I know what you’re doing at this very moment. You’re looking at the above theme for the Cookbook Challenge, then you’re looking at my pictures of cake, and now, lastly, you’re either rolling your eyes or applauding my ability to take absolutely any theme and turn it into a justification for dessert.
I shan’t deny it. The “Hearty” theme does, at first glance, lend itself towards thick stews, pasta bakes, enormous vats of risotto and even-larger vats of cassoulet.
But I promise, it also lends itself to cake. Hear me out.
One easy justification is that it uses berries (with their antioxidants) and almonds (with their healthy fats). Heart-healthy antioxidants + heart-healthy fats = heart-healthy cake (minus the, erm, butter/dairy-free spread) = Hearty.
But that’s not my real reason.
My real reason is this:
As you know, my grandpa went to hospital last week and underwent a five-and-a-half hour complicated surgery. While, for a 91 year old, he has certainly come through the ordeal spectacularly well, there’s no denying the fact that his recovery will be long and often uncomfortable. It’s not my place to discuss details here, but suffice to say that my mother, grandma, and uncle are currently working in shifts to make sure someone is with my grandpa 24/7.
When I stopped by my grandma’s house to give her a hug, she mentioned that she’d been craving something sweet these past few days.
Although it was but an offhand comment, I immediately had a lightbulb moment. You see, I hate being unable to help with the vigil, but what I can do is bake and, most importantly, bake to show my love and support.
This cake, both dairy- and gluten-free yet still wonderfully rich, nutty, sweet, dare-I-say-moist and moreish, is a representation of my love for my family. And love is, of course, associated with the heart.
Therefore this cake qualifies for the Hearty theme. Don’t you think? Maybe? Just a little? Just this once?
Deliciously Wicked Upside-Down Pear and Almond Cake
From Wicked by delicious.
What follows is the exact cookbook recipe, which I didn’t follow to the letter as I lacked pears. I’ll explain what I did with the recipe at the end.
- 1 tb brown sugar
- 200g unsalted butter (I used Nuttelex, a dairy-free spread)
- 200g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs, lightly whisked
- 200g almond meal
- 2 tb self-raising flour (I used gluten-free self-raising flour)
- 2 tb blanched almonds (I used slivered)
- 1 large pear, skin on
- Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 23cm round cake pan with non-stick baking paper. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the base.
- Using an electric beater, beat butter/Nuttelex and sugar until pale and creamy and the sugar has dissolved. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Add the almond meal and flour and mix well.
- Cut the pear lengthways into 1 1/2 cm slices, arrange in pan over the brown sugar. Sprinkle almonds in the gaps. Spread batter over pears.
- Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 mintues in the pan before serving warm or cold with custard, cream, or ice cream.
What I actually did: I didn’t have a pear, so I left out the 1 tb of brown sugar and replaced the pear with 180g frozen mixed berries. I made the batter as stated in the recipe, and spread it directly into the tin. I then dotted the frozen berries and slivered almonds over the top of the batter.
In theory, this swap worked perfectly, and it was certainly delicious, but I had massive issues with getting the cake to cook through (I’m guessing because of the liquid-y-ness and/or frozen-ness of the berries). I baked the cake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, because it clearly wasn’t done at the 45 minute mark, then let it rest for about an hour. At this point I cut the cake in half, only to discover that it was still completely uncooked. I put the cake back in the tin, covered it with foil, and baked it at 180°C for – who knows?! – about 30-45 minutes more. To be honest, it was still quite “moist” at this point, but delicious enough that I decided to release it into the world. P.S. What with the final texture and all, the cake became perfect when warmed slightly in the microwave and served with muchly cream. All to the good and the love.