Conference pears

My ever-loving husband brought back some pears from the shop the other day and the first thing that popped into my head wasn’t, ‘Awwwwwww! He cares deeply about my well-being and remembered my recent comment about wanting to get more fresh fruit/veg into my day because, no matter how hard I wish, chocolate isn’t a nutritional equivalent and the crap-filled snack machine at work is not my friend (pause to draw breath…) – it’s the little things like this that make me love him more…’

Oh no.

It was more along the lines of, ‘Fan-bloody-tastic! My boy’s a mindreader! Now I can make that cinnamon pear cake with vanilla fudge sauce that I’ve had filed away since the dawn of time and was wistfully dreaming about the other day. Hurray!’

Then I had to go back to the shops and get the rest of the ingredients but, hey, it was the spur I needed to try out this recipe.

cinnamon-pear cake - closeup

And oooooooh – it’s a keeper! I think I’m going to start up a Hall of Fame for Outstanding Cakes and make Nigel Slater the first inductee/honorary president for life. What more could you want than a softly-crumbed, almost pudding-like cake, stuffed with cinnmon-infused pears and, the killer move, a sexy vanilla fudge sauce to top the lot off?  Oh. My. Word. This cake is the business and then some. Time for another slice, methinks… 

Cinnamon-cooked pears

Cinnamon pear cake with vanilla fudge sauce by Nigel Slater, from Sainsbury’s Magazine.

Serves 8

You’ll need:

For the pear mixture:
740g ripe pears (I used Conference pears)
1/2 lemon
40g butter
3 tablespoons unrefined light muscovado sugar
1/2 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake:
200g unrefined golden caster sugar
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the vanilla fudge sauce:
95g unrefined light muscovado sugar
95g golden syrup
50g butter
142 ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

And… 24cm/9½-inch loose-bottomed (springform) cake tin, lightly buttered and lined with greaseproof paper.

1. Peel the pears and core them. Cut them into chunks and drop them into a bowl of cold water, acidulated with a few good squeezes of the lemon, which will stop them going brown.

2. Melt the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a shallow pan over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Drain the pears and add them to the pan, taking care that they don’t spit at you. Let the pears cook until they are tender and the sauce is thick and coats the pears. Stop before the sugar turns dark and bitter. Set aside to cool.

3. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. To make the cake, put the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Add the eggs and a little of the flour alternately, so that the mixture doesn’t curdle. Fold in the remaining flour and then the cooked pears with their syrup.

4. Scoop the mixture into the tin and smooth lightly. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until risen and golden, then check with a metal skewer (it should come out clean).

5. Remove the cale from the oven and leave to cook before lifting out of the cake tin.

6. To make the sauce, put the sugar, syrup and butter in a small, heavy-based pan and bring to the boil, stirring only enough to stop it sticking. Stir in the cream and the vanilla extract and cream (watch out, the mixture can foam a bit at this point), and leave to cool. The sauce will thicken.

7. Sprinkle some extra muscovado over the cake and serve with icecream and fudge sauce.

Cook’s notes

All that fruit can make things a bit soggy – I found it took an extra 20 minutes in my oven to make sure this was cooked in the centre.

cinnamon-pear cake