Chocolate is one of those ingredients which is so versatile as to combine well with pretty much anything else. From sweet to savoury, vanilla to chilli, dairy, meat, nuts, fruit and even veg! I particularly like to pair it with fruit – strawberries, cherries, raspberries, bananas and coconut being among my favourites.
Pears however, take chocolate cake into a new league. Pear and chocolate is a marriage made in heaven, not just because of the compatibility of flavours and contrast of textures, but because the addition of pear to a sponge adds an incredible moistness which helps to make eating the cake a melty, gentle, succulent experience.
Recently, I have had a bit of a thing for pears. I think I got a bit bored with eating apples and seeing some rather delicious-looking pears in a wonderful little independent farm-type shop near where we live, made a switch which seems to have stuck.
The shop is one of my favourites – Macknade Fine Foods – based in Faversham, Kent. It sells a whole range of produce, much of it local, but also has a wonderful range of international gastronomic delights. I have been visiting Macknade for about 20 years and have watched it grow both in size and range. I love the fact that it supports local producers (we have some amazing food produced in Kent) and also that it is such a foodie treasure trove. It has the most amazing selection of British cheeses which you can taste before you buy and the staff have a detailed knowledge of the produce to be able to advise. I always visit when I have plenty of time to browse, and can guarantee that each time, I will discover something new.
Pears in hand, this week some of them have been used in this wonderful cake. Not having made a pear and chocolate cake since going gluten free, I have played around with my ingredients to achieve this one.
Last weekend we also made a visit to another favourite local haunt of mine – Brogdale Farm which houses the national fruit collection. They hold a number of fruit festivals each year, which have been mentioned in previous posts, and have a number of food and craft outlets. There is also a lovely miniature railway which takes you on a trip through their vast orchards. Fruit being their business, they make an amazing selection of juices, pressed from fruit in the national collection. We particularly love the Pear Juice from their Heritage Collection, which has been used in this cake.
When we visited last week, my daughter popped into one of the shops with her purse and reappeared about 10 minutes later with a new recipe book. She proudly showed me ‘Fruit’ by Kathryn Hawkins and announced ‘Mummy I bought this for both of us. I had a look through it and there are some nice recipes which I thought you could make gluten free, because you do that don’t you?’ How sweet is that? My 8 year old daughter is buying cook books for us to share!
Well how could I refuse? We looked through and found an interesting recipe for Chocolate Pear Cake and I set to work de-glutenising it. Actually, I will be honest, I have changed the sponge recipe almost beyond all recognition. I think the only direct comparison left is that it contains chocolate and pear. But I guess that’s what we bloggers do………..
This bake uses coconut palm sugar and maple syrup to sweeten, giving it a natural depth with caramel notes. I have also added a little ground almond for additional texture and flavour. The resulting cake is rich, beautifully moist, perfectly balanced with pear which gives a slightly acidic, fruity bite, and is quite delicious. It is topped with chocolate icing which provides a contrasting, slightly sugary sweetness, and some roasted pistachios which introduce a wonderful nutty crunch against the soft, wetness of the sponge.
The cake needs no accompaniment, although works well with cream or ice-cream if being eaten as a dessert. I imagine it would be pretty amazing with the addition of some sultanas too…….
I am entering my Pear & Chocolate Cake into two challenges this month :
And Shop Local (hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary) which encourages us to promote local food producers and celebrate their produce. This cake has been made with locally sourced pear juice from the Brogdale Heritage Collection, and also locally bought pears from the Macknade food store.
Pear & Chocolate Cake
25g unsalted butter
90g icing sugar – sifted
3 tablespoons almond milk (or any other milk)
Roasted chopped pistachios for decoration (optional)
- Base-line a 9 inch round cake tin (4 cm/1½ inches deep).
- Pre-heat the oven to 160 C/320 F/Gas 3.
- Weigh and mix together in a medium bowl the flour, almonds, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and cocoa, making sure any lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and maple syrup until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until well combined.
- Add the dry ingredients, juice and chopped pear to the mixture and fold until completely combined.
- Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the surface so that it is even.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the cake is ‘set’ and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Leave in the cake tin for 5 to 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the icing : Place the chocolate and butter into a small bowl and melt together either over a small pan of simmering water, or in the microwave on 30 second bursts (medium setting) stirring frequently.
- Remove from the heat and add the icing sugar and milk. Beat until fully combined, smooth and silky.
- Immediately spread onto the cake and sprinkle with chopped pistachios for decoration. Leave to cool.