I live in Minnesota, where the maple trees are now being tapped. Yes, its a bit of poetic dreaming, but this makes me long for a little country home with my very own maple trees, big red barn, and sprawling garden. I conveniently ignore the “back-breaking labor” part of that dream. While I don’t get to live the bucolic life here in the middle of the city, I’m fortunate enough to have access to the local, delicious maple syrup from nearby (not to mention a few fantastic farmers markets).
I love maple syrup, though this wasn’t always true. The fact is, for most of my childhood I’d never had the real thing. I detested the overly-thick, sugary mess that most restaurants labled “maple syrup.” At home, we usually had a berry syrup, as getting real maple in rural North Dakota wasn’t an option at the time. Once I finally had a taste, I was hooked. I couldn’t believe that it was nothing like the gloppy corn syrup-based knock-offs I had been exposed to. It was thin– delicate almost– and just sweet enough.
A friend recently told me about a fantastic cake recipe by David Lebovitz— one of my favorite accomplished chefs. This maple walnut pear cake is perfect for this time of year. It’s one of those desserts that’s simple to throw together and toss into the oven, yet the result is so much more than an ordinary cake. The flavor-combination is beautiful. The maple syrup, walnut, and pear build off of one another, while the cinnamon binds them all together. This is a moist cake that gets better with each passing day. I think I even prefer it on the second day when the glaze really gets a chance to soak in. But seriously,who’s going to wait that long for a piece? Try it– you’ll love it. And for goodness sakes, don’t forget the whipped cream!
The Recipe: Maple Walnut Pear Cake
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3 ripe Bosc pears (I used D’Anjou and they worked fine), peeled, quartered, cored, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Make the topping: Combine the maple syrup and 1/4 cup dark or light brown sugar in a 9-inch cake pan or a cast-iron skillet. Set the pan directly over the heat on the stovetop until it begins to bubble; simmer gently for 1 minute, stirring often. Remove pan from heat.
Sprinkle walnuts evenly over maple mixture in the pan, then arrange the pear slices over the walnuts. A pinwheel pattern works perfectly.
Make the cake: In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt). In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or by hand, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup light brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Gradually mix in half of the flour mixture, then stir in the milk, then add the remaining flour mixture. Mix just until combined.
Scrape the batter over the pears in the pan and carefully smooth into an even layer. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in the pan.
Run a knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Invert a serving plate, or cake stand, over the pan, and carefully invert cake onto it. Gently lift the pan off of the cake and arrange any walnuts that may have gone astray.
(Note: Apples can easily be substituted for the pears in this cake.)
Source: David Lebovitz’s: Ready for Dessert
One last note…Food Bloggers across the country are uniting on May 14 to help fight childhood hunger. In Minneapolis/St. Paul the bake sale will be held at 920 East Lake St. Mpls, MN 55407 — in the Midtown Global Market. The hours of the sale are 11:00am-4:00 pm. I hope you come out and support this important cause.
Hope you are all well and enjoying a bit of spring! As always, I appreciate your comments!
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