Italian Pear Cake 2.0
The first time I had Italian pear cake, must have been about 10 year ago. A colleague hosted a ladies dinner, and made a recipe she received from a neighbour- an old Italian national, who at that time resided in South Africa.
Since, we have made it many times, fine-tuning it to the version we make today. The original recipe uses fresh pears, but we find that caramelising them in sugar, butter and almond extract, gives the cake a rather delightful taste and texture. Slightly sweeter, with a hint of the marzipan taste from the almond extract. Just before baking, we also drizzle the remaining pear flavoured caramel over the batter. After baking the caramel becomes extra sticky and toffee-like. It is an extra little treat on the crust.
A note on almond extract- I’ve tried a number of different combinations. If you’re not a fan of the marzipan taste, you can swop the almond extract out for vanilla or caramel extract/ essence. If on the other hand, you are partial to the almond/ marzipan taste, you can also add 1/2 a teaspoon to the cake dough mixture. I tend to add a dash almond extract to the dough too.
For the pears:
- 2 kg fresh pears
- Juice of half a lemon in a large bowl with water
- 100g butter
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp almond extract
For the cake mixture:
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 ½ cups flour
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- ¼ tsp almond extract (optional)
- Prepare a large bowl with lemon-water to stop the pears from browning after it has been cut. Add the juice from ½ a lemon to about 1 ½ – 2 litres of water(This trick works a charm on apples too.)
- Peel and core the pears, and cut each pear into 8 slices. Place the pieces in the bowl, deep enough to cover all the pieces with the lemon infused water.
- In a large saucepan, over medium heat, add 100g butter, the cut pears, ½ cup sugar and almond extract.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C / 350°F
- Cook the pears until they begin to soften, and change to a golden brown colour.
- While your pears are caramelising, prepare the cake batter by whisking together the eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk in the flour. The cake batter is gooey and thick, and is easier to mix with a wooden spoon.
- Once the pears are golden brown, spoon the pears into the cake mixture, leaving behind as much of the caramel in the saucepan as you can.
- Mix the pears and the cake batter and pour into a buttered baking dish of 13 x 9 x 2″/ 33 x 23 x 5cm.
- Smooth out the mixture as best you can, and drizzle the remaining pear-caramel from the saucepan over the uncooked batter.
- bake for 45-50 minutes at 180°C / 350°F until golden brown
- serve warm or room temperature.
Simple and easy. Refrigerates well. With my incredibly limited baking skills (and equipment), I have still never managed to ruin this recipe. We hope you find it as uncomplicated- and delicious- as we do.