I was really craving a homemade dessert. Cake, ideally. Something with a seasonal flavor, but definitely not one of my standby apple or pumpkin-flavored sweets. A more unique choice.
Luckily I came across a newish issue of Bon Appetit in the house that had just the thing: a luxurious walnut-and-olive-oil-based cake topped with pears resting in a caramel-y pomegranate syrup. Perfect! Pears aren’t as ubiquitous at my house as, say, bananas are, but they are easy enough to find at the market. Plus I feel like pears are often underrated as a dessert. This was definitely going in the right direction as far as uniqueness.
The recipe begins with making a syrup that lines the base of the pan, AKA cooled caramel that eventually ends up being the top of the cake once the pan is turned rightside up. No problems there. It consists of pomegranate syrup and orange juice that is combined with sugar and butter then reduced. Soon after the pears are added to the pan in order to soften the fruit and release some juice. They seemed to need a little more cooking time than listed in the recipe, but this was easily remedied. After a second round of syrup reduction I was able to pour the caramel over the pears and add them to the only spot in my freezer available for the cooling period. On to the cake portion!
The cake batter is created by using both a food processor and an upright mixer. It seems excessive at first but makes sense: first of all, the processor is needed to grind the walnuts into a flour, and secondly, there is very little chance of beating 4 eggs without a mixer. So in the end I had a lot of dishes to do, but no biggie- this is what I get for making something besides brownies!
The olive oil/egg/ground walnut/all-purpose flour batter is then poured over the cooling-in-the-freezer pear/caramel mix and ready for the oven. The baking times listed seemed too short in my opinion. I definitely had to go past the suggested 50-60 minutes when the middle seemed raw after an hour. A few minutes later and all was ready for cooling.
I thought the end result was lovely, if not slightly misrepresented in the title. The idea that this is a “spiced” cake is going a bit too far, in my opinion. The bosc pears match wonderfully with the tartness of the caramel syrup. The cake itself is rich and slightly nutty, a great base element for the sweet-yet-tart top. Why so little spice flavor? The recipe calls for a 1/4 tsp of cardamom, which to me wasn’t enough to register in the final baked product. So overall a spice fail, but really the cake is too beautiful to complain too much.
Recipe Credit: Bon Appetit
Kitchen Mess: 3 out of 4 starts. Not too terrible considering the steps involved. I feel the need to warn everyone that this contains a bunch of sticky ingredients.
Recommended For: Upside Down Cake Enthusiasts, People Looking for Recipes that Use up Pomegranate Syrup, Something to do with Extra Bosc Pears.
Not Recommended For: Anyone looking for a traditional spiced cake.