced caramelised pears poking through the top. It looks beautiful and tastes dreamy and is actually pretty simple to make.
Notes on my recipe
The original source for this recipe is the River Cottage pear and almond cake. Whilst doing a bit of digging around on this recipe, I discovered a version of Hugh’s recipe on things we make – a blog dedicated to (can you guess?) things made by its contributors, the Sutton family. Think cake, pizza, tool chests… Claire’s version of the cake was decidedly larger than the River Cottage version (never a bad thing) and she lives close to where I’m from so her recipe won. Thanks, Claire!
I amended this recipe slightly by not peeling the pears, caramelising them with cinnamon and adding cinnamon to the sponge mixture.
Claire’s recipe advised using a 20cm springform cake tin. As I can’t justify buying another cake tin just yet, I used the deep 18cm loose bottomed tin we have in the cupboard. The cake worked fine – I didn’t reduce the mixture and popped it all (aside from my liberal taste test spoonfuls) into the tin. My only adjustment was that I did trim my pear quarters a little so that I could still fit them in in the pretty circle pattern.
- 350g butter
- 250g golden caster sugar + 1tbsp for sautéing the pears
- 150g self-raising flour
- 150g ground almonds
- 4 large eggs – lightly beaten
- 4 conference pears (why such a boring name for such a delicious fruit?!) – washed, cored and quartered
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Grease and line the bottom and sides an 18-20cm loose-bottomed or spring form cake tin.
- Prepare the pears by rinsing, coring and quartering them. Consider the size of the quartered pears and the size of your tin – you might need to trim the straight edges of your pears to bring their points lower so that you can fit the pears into the tin in a pretty circle.
- Gently heat 50g of butter and 1 tbsp of sugar in a large frying pan. Once the butter and sugar have melted, drop in 1 tsp of cinnamon and give the pan a swirl. Carefully place the prepared pears in the pan and gently fry them, turning every so often, until they’re tender. This took about 20 minutes which was longer than I expected. Keep poking them to test their softness.
- Cream together the remaining butter (300g) and the 250g of sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the flour, almonds and second teaspoon of cinnamon to the creamed butter and sugar. Gradually add the lightly beaten egg and mix together with a hand or stand mixer (or a wooden spoon if you’re feeling energetic – it’s a heavy mix!).
- Scrape the cake mixture into the prepared tin and carefully arrange the tender pear pieces in a circle on top (points towards the middle of the tin). Pour the warm pear juices from the pan onto the top of the cake.
- Construct a foil ‘hat’ for the cake and secure it over the top of the cake by attaching it to the greaseproof paper you used to line the tin with metal paperclips. This will prevent the top of the cake from browning too much during baking. You might also want to use a ‘collar’ made from foil or a few layers of greaseproof paper to go around the outside of the tin. I didn’t and, as the pictures show, the outside of my cake is pretty dark.
- Bake the cake for 70 minutes. Insert a skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked and ready to come out of the oven. If gooey crumbs are attached to the skewer, pop the cake back into the oven for a bit longer. My cake took about 90 minutes to cook.
- When the cake is ready, leave it to cool in its tin on a wire rack. After 10 minutes or so, carefully remove it from the baking tin.
- You can serve immediately with cream or yoghurt, or wait till it’s cool if you have the willpower.