Pretty Pear Cake

I had the pleasure of eating this cake, on more than one occasion, before actually making it myself. My former boss used to make it with fruit from her backyard and bring it warm to staff meetings. I loved the unique presentation and the crispy, sweet brown-sugar top. I begged her for the recipe for months and, as a going away present, she gave me the book with the recipe in it: “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison. I have since tried a few other savory recipes from this book and have found them all to be quite unique and delicious!

This cake is baked in a cast iron skillet… and I’m not sure that it would turn out as good in another type of pan. There’s something about that thick, seasoned, iron skillet that creates a great crust and depth of flavor.

We always ate it in the morning, but I think it would be excellent served with ice cream or whipped cream as a dessert. This cake can serve quite a lot of people, depending on how you slice it! If you cut it into gargantuan pieces, you could feed at least 8.

For the Pears:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 large Comice or Bartlett pears

For the Cake:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

To Prepare the Pears:

  1. Melt the butter and the brown sugar in a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and smooth, set aside.
  2. Peal, halve and core the pears.
  3. Cut the pears into 1/4 inch thick slices.
  4. Place the pears in the pan on top of the butter and brown sugar, arranging them in a decorative fashion, set aside.

To Make the Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and submerge the almonds for one minute.
  3. Remove the almonds and drain.
  4. Cool the almonds in a bowl of cold water and drain again.
  5. Remove the skins from the almonds by gently pressing the almond between two fingers until the skin slips off.
  6. Grind the peeled almonds in a food processor into a fine meal, set aside.
  7. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, set aside.
  8. Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand held mixer until light and fluffy.
  9. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.
  10. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.
  11. Stir in the ground almonds.
  12. Stir in the flour mixture.
  13. Spoon the batter into the pan and spread to evenly cover the pears.
  14. Bake 25-30 minutes or until cake is golden brown and springy when pressed with your fingertip.
  15. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  16. Gently set a cake plate on top of the pan and, holding both sides tightly, flip the pan over (this may require the assistance of your lovely sous chef). Carefully remove the pan from the cake. Serve warm or cool.
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