This cake was the product of a baking session last weekend, and represents my first ever attempt to ‘invent’ a cake from scratch. I use the term lightly since, of course, you can and should adapt cake recipes whenever you like by using a different flour or sugar, or using the nuts you have to hand instead of the seeds you don’t. And pear and cinnamon are not, let’s face it, a revolutionary pairing. But what I mean is I started without the framework of a recipe to guide me. Which is far more terrifying in baking than in other, less scientific forms of cooking, since we all know that weights and measurements mean more when there is a cake at stake.
The reason for this maverick approach was simply because I had done that thing you should never, ever do whilst shopping for clothes – form an image in your mind of the exact jacket, or in my case cake, that you desire. It can only ever end in disappointment. And so nothing I considered fitted the bill – one recipe had a crumble topping, another was more a tart than a cake, while another called for some cloyingly sweet icing. So I chanced it, made it up and hoped for the best.
The good news it that it all worked out fine – the cake rose, browned as it should and came out tasting as warmly spiced, dense and textured as I had hoped. It wasn’t much of a looker but then loaf cakes never are, and the faint smell of cinnamon-scented pears wafting through the house made up for its gnarly appearance.
My only problem was that I went a bit overboard and made more mixture than my sizeable loaf tin could cope with. Clearly the right and restrained thing to do in this situation is to fill the tin two thirds full and discard what you don’t need. But, in the spirit of the renegade origins of this cake, you could instead do as I did – fill it to the brim, wait for it to rise and develop the sort of overhang a mountain in the Lake District would be proud of, then slice it off and eat it while the rest continues to bake in the oven.
Pear, cinnamon and hazelnut cake
Makes approx 10 slices
You will need a loaf tin that’s roughly 26 cm long – or 22 cm, like mine, if you want to take a chef’s cut before it’s ready…
175g caster sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
375ml vegetable oil
3 ripe pears, or around 440g
Juice of half a lemon
350g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease your tin and then dust with flour, shaking off the excess. In a dry pan over a medium heat, toast your hazelnuts for a few minutes, shaking often and making sure they don’t burn. Remove from the pan and set aside once they start to smell nutty.
In a large mixing bowl, use an electric hand whisk to beat three eggs. Add both sugars and beat again. Slowly add the oil, beating all the time, until the mixture is well combined.
Peel, core and chop the pears into small chunks. Set aside in a small bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice to stop them browning. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Sieve into the egg and sugar mix, stirring gently to combine. Add the pears and roughly chop the hazelnuts before adding and stirring to combine.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for an hour and a half, or until a skewer comes out clean. Keep an eye on it – you will probably need to cover the cake for the last half an hour with foil to prevent the top burning.
Posted by Monks