Go ahead and say that name three times fast.
If you've ever gotten a weekly CSA then you know that you're always left with a few items of produce that you don't know how or don't want to use before the next box comes. A few weeks ago I impulse bought a huge amount of pork belly (who can say no to sale pork belly?!) and a whole duck. We turned my impulse buy into a dinner party and our dinner party into an excuse to use those items that didn't seem like they were ever going to leave our fridge. The napa cabbage cooked down with the pork belly and the EIGHT huge Asian pears I had let build up turned into this cake.
It always surprises people when I say I don't have much of a sweet tooth because it sounds like I don't like dessert. But I LOVE dessert. I just prefer the richness of butter and punch of spice over that taste of sugar. In terms of butter and spice, this cake ain't messin' around. Add in the succulent, caramelized but salty, rosemary scented pears and you have a dessert that literally tastes like everything you want from Autumn.
This recipe isn't hard but it does have a lot of inactive down time so you can certainly make the pears a day in advance if that's what works for you.
For the pears:
- 4 large Asian Pears
- 4 oz (1 stick) Butter (cubed)
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Salt
- 3-5 sprigs of Rosemary
For the Cake:
- 10 oz (2 1/4 sticks) Butter
- 1 cup Light Brown Sugar
- 4 Eggs
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 2 cups AP Flour
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Clove
- 2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cardamom
- 1 c Chopped Roasted Pears
- Pears. Preheat oven to 350. Prep the pears by peeling, coring and cutting into eights. Put all the pears into a large Pyrex baking dish. Sprinkle the pears with sugar and salt and evenly distribute the cubed butter throughout the dish. Throw on your whole sprigs of rosemary. Cover with foil and bake for forty minutes at which point the pears will have released their juices and you should have a bubbling syrup in the bottom of the dish. Uncover and cook for another hour, checking and stirring every twenty minutes. At the end of the hour your pears should be caramelized and the syrup at the bottom of the dish should be viscous and golden brown. If you've decided to make these a day in advance, let cool and store in the fridge.
- Brown butter. Place 10 oz of butter in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter begins to smell like toasted nuts and then pour into another container, I usually use something large and shallow so it cools faster. (Sidenote: A lot of chefs strain the caramelized solids out of brown butter, I go back and forth on doing it but both times I made this recipe, I was lazy and didn't bother. It turned out great, so if you don't have a fine mesh sieve or just hate cleaning the damn things, feel free to be a lazy bum like me.) Cool the butter in the fridge until it's the consistency of slightly softened butter. You can also do this in advance, just be sure to take it out with enough time to soften before you make the cake.
- Let's make this cake! Preheat oven to 350. Oil and flour or oil and parchment a nine inch cake round.Whisk together flour, spices, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Cream butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light a fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down your bowl. Add the flour mix in three stages, beating lightly after each addition. After the last addition beat just until all the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped pears and scrape into your cake pan. Use a spatula to even out the batter and then pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes. The cake should be light golden brown and spring back when touched.
- Uhh, in my mouth, please? Just a couple more steps. When the cake comes out of the oven, dip a pastry brush into the syrup in the bottom of the pear pan and generously soak the top with it. (If you made your pears in advance, you'll need to pop them in the oven for about ten minutes for this) Let cool in the pan until just warm to the touch and then cool the rest of the way on a rack. Slice into 10-12 pieces and serve with the remainder of the caramelized pears.