Apple cakes abound in the fall and I am usually the first one to jump on that bake, but this year I was inspired by two ingredients to make something a little different—pears and a new spiced rum.
There are few fruits as fragrant as a ripe pear. Like apples, they taste like fall but in a more sophisticated way. In the USA, there are 10 varieties of pears and I chose the [yellow] Bartlett and the [red] Starkrimson—although in this cake, the colors don’t matter because you peel the pears.
One of my favorite desserts is a pear tart with marzipan or almond paste so I knew that I wanted the cake to have a strong almond component. The combination of pears and almond is always good but enhance them with spiced rum and it is even better! Especially when the rum is the new Canerock Jamaican Spiced Rum from Maison Ferrand and owner, master blender Alexandre Gabriel. Canerock is a blend of two aged rums from two legendary Jamaican distilleries and infused with specially sourced natural spices to highlight the rum’s character. These include vanilla beans from Madagascar, ginger from Jamaica and coconuts from the Caribbean. All flavors that complement the fresh pears baked into an almond-rich cake.
This is a cake batter you can make all year long, substituting whatever fruit is in season. In fact, I adapted it from my good friend and co-author of Whats4Dinner, Anthony Underwood. His version is made with ripe plums in late summer, but you could use this batter for just about any fruit. If you read this column, you may recognize his name from his run-away hit recipe for The Perfect 10 Year Chocolate Chip Cookies.
This recipe makes a moist one-layer cake that is fragrant with almond and spice and topped with fruit. For that reason, I prefer using a Springform pan. You can bake it in a single round cake pan, but turning it out once it is baked is tricky.
The almond flavor comes from almond flour and a small amount of almond extract. The almond flour in the batter also gives the rustic cake a denser crumb that soaks up the juices from the fruit creating pockets of custardy filling where the batter and the fruit bake together. It also holds the fruit in place as it bakes like setting stones in a ring.
First, you must start with ripe pears. And, if you don’t know how to tell if your pears are ripe or not, here is a tip that I just learned from Jim Morris of the Pear Bureau Northwest, “Check the neck. Apply gentle pressure to the neck near the stem with your thumb. If it yields to pressure, it is ripe.” I always just smelled them before but this is much easier and more reliable.
The ripe pears are arranged on top of the thick batter in a ring and the fruit bakes as the cake rises and bakes around the fruit. I cut the pears in half, remove the seeds by scooping them out with a round teaspoon or small melon baller and score the pear horizontally. You don’t have to score the pears Hasselback-style, but I think it makes the finished cake that much prettier.
This is a simple cake with a dramatic presentation and the spiced rum enhances both the almond cake, and the pears with spice and rich rum notes. Instead of vanilla extract, I added spiced rum to the batter and sprinkled the pears with spiced rum and sugar to create a fragrant crunchy finish on the fruit-topped cake.
Almond Pear Cake with Spiced Rum
This beautiful cake is easy to bake and takes advantage of the fall pear season. The classic combination of almond and pear is enhanced by an aged spiced rum. It can be served warm or at room temperature, and any leftovers will make a terrific breakfast the next day!
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup almond flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs at room temperature
1 ounce Canerock Spiced Rum
¼ teaspoon almond extract
3 ripe pears, peeled and cut in half
½ ounce Canerock Spiced Rum
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar for sprinkling
Whipped cream for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven with a rack in the middle position to 350ºF.
- Prepare a Springform pan. If you don’t have a Springform pan, this recipe may be your excuse to buy one. If you are looking for one, this is my favorite because it has a glass bottom that works nicely for serving. [Alternatively, grease a round 9” cake pan, line with parchment paper, and grease the parchment paper.]
- Combine almond and all-purpose flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl, and whisk until well-blended. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl often. Add spiced rum, almond extract, and eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next.
- Gradually add flour mixture on low speed, mixing just until no streaks of dry flour remain in the batter. It should be thick and spreadable (not pourable).
- Spread batter evenly in pan. Arrange pear halves on top of batter, and sprinkle with the spiced rum and sugar.
- Bake at 350ºF for about 50 to 70 minutes. Check the cake at about 45 minutes. My pear cake took 70 minutes, but smaller fruit may take a shorter time to bake. This can vary greatly, depending on the size and juiciness of the fruit being used.
- If using a Springform pan, remove the side of the pan after 5 minutes. Let cool for at least an hour and serve either warm or room temperature with fresh whipped cream if desired.
- [If using a cake pan, cool completely in the pan before running a knife around the edge to loosen the cake. Carefully, turn it out onto a serving plate before serving]