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Wow was this cake a masterpiece! For New Years Eve, we went over to a friend’s place for dinner. She has a large terrace that overlooks the Strasbourg skyline, so at midnight we all filtered out, champagne flutes in hand to cheer in the New Year and watch the fireworks lit up around the city. We had a wonderful meal with each person bringing a little something, and naturally, I was tasked with dessert, which was totally fine by me! I love to use it as an opportunity to try something new and be inspired by what is in season.
When I began thinking about putting this cake together, I start with the main ingredient I wanted to shine through, pears. Then a light frosting kept coming to mind.. something with mascarpone, not too sweet, and utterly luscious, that would match perfectly with the pears.
Pears can be quite sweet, so to counter this a bit, I only added a sprinkling of fresh chopped pear on to the top of each sponge cake layer, that had been spiced with a little cardamom and nutmeg. The pear pieces baked into the cake and made it utterly moist and just perfect! The cake rose beautifully and the result was about 75% cake to pear, so you have a nice sponge plus the perfect amount of pear flavoring.
Now, I have to tell you a little secret… in a stroke of genius, as I was icing the cake, I crumbled up some leftover chocolate and candied ginger cookies that I had hanging around… in between the layers… on top of the icing. It was genius I tell you! If you have any chocolate or spice cookies hanging around, I’d highly recommend doing this.
Next up was a trip to the local florist for flowers carefully chosen to decorate the top, including roses, eucalyptus and waxflower. Then that was that! A gorgeous creation that might just be one of my top 5 favorite cakes that I’ve done this year. It was utterly delicious.. and really hard not to have a third slice!
And on an entirely different subject, Francois and I and a group of friends went up to the Vosges mountains for an overnight hike in the snow the first weekend of the New Year. It was like a wonderland up there! Every landscape was different, from flat fields full of fluffy snow, to trees that looked like they’d been dipped in powdered sugar. At one point, we were weaving in between low hanging branches laden with snow on a thin path alongside the mountain and it felt like we had stepped into Narnia.
It was breathtaking and quite the start of the New Year. To get to this exact point, drive up to Col de la Schlucht near Munster in Alsace, via Colmar from Strasbourg. There are several brasserie’s up there for a traditional bite to eat including tart aux myrtilles, blueberry pie, which is utterly classic in the mountains. Also at Col de la Schlucht, you’ll find a winter equipment rental shop for snowshoes, because you’ll definitely need them if the snow is any thicker than what we saw!
But back to the cake shall we? or something perfect to eat after a hike like this that totally felt like an expedition to the Antarctic at times!
Lush, moist, and beautifully seasonally in the fall and winter. The frosting recipe is adapted from one by Bibby’s Kitchen. For this, I made my own caramel sauce. You can skip this step and use a good storebought one though to save on time.
For the Cake
400gall purpose flour (T55 or T45 in France)
8egg whites (275g)
For the salted caramel for the frosting:
25gbutter (salted or add a pinch of salt to unsalted butter)
For the frosting:
250gcream cheese (full fat)
120gliquid salted caramel
150gpowdered sugar (confectioners/icing)
To make the Pear Spice Cake:
Preheat your oven to 350F/165C and butter and flour three 8″ cake pans (or reuse one or two to make three layers!).
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.
In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and 430g sugar for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then alternate between adding the milk and the flour ingredients.
In another bowl, either for the electric mixer or in a regular bowl using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites with the whisk attachment. Once they start to foam, slowly add the 55g granulated sugar.
Once at stiff peak, start folding them into the cake batter in thirds using a spatula. Mix until combined and you no longer see streaks of meringue.
Divide into the three cake pans, and scatter the cubed pear on top aiming for about a handful of chopped pear per cake (you might not use the whole pear).
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown on top and it springs bake to the touch. Let cool completely.
For the salted caramel:
Get your mise-en-place together! Caramel isn’t hard, but you do have to be organized.
In a small saucepan, add the water first, and then the 100g granulated sugar.
Measure your butter, and add a pinch of salt on top if using unsalted butter. Set aside.
In another small saucepan, add the cream and the 15g of sugar. Heat over a low flame. (You can also microwave the cream, just keep a really close eye on it doing 30 second intervals at a time.)
Start heating the water and sugar, not stirring, until it is a medium amber color. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter with a heat-proof spoon watching carefully as it will bubble up. Then the warm/hot cream mixture, again stirring to combine.
Set aside to cool.
To make the Salted Caramel Mascarpone frosting:
Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature.
Beat the butter in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, and once smooth, add the cream cheese. Mixing to combine.
Add the cooled caramel. Make sure it is liquid enough to pour very easily into the bowl. It should look like a thick syrup (like molasses). If it is not at this state, heat it up again with a little extra cream (1 tbsp) and let cool before proceeding. (If your caramel is too thick, then it will not mix into the cream and you’ll end of with pieces of chewy caramel instead of a smooth icing.
Next, mix in the vanilla and mascarpone. Then the powdered sugar, adding it in thirds so it doesn’t fluff out of the bowl as you mix.
Let chill about 30 minutes and then ice the cake! Keep in a cool area or in the refrigerator until about 15-30 minutes before serving. When you’re ready to dive in, let it warm to room temperature so you can fully enjoy all the fantabulous flavors.