Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Pear & Almond Upside-Down Cake

Almond and pear is a marriage made in heaven and where this cake in concerned, it is definitely true. If you like pears, you will love this cake. It is moist and buttery with a juicy topping of sweetly caramelised pears. I have also included some whole walnuts alongside the pears to create textural contrast and because I just love the pear/walnut combination. One of the great things about pears is that they go wonderfully with almost any type of nut and also taste fabulous with spices such as ginger, cinnamon and cardamom.

I often wonder why pears aren’t more popular than they are, because in my opinion that have a far more complex flavour than apples and when just ripe, they can’t be beaten in terms of flavour. I think that part of the reason is that pears are a more temperamental crop to grown requiring a sheltered perspective and settled growing conditions. So many of the pears that are sold these days are under-ripe and like hard bullets. It is no wonder that when faced with these, consumers are distinctly underwhelmed… but a perfectly ripe pear is truly something wondrous to behold; sweet with a juicy flesh and almost honey like taste – well.... they just taste heavenly.
 
The fact that pears tend to be sold at a slightly under-ripe stage makes them perfect for cooking or baking with, where the warmth of the oven or hob helps soften them and bring out their natural sweetness. Ripe pears would disintegrate to a mush especially in a cake like this which requires over an hour’s baking.
 
There are loads of recipes out there for upside-down cakes, but this is a truly delicious version full of the flavour of the pears.
 
As usual, I looked upon the baking of this cake as a good excuse to add a glug of almond liqueur – one of my favourites! Needless to say this was a wonderful addition which really accentuated the flavour of the almonds in the cake batter. This cake also makes a wonderful dessert where a dollop of cream on the side wouldn’t go astray. Alternatively, it is also fab served slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients:

Topping:
30g butter, softened
30g light brown muscovado sugar
A pinch of ground cinnamon
Cake:
3 slightly under-ripe pears, peeled, cored and halved
A handful of walnuts
300g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
150g self-raising flour sifted
150g ground almonds
25ml Amaretto
 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 170C/Fan Oven 150C/Gas Mark 3. Grease and base-line a deep 20cm spring-form tin with removable base and set aside.
Topping:
2. Beat all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until mixed together. Rub this mixture onto the bottom of the prepared tin and set aside.
Cake:
3. Place the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the eggs, mixing well after each addition. Add in the sifted flour and mix briefly to just combine. Fold in the ground almonds and mix in the Amaretto.
4. Place the halved pears cut-side against the bottom of the tin. I arranged mine in an orderly circle but you can arrange them more randomly, if you prefer.  Squeeze some whole walnuts in the gaps between the pears and then spoon the cake batter all over the pears. Level off the surface with a spatula or the back of a metal spoon and bake in the preheated oven for 70-80 minutes. Check the cake after 40 minutes or so and if it is browning too quickly, cover with a lid of foil. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Serves 8-10.