It’s impressive how time flies by. It didn’t feel like a long time ago since I’ve packed my things and moved from Moscow to Paris, then to Brazil/Panama/Colombia, then to Canada and again to Paris.
What felt like would take forever is finally over, and now I’m finally settling between the CN Tower and some chilly winds coming from Lake Ontario.
As hard as it was to leave Paris and all the amazing people I met there, it’s good to feel like you have a place to stay, and it’s even better to have a reasonably sized kitchen again
These past five months I spent studying, baking, learning (and, erm… drinking wine) were the best I could ever have. And now that I’m back, I needed to put everything in action.
It took me some time to realize what I wanted to do, baking-wise. For the good or for the bad, I knew my way though the grocery stores in Paris, and I knew that in Canada that would be way too different.
My biggest and main complain still is about the dairy products. I feel like crying everytime I need to choose between the two or three possible brands of butter in the supermarket. The only bright side is that we have dry butter available easily in some stores (one of them happen to be right next to my house).
However, to be very honest, I could easily find almond flour, potato starch, marzipan and real vanilla in the market. I think I can live with that.
Now that groceries were sorted out, I needed inspiration. I wanted to do something with pears, but I didn’t know what exactly. All it took was this post from Linda Lomelino, which I absolutely admire. After some ideas from here and there, I came out with this amazing spiced pear cake (adapted from her recipe), maple buttercream, poached pears and salted caramel sauce.
As you can probably imagine, culinary school made me way too tough and I did all that by hand. Yes, even the buttercream. Unless you have huge strong arms like me, I don’t recommend that. Use either a hand mixer or a stand mixer for that and your life will be much easier. However, the cake is better to make by hand (no whisking involved, I promise!).
This buttercream is a little bit different from the standard ones and it is harder to work with it. It’s also a little unstable in warmer places. But I guarantee that it’s worth the trouble — it’s way less sweet than regular ones and matches perfectly with the rest of the cake.
All in all, this was a good way to get back baking at home. My friends who tried it were absolutely in heaven. I also tried a small bit — I need to lose all this butter weight I gained while in Paris — and I can assure you, this is a big hit for the holidays.
- 225 g all purpose flour
- 225 g sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp ground ginger
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 125 ml vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 75 ml sour cream
- 2 small pears, peeled, seeded and grated
- 3 large egg yolks
- 320 g (1 cup) maple syrup
- 227 g (1 cup) unsalted butter, cubed
- 500 ml water
- 150 g sugar
- 1 pinch of vanilla powder, or seeds of ½ vanilla bean
- 3-4 pears, peeled, cored and cut in half
- 220 g sugar
- 100 g butter
- 150 ml whipping cream
- pinch of salt
- Pre-heat your oven to 350°F/175°C and grease and flour two tall 5 or 6 inch (about 13-14 cm) tall pans. The smaller the pan, the taller your cake will be at the end.
- Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and the spices in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix the oil, eggs and sour cream.
- Start incorporating the dry ingredients into the wet, alternating with the pears.
- Pour this mixture into both pans, dividing equally. Let bake for about 40 minutes, allowing it to cool before removing them from the pan.
- Whisk the yolks in a bowl until it becomes light and fluffy.
- Heat the maple syrup to the soft ball stage (about 115°C/240°F).
- While whisking the yolks, pour the maple syrup over them and keep whisking until the mixture reaches room temperature.
- Once the mixture has cooled down, start adding the butter and whisk it until it becomes silky and soft. Use immediately.
- In a large pot, mix the water, vanilla and sugar and let it boil.
- Peel and core the pears and put them in the boiling syrup.
- Let them cook for about 15-20 minutes or until they become tender, but still firm.
- Once they're cool, cut them in small cubes.
- Caramelize the sugar under medium-high heat in a large and tall pot.
- Once caramelized, remove from heat and add the butter. Mix it until all the butter has dissolved.
- Then, add the cream and mix until the cream has been incorporated. Add the salt and mix.
- In case there are some small bits of hard caramel, put the pan back to heat to dissolve it. Just be extra careful not to burn your caramel :)
- Leave the caramel to cool, and use it at room temperature (about 25-27°C)
- Cut each cake in half. In a cake board, put the first layer of cake, spread a thin layer of buttercream and top with two tbsp of poached pears, diced.
- Repeat this process until you end with three layers.
- Cover the whole cake with the remaining buttercream and leave it in the fridge to let it harden, about 1 hour.
- Once the buttercream is hard to the touch, pour the caramel sauce on the top, letting it drop a little to the sides.
- Leave it in the fridge before serving.