The pears are so wonderful this time of the year as they begin to grow too heavy for the tree that bears them and too wonderful not to make everything you can out of them. One of my favorite simple seasonal cakes that can be endlessly varied and is packed with these lusty teardrop shaped globes consists of pears and not a whole lot else. Apple cakes are made in the same fashion here as well and I just might try one with a combination of the two one of these days. As it is the normal mode here to not add too many ingredients to complicate or overshadow the star of most dishes, you will find little or no spices added to keep the quality and flavor-fullness of the pears front and center. I love making it this way and find that the cake seems to only improve on the second day as they flavors have time to come together and sing out. Having said that, the original recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan also calls for whole cloves to be poked into the batter just before popping it into the oven for a nice burst of spiciness permeating throughout the cake. This part of Italy loves to add cloves to a wide range of dishes from cakes to red sauces, so I do like to add this particular spice in. I think this cake would shine with the addition of ginger, dried or candied, as well as the usual suspects of cinnamon and nutmeg, although the simplicity of the cake really brings the flavor of the pears front and center. As always with any dish, the quality of the pears is going to be what makes or breaks your cake. I have used what we call here abate that is a soft succulent variety that doesn't last long so you need to use it before it gets too soft. Other varieties that are firmer work well also. Just make sure your pears are flavorful and you really can't go wrong. This dense rustic cake seems to improve as it sits and will be great for at least 2 days on your table at room temperature as long as it isn't too warm, otherwise into your fridge it goes, but best at room temperature or slightly warm.
Rustic Pear Cake
Torta di Pere
22cm/9" cake pan with removable sides if possible
28-58g/ 2-4T butter for the pan and dotting around the tart, about
45g/ 1 1/2 oz bread crumbs
225g/ 8oz caster sugar, or super fine sugar
60ml/ 4T milk
170g/ 6oz flour, plain
900g/2 lbs fresh pears, anjou, bosc, conferenza, williams, abate
1 dozen whole cloves, optional but very delicious
*If you are feeling like some spice or your pears aren't so flavorful
you might find these usual suspects a nice addition
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
- Preheat your oven to 190*C/375*F/gas mark 5
- Prepare your pan by buttering the bottom and sides of your pan and generously dust all with dry bread crumbs. Shake out any excess crumbs.
- Peel your pears, cut in half lengthwise and remove the core, seeds and stringy bit down the length. Slice into thin slices across the width of the pear and set aside. (My pears were quite ripe in this cake in the pictures, so I cut them a little thicker.)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg till smooth, then add the milk and continue whisking.
- Add the flour and stir or lightly whisk just until fully combined.
- Add the sliced pears and mix just till fully combined.
- Pour into your prepared pan.
- Smooth top and dot a few pieces of butter round the top and press firmly int the batter.
- Press your whole cloves into the top also if using them. I arranged mine decoratively in a circle in the middle of the cake and left them sticking up so people would find them before biting unknowingly into them.
- Bake in the middle of your oven for approximately 50 minutes.
- Cool to warm before serving and naturally a dollop of whipped cream or gelato isn't a bad idea.