Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pear Birthday Cake

For a milestone birthday a number of years ago, I first made this pear cake and it has been a standout in my memory ever since. I am always curious about people who say their favorite cake is carrot, and if they really just mean they like moist spice cakes. Pear is such a great flavor and texture and to me is far superior and more original than carrot cake and I love to incorporate them in baking. 

The original pear cake

I was looking through new fall cake recipes and came across a pumpkin version that I thought would work well with a pear substition. I am thrilled with the exceptional three layer cake that resulted, which is moist and dense without being heavy. I used a very sweet cinnamon filling, but the frosting itself is a light and smooth buttercream flavored with caramelly browned butter. Absolutely Fantastic!

Spiced Pear Cake with Browned Butter Frosting

Inspired by Fine Cooking

For the pears
2 large ripe bosc pears, peeled, cored, and pureed 

For the cake
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans (4.5 ounces browned butter)
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups pear puree

For the frosting
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
10 oz. (2 1/2 cups) confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons bourbon (optional)

Make the cake

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Butter and flour three 8-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans).  Can also use two 9-inch pans and bake 28 minutes.

Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pear purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

Make the frosting
Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble the cake. Garnish with candied spiced pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, chopped crystallized ginger, or other festive fall decorations.


Note that for the cake pictured above, I used my favorite cinnamon buttercream as the filling between the layers and half a recipe of the browned butter frosting for the exterior. This obviously is extra work (unless you keep frosting on hand in the freezer like I do!) but I loved it. LOVED it. The cinnamon frosting would be too sweet to use alone, because the cake is sweet as well. The buttercream would be excellent as both frosting and filling. Though it uses 2:1 cream cheese to butter, the consistency is much smoother and more like a standard buttercream than the typical stickier cream cheese frosting. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Apple Kuchen

This beautiful apple kuchen was featured as a Rosh Hashanah article and I just loved the technique with the apples. They aren't slices, but are cut just part-way through so that they fan when baking. 

I took this to a brunch gathering. It's very sweet from the honey glaze, even though I only used about half of what the recipe called for. The cake itself is dense, and very gingery which I love but some people might feel lis overkill. I will definitely use apples sliced this way in the future, whether or not I use this exact recipe again. 

Though the recipe called for lemon, I only had orange, so I substituted orange zest and juice. The baby gala apples I used were just right in both size and texture. Ultimately, mine needed 15-20 additional minutes (after 45), even though my oven is hot and was close to 350 for most of the time. 

For the cake:
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), plus butter for greasing pan
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting pan
½ cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling apples
¼ cup raw honey
3 eggs
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 ounces candied ginger, diced
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 small apples, peeled and quartered

For the glaze:
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan (springform pan or removable bottom).

Cream together butter and sugar, then add honey and whip for one minute until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, until well incorporated, then whip for two minutes.

Stir in grated ginger, candied ginger, and lemon zest.

Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Blend in with wet ingredients to make a stiff batter. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Cut slits in each of the apple quarters on the rounded, outer part of the wedge, slicing partway through at 1/4-inch intervals. Arrange apple quarters slit-side-up over the batter and sprinkle surface with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Place cake pan on a baking sheet and put on middle rack of oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer emerges dry. If cake is browning too rapidly, tent with foil until done.

Cool on a rack, then carefully unmold.

Make the glaze by bringing sugar, honey, and lemon juice to a boil and stirring until sugar is dissolved. Paint surface of cake and apples with warm glaze. Cake will keep for several days, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.