”Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” – George Eliot
Delicious quote. I’m not sure how I made it through my entire life never having heard it. (thanks Jackie T!) Back to school, fall, the papery sounds of dry leaves and mucky sounds of wet ones – it all adds up to one thing for me: after school cake. If you’ve never baked a cake to eat on a sunny (or rainy!) fall afternoon, you should. One sweet, short, attainable project is a very satisfying thing. Also, it makes me very happy to see my kids come in the door, drop their backpacks and get that giddy look: Hey – it smells good in here!
An after school cake shouldn’t be a show-off cake or a time-consuming cake. There’s this dried apple cake from Cook’s Illustrated that I used to make all the time. But it’s kind of the overachiever type, and it is pretty fabulous, lush with apple flavor and a melting texture. Sad that it’s such a pain. You have to simmer the dried apples with cider until all the liquid is absorbed, then puree them with applesauce. Add the dry, then the wet, then the dry ingredients. A lot of rigmarole and dirty bowls. I think dragging out the food processor pushes me over the edge. It’s just an after school cake after all.
Then I had an epiphany in the form of Pear Cardamom Cake. It comes from a Swedish cookbook that is put out by one of the larger Swedish grocery stores – think Safeway. (As if Safeway could produce such a fantastic book – ha!) A Safeway cake is actually a fairly terrifying prospect. Pear Cake with Cardamom is another story.
Attitudes about baking come from a totally different place in Sweden. Swedes have a long baking tradition but unlike American bakers they bake without any angst. I have never encountered a Swedish recipe that requires sifting, alternating the wet and dry ingredients, simmering then pureeing. Often you can get away with one bowl. You could mix the whole thing with a fork. Which is what I like about this cake. Which is why I had to translate the recipe. A child could make this cake. An adult will love this cake. A delicious autumn and a happy fall.
Pear Cake with Cardamom
- 1 stick of butter, melted
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2-3 tsp cardamom – if your cardamom has been sitting around already ground up for awhile – add the larger amount; freshly ground – 2 tsp should be enough
- 1 egg
- 3/4 c. + 2 tbsp milk
- 2-3 ripe Bartlett pears (if they aren’t lusciously ripe – don’t even bother – just use a can of pears, in pear juice, drained then cut up) Peel them and cut them into 1/2″-3/4″ pieces.
- fine fresh breadcrumbs from the heel of a loaf of sandwich bread or dried breadcrumbs from a box – about 1/2 cup
- 2 tbsp slivered almonds
- 2 tbsp pearl sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350.
3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and cardamom with a fork.
4. Add the egg and milk and mix using the same fork.
5. Stir in the melted butter.
6. Fold in the pears
7. Turn the batter into the prepared cake pan.
8. Toss the almonds and pearl sugar over the top.
9. Bake for 40-45 minutes and cool on a rack with the sides of the pan loosened but not removed.
This cake can be eaten warm – I would wait about 20 minutes once it comes out of the oven.
If you have no IKEA nearby or if you hate to go there, here is a link to order pearl sugar: Lars Own Swedish Pearl Sugar
I hate to write an “Easy” recipe with a sort of obscure ingredient but it is a truly easy cake and the crunch that the pearl sugar provides – you just can’t duplicate it easily with other sugar products. The almonds + the sugar = very satisfying crunch.