The creation of this cake resulted from two things: First and foremost, a massive craving for something sweet (ever experience that?) and secondly, I had two pears on the verge of death that were pleading to be used. What goes well with pears? Caramel. What goes well with caramel and pears? Walnuts. At least those are the associations my brain made anyway. And somehow it all came together and resulted in a cake that is out of this world delicious.
Winter here in Washington State means that it’s dark between 4:30-5:00pm. The significance of that for me as a food blogger and mother of very young children is that it makes getting work done for my food blog a major challenge. Let me elaborate. Taking step-by-step photos requires not only a lot of multi-tasking, but very fast multi-tasking so that the food doesn’t get ruined by waiting too long to take pics before moving on to the next time-sensitive step (not to mention a speedy photo shoot of the final dish before it starts looking…well, unappetizing). It requires advanced planning, careful attention, and quick action. Various food and kitchen items are laid out at various stations throughout the kitchen. Cutting boards, bowls, plates, knives, boiling pots of water and sauces, pans sputtering with oil or butter. And of course a very tripping-prone tripod and all-to-easily-shatterable camera and any other food props involved. Now imagine all of this going on with two rambunctious kids, 3 and 18 months, running around the kitchen.
Chaos doesn’t begin to describe it. The words “perilous” and “ER” also belong in that equation somewhere.
What I’m getting at is that by the time my husband gets home from work to watch the kids so that I can get to my blogging stuff…it’s dark! The solution? Sacrifice all of my family time on the weekends (not an option) or…the ever-dreaded “artificial lighting.”
Natural lighting is the food photographer’s best friend and artificial lighting comes with some challenges, including a fairly steep learning curve to “get it right.” Ohhhh, the horrible, horrible appearance of food under bad artificial lighting! Well, I used my artificial lights for the first time on this cake. This Caramel Pear and Walnut Cake witnessed the launching of my artificial lights on their maiden voyage and good fortune was my luck. So this cake was at the center of my triumphant little victory over Washington’s dark season.
Dark-too-early Washington Winter nights: You have not defeated me!! I laugh at your gaping void (HA!), I dance in your black shadows, I brandish my lights in the face of your dark, cold depths!
Okay, let’s eat some cake!
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Chop up the walnuts.
Toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes on 350 F.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.
Mash up one of the pears. Set aside. The more ripe they are, the more flavorful they’ll be.
In large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, melted butter, eggs, mashed pear, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat until combined.
Dice the second pear. Set aside.
Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture.
Stir the pear chunks into the batter.
Pour the batter into a well-greased 9-inch springform. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes (yes, just 25 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
5 minutes before the cake is done, combine the brown sugar, butter and cream in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes until slightly thickened.
Add the toasted walnuts and continue to boil for another 3-4 minutes.
Ah, the lovely cake fresh from the oven!
To help the caramel seep into the cake, puncture some holes around the top of it with a toothpick.
Pour that luscious walnut caramel sauce over the hot cake, spreading it evenly.
Let the cake sit for 5 minutes before removing the sides of the springform. This cake is best served warm.
- 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts toasted for 10 minutes in 350 F preheated oven
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 5 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large very ripe pear, mashed
- 1 large very ripe pear, cut into ¼ inch cubes
- For the Caramel Walnut Topping:
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and generously grease a 9-inch springform.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, eggs, butter, mashed pear, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat until combined.
- Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Stir in the diced pear.
- Pour the batter into the springform and bake for just 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- To make the Caramel Walnut Topping:
- Five minutes before the cake is done, combine the brown sugar, butter, and heavy cream in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Add the walnuts and boil for another 3-4 minutes. Pour the topping over the hot cake. Let the cake sit for 5 minutes before removing the sides of the springform.
- Best served warm.