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« Small Pear and Almond Cakes »

Poached pears are delicious served on their own, or as a complement to ice cream or pound cake. But they are also delicious nestled in tarts and cakes. This recipe for Small Almond Cakes with Poached Pears is a great example of this. No time or desire to bake individual cakes? No problem. Bake a 9 inch cake, with the poached pears decoratively placed on top.



Do you remember those lovely bourbon-poached pears that I recently blogged about? Well, they are back, nestled inside moist almond cakes. 

This recipe was originally published in Gourmet Magazine in 2006, but I took the license to add a few of my own touches to it -- some of which worked out better than others.

For the poached pears, the recipe suggested using "12 small seckel pears, 2-3 inches long". I substituted 12 small barlett pears, which were easier to peel, core and poach. As you can see above, the pears were about 6 inches long, but I liked the fact that they were tall enough to "pop out" of the individual cakes. 

The cake batter contains 1 1/2 cups of ground almonds, 2/3 cups of flour and no leavening (i.e. baking powder or soda). This initially made me a little nervous, as a heavy, nut-laden batter seemed like a set-up for a "dead-baked" cake. But the batter manages to rise nicely and the cake is moist -- not overly dense or heavy.

The first time that I made the cake batter, I substituted whole (unblanched) almonds for the blanched almonds which are recommended.  As you can see above, the almond skins altered the color of the batter to dark brown, which is not necessarily bad -- but some might find it astetically unpleasing. But more importantly, the skins added unnecessarily bulk to the batter, which made the cake heavier (This cake has a very delicate crumb when made with unblanced almonds.) I would therefore definitely use blanched almonds for this recipe.

And then there is the issue of the ramekins. I am the first to admit that these little cakes are lovely. But in all honesty, it is tedious to prep and fill 12 individual ramekins.  It is also cumbersome to bake and store them. Then there is the fussy factor.  Ah, I said it. I hate that word! The individual cakes lend themselves well to a dinner party, but might seem out of place in a less formal setting.

So the next time I made the cake, I decided to change things up a bit by baking the cake in a 9 inch spring form pan and fanning the pears on top, like a frangipane tart.

I also substituted bosc pears, which are larger and firmer -- hence making them easier to slice and transfer to the top of the cake.

As you can see, the cake came out beautifully. I served it with some of the reduced (bourbon) poaching liquid and a dab of unsweetened whipped cream.

Less formal, yes.  But the individual cake still screams "wow". Either way, give it a try.  You won't be disappointed. 

The printable recipe is here.

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