This has to be one of my favorite cakes to make, and eat. It’s rich, moist and simple, and so very elegant. This is a perfect cake to serve with afternoon coffee or tea, if that’s your thing. It’s chocolate, so you know I don’t really need an excuse to make or consume it. In the summer when my farm Libertad Urban Farm has ripe Asian pears from our trees, one or two eventually end up on this cake. I’ve also used Bartlett and Anjou pears. Really any ripe pears will do.
I once made this cake on a Friday evening without sampling. I fell asleep with dreams of waking up and having a slice with my late morning coffee. I knew the kids would be surprised to have morning cake. I woke up around 11 am – I sleep late on Saturdays, and was just SOO excited anticipating a piece of cake. What I saw was a massacre!
My beautiful chocolate cake had no pears on top, and what was left was an asymmetrical blob of fudgey stuff. I wanted to cry. After a very loud inquiry, I learned that my second eldest daughter – who is a chocolate junkie, had “only two pieces.” Sobbing hysterically, she explained that during a late night kitchen forage, the cake was so good she couldn’t stop eating it. I was livid but couldn’t punish her. She seemed genuinely sorry and disappointed in herself. I took it as the ultimate compliment and made a second cake right away.
Hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife, this cake is satisfying everybody!
9 inch cake pan (DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT USE A SPRINGFORM PAN)
Caramelized Pear Topping
- 1 cup of turbinado or demerara sugar (regular white sugar is fine, too)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 large Asian pear or 2-3 smaller pears, peeled, cored and sliced into 12 slices (use an apple slicer to core and then slice down the bigger slices. Works like a charm.)
- 1/4 cup (a half of a stick) of butter
- 4 oz (or 4 squares) of semi-sweet baker’s chocolate
- 1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup of unsweetened baking cocoa powder (Trader Joe’s makes a sufficient and inexpensive one for less than $5)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup turbinado or demerara sugar (again you can sub with white sugar)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup half & half or whole milk (I prefer half and half. If you want a ridiculously moist and creamy tasting cake, try heavy cream…your thighs will not be pleased but your mouth will be!)
Butter your cake pan and set to the side. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and stir until dissolved, cover with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil. The lid is important because the water will go back into the mixture and keep the sugar from getting crusty and crystalized. After about 2-3 minutes, turn your burner down to low, uncover and allow to continue to boil while gently swirling the pan until the sugar becomes a dark amber color, about 10-15 minutes. Quickly but carefully (this stuff is HOT HOT HOT) pour into the bottom of your cake pan. Allow it to harden (about 7-10 minutes) then take your pear slices and fan them on top of the hardened caramelized sugar. VOILA! Isn’t that purdy?
In a double boiler, melt your butter and chocolate, stirring occasionally. Watch carefully – you don’t want it to burn!
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda with a whisk to aerate (this makes for a lighter cake. You could sift but ugh the mess. Check out Joy the Baker’s awesome post on sifting and aerating while baking). Transfer the melted chocolate mixture to a mixing bowl or to the bowl of your stand mixer and add sugar. With a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment and beat on medium until fluffy (if using a hand mixer use the regular beaters).
Add the eggs one at a time (tip: crack your egg into a separate bowl and then pour into mixing bowl this way if any shells get into the egg you have an opportunity to scoop them out. If you’re a rebel then go ahead and crack them into the mixing bowl, but you run the risk of having a pastry with shells in it.) Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides after each addition to ensure it is well incorporated. Add your vanilla.