It’s that time of year when people start talking about the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. I kinda think that pumpkin smells like vomit (ask my mom how squeamish I got during pumpkin carving as a kid), which is a little funny, since my birthday is on Halloween. When I was born, my mom kept saying, “It’s a ghoul!” You’d think I would be Top Pumpkin Advocate.
I’ve got punkins on the books–I’m determined to start liking them more. The Roomz’s pumpkin cookies first got me interested, but Roomz II has put in a request or two as well (cough, that’s not how this blog works…jkjk).
For now, though? Fall flavors that I’m on board with: pear, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove…also known as, THINGS I CAN PAIR WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING @_@.
It’s not really fall at all in Texas, but I saw that one of my friends in Providence used the car heater today, so it’s cooling down somewhere. Autumn or not, our pears decided to ripen right on cue, and now I’m knee deep in these babies. Since we and our friends can’t possibly consume this tree of pears before they turn into brown blobs, I’ve employed several resources (my cleverness, this appliance that made our wedding registry worth the consumerism of it all, etc.) to make raw pear juice, pear sauce, pear cake, pear pie…who knows what’s next.
This cake is the kind of thing you devour by accident before you know what’s happening. I used an old go-to applesauce spice cake recipe found on Gourmet.com, Smitten Kitchen, and last year on Crandlecakes. Swapping in pear sauce was a genius move, if I do say so myself, since I think the pears pair well (ha) with a heavier dose of spices like ginger and cloves. PLUS, I had a withering peach, which I puréed into the gloopiest yet most deliciously tart cream cheese icing.
1 cup AP flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
1 stick butter, softened (I had to use shortening because I had. no. butter. gasp!)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups unsweetened pear sauce [RECIPE BELOW]
Oven 350 F
1. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
2. Whisk dry ingredients together. In separate bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until noticeably pale and airy. Add eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly. Stir in pear sauce.
3. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix gently, just until combined. It looks clumpy–almost curdled–don’t worry about that.
4. Pour batter into pan and bake at 350 F for 35-45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or with only a few crumbs. Let cool completely. Run knife around the edge of the pan, turn out onto board or plate, then flip back over (I do this very skillfully–ha–with two plates. Flip it onto one plate first, so that it’s upside down, then press the second plate on top to make a plate sandwich, and flip again, so that the cake is now right-side up on the second plate…overcomplicate much? It’s really not a big deal.)
Peach Cream Cheese Icing
5 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used neufchatel)
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 large peach
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1. Slice overripe peach into cubes and purée in a food processor. Strain through a very fine mesh sieve.
2. Whip cream cheese and butter until creamy and fluffy. Add peach juice ⅛ cup at a time, reaching desired taste and consistency. The peachier it is, the runnier it is, but that was a price I was willing to pay. It was more of a peach sauce, but I didn’t want to thicken it and mask the peachy flavor.
3. Whip in 1 cup powdered sugar and taste. Add the rest if you think it needs it! (I did.)
Makes several quarts
4-5 lbs. pears, peeled, cored, and chopped roughly into 1-inch cubes
1 ½ cups water
3-4 lemon slices
Cinnamon, to taste
Pinch of salt
1. Bring pears and water to a simmer. When simmering, add lemon slices and cinnamon and tilt lid.
2. Cook until they are mushy enough to be smashed with a fork. This varies a lot based on the pears you use. Mine took about 20 minutes. Add pinch of salt
3. When cooled, remove lemon slices and blend with an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor. I like to use an immersion blender so I can control the texture more. I prefer a chunkier sauce, with a lot of big pieces of fruit left in. If you want a smoother sauce, purée to your hearts desire.
Serve immediately, add to a cake, or freeze in portioned containers for use later! It freezes well for baking, but not just for eating. In my opinion, freezing kind of changes the texture of the pears so that they work really well cooked into something but lose something when you try to eat it straight.
PS – Add sugar to taste if you like. I prefer tartness!