April is always a busy month at home because it is my birth-month, and I enjoy hosting a birthday party every weekend for different groups of friends. A lot of planning goes into preparing my menu, but I always feel that the cake is the highlight of the whole evening. Among my friends, I am known for having this birthday tradition of entertaining everyone in home with a home cooked feast. I started this tradition several years ago, and over the years I might say my cakes have grown more and more lavish!
This year, spring seemed to have arrived a little earlier than what I remembered. The cherry blossoms were already in full bloom, and the fruits and berries were more plump and juicy. I saw a nice selection of different types of pears at the local farmer’s market and it brightened my day. In my excitement, I bought a few different types of pears with thoughts of making a pie. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I really wanted to have a cake for my birthday. I couldn’t imagine placing candles on a pie; the feeling just wasn’t the same.
It’s a good thing that pears make such wonderful dessert ingredients. You can have poached pear or pear cakes. I was excited about the thought of making a tall pear cake for my first dinner party of the month. I started and finished the cake on the same day of my birthday dinner rather than making the cake a day ahead. This helps to ensure that the cake stays moist and the cream is as fresh as possible. I used Nutriwhip instead of whipping cream to cut down on the dairy products since some of guests had dairy sensitivities. This pear ginger cake turned out to be super moist with an irresistible crust, and every bite of pear in the cake was a burst of flavor and sweetness. The Nutriwhip made it lighter, so it was easy to have a whole slice even after a nice meal! And it was a tall cake indeed. It can feed 12 people with generous slices! I would definitely make this cake again for any occasion.
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 lb firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup finely chopped candied ginger
1 tbsp vanilla extract
For the caramel glaze
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup cold water
3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup thick cream
1 tbsp whiskey
Pinch Kosher salt
For the whipped cream
4 cups Nutriwhip
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Preheat the oven to 350oF with one rack in the top third of the oven, and another rack in the bottom third. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with a parchment round. Butter the parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar and cream on medium high speed for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition.
Reduce the stand mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk. Be sure to start and end with the flour mixture. Beat on low speed between each addition until just incorporated. The batter will be thick and fluffy.
Stir in the pears, candied ginger, and vanilla.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and level the batter with a spatula.
Set two pans on the top oven rack and the third pan on the bottom rack, being sure to stagger the pans so that no pan is directly over top of another. Bake for 20 minutes, then swap and rotate the positions of the pans. Bake for another 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto cooling racks, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.
Make the caramel glaze: Keep a pastry brush soaked in water by the stove as you work. In a 3-quart saucier, stir together the sugar, lemon juice, and cold water. Brush down the sides of the pan to wash away any sugar crystals. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan, until the mixture starts to color around the edges, 5-8 minutes.
Gently swirl the pan once to even out the color and make sure the sugar caramelizes evenly. Brush down the sides of the pan if the sugar seems about to burn. Cook for another 30 seconds or until the sugar turns medium amber. Keep an eye on it because the mixture will darken quickly!
Reduce the heat to low and stir in the butter. Keep stirring until the bubbles settle down. Add the cream one tablespoon at a time, stirring to combine after each addition. Continue stirring until the caramel is smooth.
Remove from the heat and stir in the whiskey and salt. Strain the caramel through a fine sieve and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Make the whipped cream: Cool the bowl of a stand mixer in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Whip the Nutriwhip on medium speed until it starts to thicken, about 3-5 minutes. Add the sugar, raise the speed to medium high, and continue to whip until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes more. Raise the speed to high and continue to ship until stiff peaks form.
Assemble the cake: Line a 10-inch cake round or cake plate with strips of waxed paper to keep it clean while icing.
Put a cake layer on the strips of wax paper and top the cake layer with 2 cups of the whipped Nutriwhip, spreading evenly with a metal spatula almost to the cake’s edge.
Put the next cake layer, upside down (or flat side up), on top and spread with 2 more cups of the Nutriwhip.
Top with the last cake layer, also placing it upside down (or flat side up). Thickly coat the sides and top of the cake with the remaining Nutriwhip. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes.
Glaze the cake: Slowly drizzle the caramel glaze over the top of the cake with a spoon, making sure that it covers the top of the cake and drizzles down the sides. You don’t have to use all the caramel glaze if you are satisfied with the appearance.
Carefully remove the wax paper strips by sliding it out from under the cake.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving.