This is my favourite cake ever. No really, I’ve baked many a cake in my day, but this one… this one I have baked once a fortnight over the past year. It’s made it to morning teas, dinner parties, brunch get togethers and sometimes just because I needed a cake to get me through the week. Doesn’t everyone?
I’m not sure why it’s so addictive. Partly it’s the irresistible combination of bittersweet chocolate and pear which can tempt even the staunchest of dessert sceptics. Or perhaps it’s the brown butter which adds a warmth and nuttiness that regular butter can’t compete with. And of course, there’s the magic of it being icing-free – saving you time, washing up and not wasting deliciousness (more of my thoughts on icing here).
This wonder-cake isn’t my recipe though, it came via Deb from Smitten Kitchen after she wrangled it from her friend Anna, a pastry chef. All I’ve done is translate the recipe into grams for consistency and tested it approximately 513 times because you can never be too sure. And you can never have too much cake.
It’s not complicated, but can yield different results (all delicious) with slight variations. A thicker batter means that the pear and chocolate will sit atop the cake (photo up top), and a thinner batter means that the batter will envelop the toppings (photo below). If you prefer the latter, with secret chocolate and pear tucked into the cake, then adding a small amount of milk helps.
I have found that the thicker version can be a little more dry around the edges, but I love the look of tiny diced cubes of pear and chocolate chips poking out the top the cake. Whichever way you cook it, I’m sure you’ll love it.
The other tricky thing about this cake is that it can be hard to tell when it is fully cooked. The weight of the pears and chocolate means that the middle of the cake will take a long than usual time to rise and fully cook through, almost fifty minutes and in some ovens, close to an hour.
Use the skewer test the first time you make it (poke a skewer into it and check that the skewer comes out clean. If there are crumbs attached, give it a few more minutes.) – this guarantees the batter is cooked through – but for future cakes, it might pay to remove it from the oven just a hair before the skewer comes out clean.
While this cake is amazing with melty chocolate and just out of the oven, a quick spell in the microwave will make sure the the chocolate is at its melty best again.
- 150 g flour 1 cup
- 15 g baking powder 1 tbsp
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 170 g sugar ¾ cup
- 115 g butter 4 oz
- 1 tbsp milk optional (see notes)
- 3 pears peeled, cut into 5mm dice (bosc are my favourite to use, but any will work)
- 150 g dark chocolate chips ¾ cup
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) loose-bottomed pan and dust with flour, set aside.
- Combine flour, baking powder and salt together. Mix with a wire whisk to combine, then set aside.
- Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick. (In a professional Kitchen Aid, it takes at least five minutes; on a home machine, it will take nine minutes to get sufficient volume)
- While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.
- Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a couple of minutes more.
- Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to lose volume, turn the mixture down to stir, and add the flour mixture and brown butter. Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume.
- Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes or a tester comes out clean.