Over the years, I’ve made many many cakes that the family and I have greatly enjoyed (though some have been better successes than others), but the problem is that the times that I repeat those recipes tend to be few and far between.
Well, simply put, my penchant for buying new cookbooks means that I’m always falling in love with new and different cookbooks, with their shiny new pages and drool-worthy photos, so that the older and familiar ones tends to take a back seat when looking for something exciting to make.
So, when you’ve got a book that shows you how to make marvellous masterpieces with minimal effort, is it any wonder that ‘enamoured’ would be a complete and utter understatement for how I feel about it?
When you break it down – it really couldn’t get more simple. A plain madeira cake, poached pears, an apricot jam glaze, chopped pecans and some simple spun sugar on top. The elements aren’t that impressive on their own, but once combined, become this otherworldly beautiful poached pear halo cake.
And tell me, how could anyone resist a cake that would make angels sing?
Poached Pear Halo Cake
(adapted from The Home Guide to Cake Decorating by Jane Price)
200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
4 large eggs
100g self-raising flour
100g all-purpose flour
3 tsp milk
5-6 beurre bosc or packham pears (5 if they’re large, 6 if they’re small)
1/2 a lemon
200g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 tbsp apricot jam
2 tbsp chopped pecans
100g caster sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp glucose or light corn syrup
1. Firstly, prepare the pears by peeling the skin off, then cut the bottom of the pear level so it sits upright. Using a melon baller, cut out the core of the pear from the underside.
2. Place the water, 2 strips of lemon rind, 1 tsp lemon juice, cinnamon stick and sugar into a large pot and stir whilst bringing to the boil. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, reduce the heat so that the water is simmering, then add the pears and mostly cover the pot with the lid. Poach the pears for 5 minutes on each side (or till soft enough to poke with a fork), then turn off the heat and allow them to cool in the syrup. Once cool, drain thoroughly on some paper towels.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Beat together the butter and sugar till light and creamy, and sift the two flours together.
3. Add the eggs to the creamed butter, beating well after each addition, then fold in the flour till combined. Add the 3 tsp of milk and quickly stir into the batter till it is smooth.
4. Once the batter is smooth, grease an 18cm springform cake tin then line with non-stick baking paper along the bottom and sides. Spoon in the batter and smooth it out till it is evenly spread.
5. Carefully add the pears to the cake batter, gently pressing each pear down till you hit the bottom and leaving about 2-2.5cm from the edge of the tin (my pears were so big I didn’t actually have room!!). Place the cake into the preheated oven and bake for 60-80 minutes, or till a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. In the meantime, heat and strain the jam and chop your pecans.
Once the cake has cooked, remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to cool.
WARNING: The pears have a bit of a tendency to tip over during cooking, so keep a close eye on them and right them each time they look like they’ll fall over. It’s a pain in the butt, but the end product is worth the misery
Also, this cake is extremely delicate, so a springform pan is necessary as inverting this cake is just not an option.
6. Get ready to make the halo (aka spun toffee). Oil the handle of a wooden spoon, then prop over a counter top with something weighing down the end. Line your floor with lots of newspaper.
Prepare a bowl of ice water, then bring the caster sugar, water and glucose to the boil, not stirring but occasionally swirling the pan so the sugar cooks evenly. Once the sugar cooks to a light amber colour, quickly remove from the heat and dip the base of the pan into your ice water to stop the cooking process.
Once the toffee starts to cool, use a fork (or two) to dip into the toffee and pull out a string, then carefully flick it back and forth over the spoon handle, redipping into the pan as necessary. If the toffee gets too thick or hardens, you can warm it slightly over low heat for it to become liquid again. Once you have a substantial amount, gather into a large halo that will be large enough to go around the edge of the cake.
7. Carefully arrange the halo so it sits around the circumference of the cake, then repeat step 6 to make a smaller halo that will sit inside as a smaller halo
8. Serve it up, and listen to the rapturous ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as your lucky recipients look on at your masterpiece warning, spun toffee is NOT easy to eat, so it works better if you wait till it melts…or just mush it into your cake
[tags]cake, celebration cake, caramel, toffee, cake decorations, pears, sweets, desserts, recipes[/tags]