Tag Archives: mascarpone

Gingerbread Cake with Poached Pears and Mascarpone Cream

14 Feb


When you’re married to a lady who likes to make cakes as much as I do, your choice of birthday cake can sometimes require a bit more intense concentration and debate than ever thought logical or necessary. It goes without saying that I have no problem at all making someone a birthday cake as simple as a classic chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, but if anyone so much as mentions that they might want a cake made of something a bit more adventurous, it’s all systems go in my mental cake Rolodex.



How about fruit? Chocolate and fruit? Citrus and chocolate? Citrus and cream? Fruit and cream? How about all of those ideas, because maybe I’ll just make two cakes? (Which, incidentally, I have totally done before. And then I stacked the cakes on top of one another, sandwiched some mocha cream in between them, and made my husband remember why he puts up with slightly obsessive cake talk at all hours—because cake talk turns into cake eating and, oh, yes, it all makes sense now.)


This year, after, once more, talking myself in and out of making more than one cake for my husband’s birthday, we settled on a single cake with a few show-stopping qualities. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to my husband’s 2013 birthday cake: spicy dark gingerbread, layered with smooth mascarpone cream, and studded with juicy poached pears. Just fancy enough to satisfy my desire to make a spectacular cake for a special birthday, but also bursting with classic, humble flavors that provide the cake with a bit of comfortable familiarity. This cake may look like a big burst of song and dance, but it tastes like a giant, loving hug. Which makes for a very happy birthday for anyone.


Last Year: Crisp and Hearty Homemade Granola Bars

Gingerbread Cake with Poached Pears and Mascarpone Cream

Gingerbread Cake

Adapted from Epicurious

1 cup Guinness extra stout or dark beer

1 cup mild-colored (light) molasses

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 8-inch-diameter cake pans. Bring stout and molasses to boil in heavy medium saucepan over high heat. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda (mixture will foam up, so be prepared to move pan to the sink if the foam threatens to escape over the sides of the pan). Let stand 1 hour to cool completely.

Whisk flour and next 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. In a separate medium bowl, whisk eggs and both sugars to blend. Whisk in oil, then stout mixture. Gradually whisk stout-egg mixture into flour mixture. Stir in fresh ginger.

Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into centers of cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks; cool. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap each cake separately in plastic and keep at room temperature.)

Poached Pears

4 cups water

¼ cup sugar

juice from 1 lemon

3 medium-size firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled, sliced in half, core and stems removed

Bring water, sugar, and lemon juice to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pears. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until pears are very tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool pears in syrup. You can poach the pears up to a day ahead if you like, then store the pears, still in their poaching liquid, covered in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to use the pears, drain them thoroughly in a colander or strainer, discarding the liquid. Slice the pears lengthwise into thin strips that can be fanned out in a circle on top of the cake layers.

Mascarpone Cream

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch of salt

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine mascarpone, cream cheese, and butter. Beat on high speed until light and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly add in powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating until combined. Add the vanilla and salt and beat on high speed for about 3 minutes, until everything is smooth, creamy, and fully combined.

To assemble cake, Place one cake layer on a large platter. Spread on 1/3 of the mascarpone cream, leaving clear about a ½-inch edge. Cover the cream with a concentric circle of pear slices. Place another layer of cake on top, cover with half of remaining cream, then cover with another circle of pear slices. Repeat for final cake layer.

Because the mascarpone cream and poached pears do not provide the most stable structure, it is a good idea to stabilize the cake with a few wooden dowels (or trimmed wooden chopsticks, or trimmed wooden skewers). Simply clip 3 dowels or skewers to the proper height, then place them in a circle in roughly the middle 2/3 of the cake. This will keep your cake layers from sliding off of one another. When you are cutting and serving the cake, simply remove each skewer as you get to it.

Pear and Mascarpone Pizza

13 Jun

There is pretty much no end to the dedication I will show in order to cobble together a dessert.  If I can make this dessert by mining the depths of my refrigerator, even better.  There is satisfaction to be found in saving food from eminent disposal, sure, but one can definitely intensify the delight of that satisfaction by churning out a dessert so unexpectedly fantastic, so effortlessly decadent, you might just have trouble believing that this delicious thing you just Frankenstein-ed into existence is a hodgepodge of leftover bits and pieces from other meals.

While it’s true that this recipe is based on using up a bit of leftover pizza dough (and by based, I mean that both literally and figuratively, since the pizza dough provides a crispy base for the pears and mascarpone, but also serves as a nice method for utilizing the last third of a batch of this dough), it by no means tastes like a second rate dessert.  That a very simple combination of ingredients can be joined together to make something this incredible seems almost unfathomable.

Softly sweet mascarpone cheese is baked into a deep, caramelized custard while it sits atop a bed of simple, fresh pears.  The humble pizza dough base, previously left to rest in the refrigerator for several days, transforms into a flaky, crispy pastry that achieves all the flavor of a Danish pastry dough, only with none of the work involved.  To top off the list of this dessert’s nearly unbelievable attributes, the entire thing, luscious and toothsome as it is, is made with a total of only three tablespoons of sugar.

Truthfully, I am finding it exceptionally difficult to do anything other than gush about this luxurious pastry concoction, because, to be quite honest, I had no idea it would turn out this good.  When I took a bite of it, I actually froze a little and thought, “What IS this?”  Even though I knew exactly what it was, since I had just taken the time to make it.  Now, one week later, having worked my way through several bites, I feel a bit more prepared to answer my own question.  What is this?  It is simple, it is delightful, and it is not to be missed.

Interested in more ways to use up refrigerator leftovers?  Here is another scavenger recipe of mine that was posted on Indie Fixx, where I write a regular food and cooking column called Melting Pot.

Pear and Mascarpone Pizza

If I were to make one very important suggestion about this dessert, it would be that you use a very well-rested pizza dough that has had time to ripen in the refrigerator.  What do I mean by ripen?  Well, the longer you let your dough rest in the refrigerator, the more time you are giving the enzymes in the flour to convert to sugar.  This extra bit of natural sweetness in the dough not only gives it a great flavor, but it also allows the dough to caramelize a bit while baking in the oven, giving the dessert base a much more intense flavor and pronounced crispness without the need for added butter or sugar.

Pizza dough (preferably aged in the refrigerator for 2-3 days) for 1 pizza

2 pears, peeled, cored, and cut into thin slices

1 tablespoon turbinado or raw sugar

4 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 large egg

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Hand stretch dough into a 12-14 inch round.  Place dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle half a tablespoon of turbinado sugar over the surface of the dough.  Reserve the remaining half tablespoon of turbinado sugar and set aside.

Arrange the sliced pears over the top of the sugar-sprinkled dough.  I found it very easy to fit all the slices neatly on the round by arranging them in concentric circles, but you may arrange the pears however you want.

Combine the mascarpone cheese, egg, white sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Whisk thoroughly to combine.

Drizzle the mascarpone mixture evenly over the pears, covering as much of the surface as possible, but leaving a 1/2 inch of dough uncovered at the edges.  Sprinkle the pears and cheese with the remaining half tablespoon of turbinado sugar.

Bake pizza for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese has caramelized in places and the edges of the dough have turned golden.  Cool slightly before eating.

%d bloggers like this: