If there were ever a time to go easy on oneself, we think perhaps this would be it. Whilst the days are getting incrementally longer, there’s no pretending that the lack of daylight seems to have a knack for making Lockdown 3.0 even harder than its predecessors. And so, we think it’s all about finding joy in the little things- things that might, in another time, have made you feel self-indulgent… even guilty. It might be a lie in. It might be that 5pm G&T. Or, most joyful of all, you might choose to seek comfort in cake form.
We’ll humble-brag enough to say we’ve had the recipe for this particular cake requested enough times to merit putting it in public domain, and a chilly, dark Sunday afternoon in January seemed to fit the bill nicely.
Pear, cardamom & hazelnut cake
For the pears:
3 Williams Pears, as ripe as possible, de-cored and cut into 6ths
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (preferably unwaxed, but if not it’s worth rubbing gently under hot water to remove the outer layers of wax. Trust us).
5 tbsp brown sugar
2 pinches of ground cinnamon (not ‘sweet’- regular is preferable here) & 1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 star anise
1. Place the pears and the rest of the poaching ingredients into a small, heavy-bottomed pan
2. Cover with water (just) and the poach gently until tender and the liquid has reduced slightly. Remove from heat, remove pears from liquor, and reserve both.
For the crumble topping
100g plain flour
75g fridge-cold salted butter, cubed
2tbsp plus of demerara sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 small handful toasted flaked almonds
1. Using cold hands, crumble the butter into the flour until it reaches breadcrumb stage, with a few good clumps. Add in the other ingredients.
For the cake base:
175g butter, cubed and slightly softened
85g caster sugar
85g light brown sugar
80g blanched hazelnuts
2 free-range eggs
165g plain flour, mixed with 2 ¼ tsp baking powder & a pinch of salt
3.5 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tbsp whole milk
1. Grease and line a 23cm springform tin, and preheat your oven to 170 degrees.
2. Beat the butter and two sugars together with electric beaters until creamy and whipped. Don’t skimp on this stage.
3. Meanwhile (but whilst paying attention) toast your blanched hazelnuts in a dry pan until you can smell them, and they’ve turned a tempting golden colour. Remove them immediately to a board and chop them finely. If you use pre-chopped and roasted, these will still need going over with a knife.
4. Add in your two eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate in between.
5. Gently add in your flour mixture, your chopped nuts, and your cinnamon, using a spatula. Make sure you try to retain all the air in your batter.
6. Gently loosen the batter with the milk, and then spread (with a light hand) across the bottom of your tin.
7. Place the pears across the batter carefully, and then top with the crumble mix. Sprinkle with a couple of tbsp of demerara sugar, and place into oven for 53 minutes.
8. Whilst the cake is cooking, reduce the pear liquor until syrupy. Once your cake is out of the oven, pour syrup gently over the top whilst still warm.
Because we’re a restaurant and we have the time (and inclination) to be a little fancy, we serve ours with pear crisps- mandolined slices of pear dried slowly in a low oven, drizzled with honey and then dipped into more chopped hazelnut. We then top it off with a big ol’ scoop of Chiltern Ice Cream co. Brown Bread ice cream, which we’re smug enough to say they make just for us (but you can still get your hands on, if you ask us nicely). But, do what you like, and garnish with whatever else brings you comfort. Perhaps that G&T?