When it comes to cakes, I don’t have a favourite. But from where I’m standing, I don’t see how you could – there are too many amazing flavours and varieties out there! But, that’s not to say I’m not picky (apologies if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of that…). I have a few specific things that I love in a cake; a few things that for me, change it from being a tasty, baked thing to an I-want-to-eat-the-whole-cake-and-never-eat-anything-else because it’s so amazingly satisfying. And I think that’s the key: cake shouldn’t just be tasty, but it should be satisfying in a whole range of ways.
I think that’s why I struggle to designate a favourite cake, because depending on whether it’s a moist, dense cake or a light, inhale-able cake, eating it is a completely different experience. So even if I said chocolate cake was my favourite, I’d have to specify that it’s a dense, moist, dessert-style chocolate cake with a hint of coffee. And when you say that in response to the question, “what’s your favourite cake”, I feel like a picky idiot – which I suppose I am, but I’d rather not sound like it on a regular basis…
So anyway, one of the things that really makes a cake stand out to me is generosity. It sounds strange, I know. But I mean generosity in the sense of fruit or frosting or filling or flavour. Think about buying a jam donut and finding that there’s only a tiny speck of jam inside – it’s a depressing but all-to-real experience in a capitalist society (sorry for the sudden meta-ness – the recent election has me fired up about a few things such as democracy and capitalism…ask me sometime, I will certainly bore, terrify and shock you with the extent of my thoughts…). And how much happier are you when you realise that you can’t easily eat the donut you just bought because it’s so full of jam that’s its dripping all over your hands – to me, that’s a much better donut, even if it makes you look like a fool when you eat it…at least you’re a happy fool! And that’s how I feel about cakes that aren’t particularly punchy when it comes to flavour or generous when it comes to a frosting and filling that is a key part of the overall cake.
And that’s why I like this particular cake. It’s a caramelised pear cake. But it’s so much more than that – it’s a very generous caramelised pear cake. First, it’s a yummy, moist, but not too dense cake that tastes like winter because of the spices. Then there are also some fresh juicy pear chunks in there. But then there are also caramelised pears in there with some caramel sauce drizzled through too. So, as I said, it’s much more than just a caramelised pear cake. And that’s how I think all cake should be! Maybe not with so many elements, but with that same generosity – if you’re going to go to the effort of making a cake, make it a special one!
Generous Caramelised Pear Cake
3 large pears (don’t worry about how ripe they are)
125g softened butter, + 25g for the pears
1 cup brown sugar + 1/4 cup for the pears
4 tbsp golden syrup
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
2 tsp cinnamon/nutmeg/mixed spice/pumpkin spice
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 180C fan-forced. Line the bottom of a 22-24cm springform tin with baking paper.
- Start on the cake. Melt butter, brown sugar and golden syrup in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- In the meantime, get on with the pears. Peel, core and roughly chop the pears. Place half of the pears in a small saucepan, and the other half in a bowl. Add the 25g butter and the 1/4 cup brown sugar to the saucepan and place over a low heat to melt the butter, dissolve the sugar and soften the pears. Once this has happened, leave the pears to caramelise for another few minutes. They will be done when the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Back to the cake. Add flour and spices, then eggs, milk and vanilla to the cooled mixture and combine well but gently.
- Stir caramelised pears and syrup through the cake batter until just combined. Pour into lined tin and drop uncooked pears onto the batter. Bake in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Serve with cream, lots and lots of cream.