Pear and Cranberry Cake

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Every now and then I overthink things. Deciding what to have for lunch is occasionally a three hour long process where I have to ask 20 people what I should have and by the time I’ve decided it’s practically dinnertime. Friends of mine all know they shouldn’t ask me what I want to do during a weekend, since my answer tends to be “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” While I can make important choices under pressure, in my day-to-day life I can sometimes be a bit indecisive.

Deciding on what to cook or bake can sometimes be a challenge as well. Do I go back to a favorite recipe I’ve made before that has exceptional results, or do I try something new and different? Yesterday when I couldn’t decide whether or not do something familiar or new, I decided to settle and I made a few revisions to a recipe I knew I loved.

Several years ago smitten kitchen posted a recipe involving browned butter, obscenely whipped eggs, and sweet pears juxtaposed against the bite of bittersweet chocolate. It was a cake that I loved to make and within 2 months of seeing the post for the first time I had made the recipe 5 or 6 times. I thought it was that good.

Now that the recipe is officially a go-to in my arsenal, I thought it might be time to update it a bit. Don’t get me wrong, the pear and chocolate combination is delicious, but considering Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I thought it might be appropriate to swap out the chocolate for fresh cranberries. Texturally, cranberries aren’t at all similar to chocolate, but taste wise the tart bite of the cranberries is a great substitute to the bitterness of chocolate. Despite the fact that fall spices are nowhere to be found in this recipe, a bite of it was quintessentially autumn, and I think this would be a perfect addition to Thanksgiving dinner, or any dinner for that matter.

If anyone is indecisive on what to make, I’ll help you with the decision…. make this!

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Pear and Cranberry Cake

Adapted from smitten kitchen

  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal (small grind)
  • 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (yes, a tablespoon, that’s not a typo)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room-temperature
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 pears, peeled, in a small dice
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh cranberries, sorted and washed
  • Powdered sugar and whipped cream for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with cornmeal (you could also use plain breadcrumbs or flour), set aside.

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip eggs on high until pale and very thick (beyond ribbon stage). This should take a minimum of 8 minutes using a stand mixer, 10+ using a hand mixer, and I would imagine a very, very long time if whisking by hand.

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While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once butter has melted, it should start browning in approximately 4 minutes. Do not stir for the first few minutes, but once butter starts to bubble you’ll want to occasionally stir to ensure the solids don’t burn. You’ll know it’s done when it smells nutty and the white solids in the butter turn brown. Remove from burner but leave in a warm spot so butter doesn’t solidify.

Meanwhile, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl, set aside.

Add the sugar to the eggs and whip 2 more minutes, or until the mixture just starts to loosen. Reduce speed to the lowest setting, add one third of the flour mixture, half of the brown butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Mix until barely combined, then lightly stir by hand with a spatula, to ensure all flour has been incorporated, being careful not to over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan and lightly sprinkle the pears and cranberries on top.

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Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean or with one or two tender crumbs.

Let cake cook completely, dust with powdered sugar (optional), and serve with whipped cream.

Due to the juiciness of the pears and cranberries, this cake is still moist on the second and third days, if it isn’t all eaten before then.

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(As if by magic, the cake rises over the pears and cranberries that were on top prior to baking)

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