After spending some time working in York recently, I also took the time to discover the city’s intriguing chocolate history.  Now that I  have returned to Dorset, hardly a day goes by when I am not tasting fine chocolate or experimenting with sweet and savoury cacao dishes.  It will be great to share those with you in the coming months, but for now this rich, dark cake is perfect to share with friends at your local Macmillan coffee morning Or serve it warm with chocolate sauce and a generous spoonful of marscapone on the side for a decadent Sunday lunch pud this weekend.

 

For my recipe, to serve eight portions, you will need…

400g (1 lb) pears, peeled, cored and sliced

150g (6oz) golden caster sugar

150g (6oz) spelt flour – we used Marriage’s light spelt for this recipe.

6 level teaspoons of baking powder

75g (3oz) cacao powder – if you cannot find cacao then opt for the best non-alkalised cocoa powder that is available.

3 medium free range eggs

150g (6oz) butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons milk

 

Oven Settings

Preheat conventional stove to 160 C or Gas Mark 3.

2-oven AGA place grid shelf on the floor of roasting oven, pop a trivet inside of your AGA cake baker, replace the lid and pop inside on to the grid shelf.

3 and 4-oven AGA slide grid shelf on to bottom set of runners.  Ensure plain shelf is cold in readiness to slide over the cake when you put it in the oven.

5-oven DC or TC AGA check temperature for baking oven and adjust as necessary if set to slumber.

 

Method

Butter and line a 20 cm (eight inch) loose bottomed cake tin with baking parchment.  If you are baking your cake in an AGA select a heavy duty baking tin ideally anodised aluminium rather than a light coloured thin tin that will absorb the heat too quickly.

Cream the butter and sugar together until it is pale, light and fluffy.

Sieve the flour, baking powder and cacao together.

One at a time, crack the eggs and add to the creamed butter mixture along with a heaped tablespoon of the sieved flour and fold this into the mixture.  Once all of the eggs are added, fold the remaining flour and cacao into the batter.

Finally add the milk and combine well.  Spread half of the cake mix into the bottom of your prepared tin, making sure that it covers the base evenly.

Reserving the neatest slices, add a generous layer of pears on top of the mixture.  Repeat with another layer and finish with the pears.

Bake for approximately an hour, check and adjust as necessary.  We find that this type of cake will usually need another 15 – 20 minutes cooking time, but it will depend on your type of oven.

To ensure that the cake is cooked through, insert a skewer into the middle and this should be clean when removed. If this isn’t the case, t pop the cake bake into the oven and set the timer for another five minutes or so.

When the cake is done, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin. Then carefully remove and place on a cake rack until needed.

If you like, gently warm a little crab apple jelly in a pan and then brush this over the pears to glaze them.

Serve with pouring cream, marscarpone flavoured with amaretto or creme fraiche.

Cooks tips

  • We collected pears from our orchard, these were slightly under ripe although ideal for baking. This recipe will work equally as well with apples or plums.  Alternatively ring the changes and add blackberries gathered from the hedgerows this weekend or some autumn bliss raspberries if you have a few canes in the garden.
  • If you are baking your cake in an AGA select a heavy duty baking tin ideally anodised aluminium rather than a light coloured thin tin that will absorb the heat too quickly.
  • This cake will freeze well and keep for three months. If you have the time, make two and once it is cold, wrap the second and pop into the freezer.  However it will not store well at room temperature, so if you are not going to serve it on the day it was made, keep it in the fridge or a cool larder overnight.  Gently warm the cake in the oven or take time to bring it back to room temperature before you serve it.
  • If you are using the AGA baking oven, we prefer to use the cold, plain shelf at the beginning of the cooking time rather than towards the end. The shelf will reflect the heat for 30-40 minutes, depending on your AGA, and then you can either choose to remove the shelf so that the cake browns further or slide another cold, plain shelf above if necessary.
  • When using a loose bottomed cake tin, we prefer to slide this on to a plain baking sheet whilst baking the cake.