As much as I will miss the fruits of summer, the juicy berries, melons, and stone fruits that are so willing to be made into pies, galettes, and anything else the heart desires, it cannot be denied that fall fruits definitely offer their own merits. Apples straight from a garden tree are as crisp and fresh as they come, and when baked in a quiche or pie (or cake or turnover or Danish or strudel or…where was I going with this?), there is no better way to usher the newness of autumn into your home.
Unless, that is, you make this pear cake. As much as I adore apples, I love pears even more. Whereas the crispness of an autumn apple seems so bright and friendly, a ripe pear, with its delicate softness and perfume-like juice, is understated, almost modest. I’ve been wanting to make a pear cake for ages, not just in the interest of, well, eating cake, but also because there seem to be dozens of recipes around that involve baking with apples, but not enough that encourage people to bake with pears.
Because ripe pears are so much softer than apples, I knew that no matter what I chose to do with the pears before folding them into a cake, they would most likely melt away when baked. Using this to my advantage, I took the added juiciness of the pears as a hint to explore another lesser-seen tactic in the world of cakes: I decided to make this cake vegan.
I am not a vegan (this should be obvious to anyone who has spent any time at all on this site), but I have spent a great deal of time in the company of vegan housemates, co-workers, and now, fellow kindergarten families. It has always seemed like a crying shame that there are so few recipes for vegan baked goods that don’t involve simple pantry ingredients. Whereas a vegan is wary of dairy and eggs, I am equally as wary of “natural” margarine and fake sour cream, so I figured I’d reach across the aisle here and create a vegan recipe that called for simple, basic ingredients.
It was not so surprising to discover that it was not at all difficult, and I think you’ll soon see that the result is not lacking in any way. To be completely honest, the fact that this cake is vegan is the least of its accomplishments. The cake flour gives the cake an incredibly delicate crumb, and the brown sugar bakes into a deep toffee flavor that hits all the right notes when combined with the shredded pears. This is a tender, moist cake that is perfect for showcasing the joys of autumn fruit, and regardless of whether you prefer Rice Dream to ice cream, it’s a solid addition to any recipe collection.
I auditioned two versions of this recipe, and the results were exactly the same. I am not sure why I am even mentioning that I tried out two different versions of this cake, except perhaps to stress the point that I really did want to make this cake as simple and delicious as possible, and, even when fiddling around with the ingredients and baking times, I found it impossible to make this cake taste bad. If you don’t have cake flour on hand and don’t feel like going out and buying some, I recommend you use unbleached all-purpose flour that has been sifted two times, rather than once, before being measured.
1 ¾ cups sifted cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 cup lightly packed shredded pear, juice included (I got this much shredded pear from 2 medium-sized pears)
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9 or 10-inch bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, mix together oil and brown sugar until smooth. Fold in shredded pears. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until just combined. Add the vinegar, and mix quickly to incorporate. The batter will foam a bit when the vinegar reacts with the baking soda.
Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top of the cake appears no longer liquid, and is spongy-firm to the touch. Do not insert a cake to test for doneness until at least 30 minutes of cooking time have elapsed. The cake is rather delicate, and poking it prematurely will cause it to deflate. When you do insert a cake tester for doneness (after 30 minutes), the cake tester should emerge with just a few moist crumbs attached.
Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely. The cake will be extremely delicate when still warm, so handle with care. Serve warm or at room temperature.