While spring is all about fresh green shoots and the promise of future harvests, autumn comes with a last flourish of flowers, yellowing leaves and the fulfilment of those harvest. In just a few months we’ve moved from pear blossom as weather was starting to warm up…
To an autumnal chill each morning, and a tree heavy with ripening pears.
I pick the pears while they’re still hard, and they finish ripening off the tree… I remember reading somewhere that this was the way to do it, and it seems to work.
Except there are still some pears that are eaten before I can pick them. The blackbirds are the main culprits. Then, when the birds have pecked the fruit enough for them to fall into the grass and start to soften, the wasps move in.
Once picked (before the birds get them) and ripened, the pears are perfect for lunch with some bread and cheese. They make a good jam too – pear and ginger is really good on hot buttered toast in the morning. And they’re not bad in cakes either. The inspiration for this cake came from a recipe in Gennaro Contaldo’s Italian year (a good book to get hold of if you like Italian food and seasonal cooking). A few tweaks, substitutions and adaptations later and here we have it – a suitably autumnal pear & cherry cake.
Delicious though it is, this is a fairly sturdy cake – more a pudding than a feather-light sponge for afternoon tea in the garden. But that’s appropriate for autumn – you’ll need something to fill and warm you up after a couple of hours raking up leaves. Even better, you can layer on more autumnish flavours by serving a slice of the cake with mascarpone whipped up with stem ginger – a perfect partnership.
This will be an almost last minute offering for September’s Cheese, Please! There’s fruit in the cake, and cheese in the accompaniment, so it just about fits the cheese and fruit theme.
Pear & cherry cake with ginger mascarpone
125g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
3 free range eggs
150g plain flour
100g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
2 small pears, peeled, cored and fairly finely sliced
50g sour morello cherries
10g flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 180oC, 350F, gas 4, or Aga roasting oven with the cold shelf on the second set of runners (see, I’m learning this whole Aga baking stuff!) Grease and line the bottom of a 20cm (8”) loose bottom cake tin.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time – beating well between each addition to get a smooth and creamy mixture. Fold in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder. Make sure they’re thoroughly combined, but don’t over mix.
Scrape the cake mix into the prepared tin and smooth over the top. Sprinkle the dried cherries evenly over the surface, then the pear slices and finally the flaked almonds. Gently press the fruit and nuts into the top of the cake mix – just enough to make sure they won’t rise up and fall off as the cake bakes.
Bake in a preheated oven for 50 minutes or so, until a skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the tin on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before removing from the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature with a good spoonful of ginger mascarpone.
2 knobs of stem ginger – the type that comes in syrup in a jar, finely chopped
about 2 tbsp syrup from the jar of stem ginger
Whip up the mascarpone, ginger and syrup together in a bowl. Taste and add more syrup to taste if needed. Chill until ready to serve.