Apple-Pear Snacking Cake

I pretty much always have apples or pears in my kitchen, they come in my Boston Organics box almost weekly so there tend to be three or four kicking around at all times. But here’s the slightly annoying thing – I don’t eat much fruit, I’ll grab a piece occasionally, I even went through a fit of eating oranges for days this summer, but in general if I want a snack I will reach for a slice of cheese or a yogurt before i grab fresh fruit. I think part of it is that I just don’t like that first bite. I find it terribly unpleasant to bite into an apple or pear if it is the least bit chilled – I know this makes me an anomaly in the world of fresh fruit eating, but I’m an odd duck that way. So eating fresh apples or pears means a cutting board or at least a bowl and a paring knife. Because, in case you didn’t know, fruit is MESSY guys, juicy and sticky it gets everywhere unless you have a bowl to catch the juice in. But I digress.

So really, you must be wondering why I spend my hard earned money on fresh fruit if I’m not even eating it – I love to bake with it. I love the way really ripe fruit will soften and pool in a jammy bite in a cake or muffin. I am entranced by any apple-spice cake combination. And a baked good with apples or pears in it is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser, for whatever reason. SO I finally figured I would share this recipe with you all. This is a recipe I’ve been using since I first picked up Flour over a year ago – I make it once a month or so (seriously, I’m obsessed with this cake) sometimes I add berries or whatever fruit I have lying around. I tweak it, I mostly follow the recipe, I coddle it. It makes my apartment smell like heaven. And, mostly, it makes a great accompaniment to coffee at breakfast or for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

If you like my facebook page you will see this cake as my header there. That picture has been there for a while and I’ve had at least three readers ask for that recipe, this is it. The difference between this cake and that one – I overcooked this one a smidge, but it’s still delicious. I also think this cake would be improved by a little drizzle of your favorite caramel sauce, because, decadent. I really do love the pear here though, it’s sweeter and cooks down a little softer than the apples so you get a little internal texture variation, which I love. If I were making this for only myself I would kick up the ginger a bit more as well, give it a little more zip, but BF isn’t the biggest ginger fan so I try not to overpower all my baking with it.

Apple-Pear Snacking Cake

This recipe is adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour Cookbook. I’ve had this cake in the bakery and homemade – and it’s perfect in both places. I am looking forward to Flour, Too so much I may offer to beta test a few recipes for Ms. Chang, that way I don’t have to wait! Ha!

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (I think some finely minced crystallized ginger would be good here too)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups of fruit (at least 3 cups should be apples/pears the other cup can be berries or whatever you’ve got on hand)- peeled, seeded and chopped
  • Butter and flour a 10″ round or square cake pan, I use an 8″x11″ rectangle and it works perfectly. Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Sift the flour, soda, salt, and spices into the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and butter. Combine at low-medium speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Add the eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated. Turn the mixer on high and beat the batter until it is light and fluffy, about a minute. I find the batter a bit thick here, but don’t worry too much about it.
  • Using a rubber spatula, fold the fruit into the batter gently, making sure there is a bit of batter on all the fruit. The batter will be quite stiff and look like it’s mostly fruit – it should, that’s a good thing. Add the batter to the prepared pan and even it out gently.
  • Bake for about 1 hour in the 10″ pan and check it at 45 mins in the 8″x11″ one. When it is done the cake with be a nice golden brown and will fell firm when pressed.
  • Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack (or somewhere that air can get around the WHOLE thing).
  • Serve the cake with a dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of caramel sauce.
  • I find this is a cake best eaten slightly warmed, the fruit gets all jammy and fragrant and it’s much more like a warm hug.
  • Serve with coffee. As breakfast, to your favorite people.

What I’m Loving Right Now

I’ve been having a lot of remarkable experiences recently – and not cooking much, so my blog fodder has been light (sorry about that!). But in the meantime let me share some stuff I’ve been loving recently:

Boston Organics – I started getting a Boston Organics box every other week back at the beginning or April, I love it the way no ordinary person should. They have the BEST customer service I’ve ever experienced and the magic of opening my box is like a present. Boston Organics also lets me create a “no-list” so I can opt out of the bitter greens and things I just don’t want in my box (like avoiding yet another pound of carrots). They also have really neat Add-Ons program – this week I have “added-on” 1 pound of strawberries, half a pound of garlic scapes, and 3 lbs of rolled oats from Maine (look for a granola recipe soon). It’s grocery love.

Fat Toad Farm Goat’s Milk Caramel – A friend recently found a Woot deal for Fat Toad Farm caramel and sent me the caramel as a gift (becasue I am super spoiled, thanks Seth!). It is some of the best caramel I’ve eaten in a long time, I want to put it on a wedge of brie with some pears. Decadence.

Hyper Local Brew Fest – This is an amazing event I’ve helped to organize and put together to benefit Sustainable Business Networks of Boston. It’s going to be on Saturday June 16th and I am so looking forward to it. I’ve met and experienced some amazing craft brewers because of it and can’t wait to meet more! Want to come? Grab a ticket here:

The Bloggess – I had barely heard of her before Friday, now I can’t stop. I added her to my Google Reader, have been reading her back posts, and broke down and bought myself a BRAND NEW hardcover copy of her book, something I never do, She is witty, wonderful, and writes about Nathan Fillion (and calls him Nater-Tater, WIN). Go check her out.

Boston Area Beer Enthusiasts Society (BABES) – My friend Kristen runs this great beer group, they meet once a month at Meadhall in Kendall Sq and pair delicious brews and snacks. This month the pairings are a comparison of west coast and east coast beers paired with east/west coast cheeses. It will be FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC.
Garden Strawberries – There has been a strawberry takeover of my backyard. I love it. A quarter of the yard is covered in strawberries. I will cut them back after the fruit is gone but until then there are perfect strawberries for munching.

Craft Beer Cellar – I went in here Saturday and it is a magical wonderful space full of well curated craft brews. I wonder if they would mind if I just moved in and hunkered down?

Warm Weather and Sun Dresses – I live in sundresses in the summer, it’s how I roll. I don’t like shorts so an arsenal of good comfortable dresses is key. I’ve been loving the Lace Affair for inspiration and fun sales. I totally got a fun pin-up dress from them which I am going to wear to this little event!

So those are a few things I’m totally in love with. Hope everyone’s beginning of summer is going well and I will be back soon with a recipe, I promise!

Update: I’ve also been watching this video on repeat. It makes me ridiculously happy.

Antonio Bakes Pear-Gingerbread Cake

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic brunch hosted by Harvard Common Press in their publishing offices – where there were many shelves of impressive cookbooks to encourage my kitchen obsessions.  One of the first books that caught my eye was Gadgetology, a cookbook for kids about cooking with specific tools that are in most kitchens (mixing bowls, whisks, spatulas – stuff like that).  As a child I had the Klutz Kid’s Cooking cookbook and, in theory, it was great but the best recipe in the whole book was for homemade play dough which isn’t even edible so when I saw Gadgetology I got excited.

I have a nine year-old brother, Antonio, who can usually be found in the kitchen with my mom – mixing things and in general getting in the way.  More than anything I have wanted to get him a good kids cookbook for a long time – I wanted him to have a book full of reliable recipes and consistent easy to understand directions that he could refer to and cherish for a long time.  So while at HCP I perused Gadgetology and, to my great delight, found it to be exactly what I was looking for.  When Adam kindly offered me a copy I did a little happy dance and started plotting.

When I got home that afternoon I showed the book to BF and explained my plan, we would get ‘Tonio a bunch of cookware to go with Gadgetology and then cook with it while my fam was visiting for the holidays.  As plans go it was pretty brilliant and I was able to come up with what I thought were some fundamental kitchenware pieces – nesting bowls, measuring cups and spoons, a paring knife and blade sheath, a small bar board, and some bamboo utensils.  So Christmas came and ‘Tonio was basically bouncing to open his big box under the tree, which I had packed to the gills with his individually wrapped Christmas presents.  He was ecstatic.

Fast-forward a couple days later and ‘Tonio and I are the first people up so we scurry to the kitchen and start perusing Gadgetology.  There were quite a few recipes that we thought looked good – Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and this Gingerbread Cake being at the top of the list.  We went with the cake – it looked breakfast-y and a great use of the excess pears we had around.  It was perfect – spicy and filling, and with the pears it seemed healthy as a breakfast option 🙂  I loved this cake, but the actual cook (‘Tonio did all the work, I was merely a guide and did some of the more challenging stirring) thought it was a little too spicy and asked that next time we decrease the ginger.  He also asked for more powdered sugar topping, so I think his priorities might have been a bit skewed.

Antonio’s Pear-Gingerbread Cake
Adapted from Gadgetology by Pam Abrams

1 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger (‘Tonio recommends only 1 tsp if you don’t like it too spicy)
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened to room temp
1/3 cup Molasses
1/3 cup Boiling Water
1 Large Egg
1 Bosc Pear, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
Confectioner’s Sugar (for topping)
Whipped Cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour an eight inch square pan. Sift flour, ginger, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl, set aside.  In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together, we just used upper arms and a whisk but a hand mixer would also work here.  Add the molasses and boiling water the the sugar-butter mixture, mixing well.  Stir the egg into the wet mixture making sure it doesn’t scramble.   Mix the dry ingredients into the wet until everything is just blended, 25-30 strokes by hand.  Fold the pear pieces into the batter until evenly mixed in.  Pour the mix into the pan and bake for 30 mins until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow the fully cooked cake to cool for five minutes in the pan and then flip it out onto a cooling rack to cool another ten minutes.  Dust the cooled cake with confectioners sugar, we made a crosshatch pattern with paper towels and it was pretty neat.  Share the cake with all of your family and make sure to let them know just how awesome a cook you are.  Especially if you’re nine 🙂