Spiced Pear Cake with Bourbon Caramel Icing

This recipe is based on this recipe at Food52.com.

Cake:
1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
5 eggs
1 cup white, unbleached all purpose flour or cake flour
2 cups soft white winter whole wheat flour or whole wheat cake flour, sifted and bran discarded
2 teaspoons cinnamon/cassia
1/2 teaspoon mace: if not available, increase nutmeg to 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon star anise (1 star anise pod)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 pears (or apples), peeled, cored, and diced
crushed walnuts to garnish top of cake

Icing:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 T good bourbon, i.e. Maker’s Mark. Also great would be brandy or Calvados
1 1/2 – 2 cups icing sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of salt

If using whole spices, as I do, use a well-heaping measure of each and then grind fresh in a spice grinder. The only spice I keep pre-ground on-hand is cinnamon which I grind fresh every couple weeks a stick or two at a time.

Cream the butter, shortening and sugars together until very well incorporated and have lightened in colour and become quite fluffy. Add in the vanilla, salt, and eggs one at a time beating after each egg just until it is incorporated.

Sift the dry ingredients together twice, discarding any bran that is left behind. Alternating with the milk, add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix just until incorporated, being certain not to over-mix. Carefully fold in the diced fruit with a rubber spatula.

Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and bake at 325F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Start checking at 1 hour and 5 minutes being careful not to over bake or it will dry out.

To make the icing: in a small pot, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and whisk in the brown sugar, cream, and bourbon, mixing until smooth. Return to the heat and bring to a boil, boiling for 1 minute. Allow to cool, and then beat in the vanilla and the icing sugar until a smooth, thick paste is formed. You want it to be thick enough to not run off the cake, but not so thick that you can’t spread it without tearing the cake. I find that icing the cake whilst the icing is still a bit warm helps avoid any tearing and allows it to adhere better.

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