As my blog title suggests, I love pears. Pears with caramel is a combination I've tried before (see Pear and Caramel Cakes) and I've poached pears before (see Rosé Poached Pears) but I've never made anything quite like this. I think it's really a dessert cake, but it's pretty yummy at any time of day.
This cake started when mum came home with these absolutely gorgeous corella pears. They sat in the fruit bowl looking pretty while I deliberated for ages over what to do with them. In the end I googled corella pear recipes and came up with this. I felt awful peeling them - the skins are just so pretty.
The original recipe calls for four big sponge cakes sandwiched with whipped creme fraiche and cream, topped with the pears. Instead I decided to give my new bundt tin a whirl and arrange the pears in the centre. I served it with a good dollop of creme fraiche instead of including another element.
A few days before I decided to make this cake, I bought a jar of star anise. This provided the perfect opportunity to try it out - I don't think I'd even smelt it before - though I know aniseed as a flavour from things like aniseed balls.
Before I saw this recipe I had never thought of turning a poaching sugar syrup into a caramel. I hadn't even made or tasted a spiced caramel before. Both were great - I'll be using them again.
Instead of using dessert wine in the caramel I used pear juice. I didn't want it to be alcoholic and I thought it would be nice to increase the pear aspect. I switched the volumes around - there was more dessert wine than cream. I might slightly decrease the liquids added to make a thicker caramel - if you want to do the same, I'd recommend using 100ml of cream instead of 120ml.
The cake itself was nice, but mainly served as a base for the rest of the dessert. I halved the original recipe and I ended up with far too much - I had another whole tin full. I've therefore put a quarter recipe below, which should be about right.
Overall, this made for a lovely dessert with friends. I'm very glad I made it and discovered the various methods below - the caramel and pears were fantastic.
Spiced Caramel and Pear Bundt Cake
(Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller, see here)
For the pears:
375g granulated sugar
juice and rind of a lemon
juice and rind of an orange
1 cinnamon quill
1 star anise
1/2 vanilla bean
500 ml water
3 corella pears
Put all the ingredients except the pears into a big saucepan. Put over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Meanwhile, peel the pears, split them in half and then use a melon baller to scoop the pips etc out. When the syrup is ready, put the pears into the saucepan. Cover with a circle of parchment paper and weigh down with a plate. Turn heat down to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes until the pears are tender.
120 ml double cream
90 ml pear juice
When you are ready to make the caramel, remove the pears from the syrup to another bowl. Strain the liquid into a deep sided pan (or the same big saucepan). Heat over medium-high until the mixture turns a deep golden caramel - this takes about 20 minutes or so. Whisk in the cream, then the pear juice, then the butter. Put the pears back into the pan and glaze for a few minutes. Remove to a bowl to cool.
For the cake:
25g caster sugar
55g brown sugar
seeds of half a vanilla bean
75g plain flour, sifted
1/4 tsp baking powder
30g butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare a bundt tin by buttering and flouring. Put the eggs, sugars and vanilla seeds into a mixer and beat until it has tripled in volume and holds a trail - this took me about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter and set aside to cool. When ready, sift over the flour and baking powder and fold until just combined. Finally add the butter and fold in carefully. Pour into the tin and put into the oven. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and springy to touch. Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning out. Brush the whole cake with some of the caramel to glaze. Serve slightly warm with the caramel pears spooned into the middle and the spare caramel on the side in a jug.
(Serves 6 with some cake leftovers)