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Pear Cake

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This pear cake pays homage to all the tastes that my family loves. It’s a sweet honey cake with wine-soaked poached pears, sliced almonds, and a love of baking that has been passed down through the generations.

Pear Cake

I grew up eating rustic, unfrosted cakes that got their flavor from fruit and nuts – think apple cake with fresh apples on top, banana cake (which I now make as banana cupcakes), and walnut sour cream coffee cake. We had an ever-present honey jar and Dad would sometimes forgo cake entirely for toasted nuts drenched in honey.

While we never had this particular pear cake, it tastes like home.

Ingredients and Equipment

This recipe has two main components, poached pears and the cake.

The poached pears require red wine, brown sugar, a cinnamon stick, whole cloves, star anise, and lemon peel. Use a dry red wine to really infuse them with a ton of flavor. I also recommend that you get firm pears that hold their shape and texture after poaching and baking; I use Bosc pears.

Pear Cake Ingredients

You won’t need too many special ingredients to make the cake. In addition to pantry staples, it requires almond meal and sliced almonds.

Finally, you’ll need a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan to make the cake.

How It’s Made

Poaching Pears

This cake uses fresh poached pears (pears that are boiled in wine) that stand up tall and are revealed in full when the cake is sliced open. There are some tricks to making this work so the pears don’t fall onto their sides during the bake.

To make sure the pears stay upright, slice off the bottoms of the pears to make a flat surface just after you peel them.

Slicing Pear

It’s OK if they lean a little, but the pears look best when they are standing tall and proud.

You will also want to use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds from the bottoms of the pears. No one wants to bite into seeds with their delicious cake.

Deseeding Pear

Next, poach the pears:

  • Make sure to use a pot big enough lay the three pears you are using on their sides but not so big that the liquid won’t go well up the sides of the fruit.
  • Add the wine, sugar, spices, and lemon peel. Boil for five minutes and then reduce to a simmer. The red wine and spices give the the pears a lovely red tint and a wonderful rich flavor. You can poach pears in juice if you don’t want to use wine.
  • Place pears on their sides in the saucepan and cover for five minutes.
  • Flip them, cover, and simmer for another five minutes.
  • Flip back, cover, and simmer for another five minutes.
  • Flip a final time, remove the saucepan from the heat, and keep pears covered until ready to use, at least five minutes. You’ll know that they are done when a fork can easily go into a pear without applying much pressure. You don’t want the pears to be so soft that they are falling apart.

Tip: It’s totally OK to drink the poaching wine after you’ve used it to poach the pears. It’s your special treat for doing all of the baking!

Cake

Make the batter by whisking together all of your dry ingredients – flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using an electric or stand mixer, mix in honey and butter until completely combined.

Then, in another bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: eggs, sour cream, and vanilla extract.

Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined.

Grease your loaf pan and then line it with parchment paper as shown below. Greasing it will help the parchment paper stick to the sides.

Lining a loaf pan

Pour the prepared batter into the loaf pan.

Adding poached pears directly into the batter will likely ruin your cake! Many soggy test cakes have taught me that the best way to keep the moisture in the pears from making the cake too moist is to dip their bottoms in flour before setting them into the cake batter.

Pear dunked in flour

Sprinkle almonds over the top of the batter and bake at 350 F for 40 minutes or until done (see the Expert Tips section below for more information).

Lift the cake out using the parchment strips that overhang, unwrap carefully, and set on a cooling rack to cool for one hour. Dust with powdered sugar and serve!

Removing cake from loaf pan

Expert Tips and FAQs

Which pears are best for this recipe?

I use Bosc pears for this cake because they hold their shape and texture after poaching and baking.

In this recipe, where the pear is both poached and baked, use firm pears with nice long stems. The firmness will keep them from falling apart and the stems will look pretty when they stick out of the cake.Bosc Pears

How can I tell when the cake is done?

The baking time for this cake will vary greatly depending on how much moisture is in your pears and how hot they are when you put them into the batter.

To test for doneness, dip a cake tester into the center of the cake near the middle pear. If the cake tester comes out clean, the cake is done.

If the cake isn’t done and its edges are starting to burn, simply cover them with foil before returning the cake to the oven.Testing cake

How do I store the cake?

Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Did you make this recipe? Leave a review!

Pear Cake

This is a sweet honey cake with wine-soaked poached pears, sliced almonds, and a love of baking that has been passed down through the generations.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 9 servings
Calories 428kcal
Author Stefani

Ingredients

Poached Pear Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 whole star anise
  • Peel of one lemon in large strips
  • 3 Bosc pears choose firm pears with sturdy, large stems

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/2 cup extra for prepping poached pears
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup full-fat sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • Powdered sugar to taste

Instructions

Poached Pear Instructions

  • Add wine, brown sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise, and lemon peel to a saucepan wide enough to hold three pears on their sides. Give a quick stir and bring to a boil on high heat.
  • Reduce to a simmer for five minutes.
  • Peel pears and slice off the bottoms of the pears to create flat surfaces, allowing the pears to stand upright.
  • Use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds from the bottoms of the pears.
  • Place pears on their sides in the saucepan and cover for five minutes.
  • Flip them, cover, and simmer for another five minutes.
  • Flip back, cover, and simmer for another five minutes.
  • Flip a final time, remove the saucepan from the heat, and keep pears covered until ready to use, at least five minutes. If you work on the cake batter while you are making the pears, the batter should be done about the same time as the pears.

Cake Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Mix in honey and butter until fully combined.
  • In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, and vanilla extract.
  • Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined.
  • Line a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a little bit of overhang to help you easily pull the cake out of the pan when it is done.
  • Pour batter into the parchment-lined pan.
  • Place the 1/2 cup of extra flour into a small bowl.
  • Use tongs to remove the hot poached pears from the poaching liquid.
  • One at a time, dunk the bottoms of the poached pears into the flour bowl, letting the flour come just a little bit up the side of the pear. Insert the floured pears into the cake batter, standing them up with their stems sticking out the batter.
  • Sprinkle sliced almonds over the top of the batter.
  • Bake for 40 minutes. Use a long wooden skewer or cake tester to test for doneness at the center of the cake near the middle pear. This area takes the longest to cook. Depending on how hot, moist, and large the pears are, the cook time can vary. If the batter is still raw (skewer came out wet), cover the edges of the cake in foil to prevent burning and continue to bake for another ten minutes before testing again. Repeat in ten minute increments until the cake is done.
  • Use overhanging parchment to lift cake out of the pan and onto a cooling rack.
  • Cool for at least one hour and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Video

Notes

Store the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 428kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 50mg | Sodium: 223mg | Potassium: 245mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 180IU | Vitamin C: 2.9mg | Calcium: 88mg | Iron: 1.9mg
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