Sure, I’m a huge fan of BIG desserts but sometimes all that’s needed is a simple one layer number that’s packed with flavor and topped with fruit: Pear-Almond Cake.
Let me put it another way…. in fashionista verbiage: the BIG dessert is your L.B.D. and this cake is, as my Mother in Law used to say, “smart-casual”. You know the outfit, right? It’s the cute pants <or “SLACKS” as @THEToughCookie & @VinoLuci like to giggle about> or jeans paired with a fun top or sweater that’s just right for a Friday night dinner out, a casual brunch or a potluck evening with your core group.
That’s this cake ~ it’s cute but not flashy (no one likes flashy), it’s simple to make (no fuss – no muss), it comes with loads of flavor variations (pear, orange walnut, perhaps?) and is just about perfect for every occasion (breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner). I think the real beauty of this gem is that is truly an evergreen cake ~ I make it year round simply switching in the season’s ripest fruit like peaches, pluots, or apples for the pears.
So, while this recipe has a few more than 4 ingredients, like Desserts 4 Today, it is straight-forward, made with fresh ingredients, loaded with rich flavors and ‘switch-ins”.
Try this cake on and I think you’ll agree it is “smart- casual” and a perfect fit for almost every occasion.
* “Switch-Ins”: See below for a few of my fave flavor variations.
* I have given a range for the PURE almond extract. If you are a big fan, go for the larger amount. If you’re not sure how in love with almond you are, please start with the smaller amount.
* This cake is best when eaten the same day it’s baked but leftovers make for a delicious breakfast ~ slices can be warmed slightly in the microwave.
* I use a fluted quiche pan with a removable bottom but a round, straight sided 9×2 cake pan works as well. The removable bottom means that you can simply push the cake up and out of the pan ~ helpful! But…If you don’t have one with a removable, just invert the cake, slip off the pan, and invert onto your serving plate. Re-adjust the pear slices as needed.
Tips 4 Success:
*Use firm ripe pears..
This one is a bit too far gone for this cake… make pear sauce or butter with this guy.
* Mixer? I use my KitchenAid mixer with the BeaterBlade but, if you don’t have this attachment yet, use the paddle and scrap the sides of the bowl a few times during mixing.
*Oven thermometers: Make sure you are cooking at the correct temps by investing in one for the oven. I think the mercury-filled ones are the most accurate. Set it in the center of the oven, heat to 350, wait about 15 or so minutes and check and see if your dial and the thermometer agree. If not, simply adjust your dial up or down to get the correct temp.
For the cake:
6 3/4 ounces (1-1/2 cups) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup whole or 2% milk
2 firm but ripe pears (about 5 oz. each), peeled, cored and sliced about 1/16 inch thick
For the Glaze and Topping:
1/4 cup apricot jelly or preserves
2 teaspoons brandy (I use AppleJack)
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
1. Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350. Generously butter and flour a 10×2-inch fluted quiche pan or a 9×2-inch round cake pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar. Beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides, until the mixture is well combined and is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the almond extract with the last egg. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended. Add the milk and mix until just blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until just blended.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Arrange the pear slices, overlapping slightly, on top of the batter in a circular pattern (you might not need all the slices).
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 53 to 55 minutes.
4. When the cake is done, let it cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
Run a small knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Remove the cake from the pan; transfer it to a serving plate. Just before serving, heat the apricot jelly and brandy in a small saucepan over medium-low heat or heat in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl until melted and brush it over the pears. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.
* In place of the pears, switch in one of the following:
Peaches 2 medium (10 ounces) pitted and thinly sliced
Apples 2 medium (10 ounces), peeled cored and thinly sliced
Pluots 2 medium (10 ounces) pitted and thinly sliced
* In place of the almond extract, switch in one or more of the following:
Pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
Lemon zest, finely grated 1 teaspoon
Orange zest, finely grated 2 to 3 teaspoons
* In place of the slivered almonds, switch in one of the following:
Pecans, toasted and chopped 2 tablespoons
Walnuts, toasted and chopped 2 tablespoons
Hazelnuts, toasted and chopped 2 tablespoons