This French-style pear cake is a wonderful combination of tender-crumb cake and juicy chunks of pear. It's easy to make and perfect just as it is for a snack or dressed up for dessert.
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We do definitely love apples in our house and get through a lot of them, but I still think pears might be my favorite fall fruit. Maybe it's partly that they are a bit more temperamental and it's worth waiting until they are in season locally, but there is something special about a good, just-ripe pear.
Cooking with pears
Much as I enjoy raw pears, I also find pears are really nice to cook with. The two most classic methods are poaching or nestled in a batter, whether cake or otherwise.
French cuisine seems to share my appreciation of pears since they appear in a few classic dishes. Many French recipes combine poaching and baking, having you poach the pears in a syrup first.
I can understand that this helps enhance their sweetness and makes for a softer texture, but if you dice the pears as here, it doesn't really feel necessary. As a result, this cake is a lot less fuss to prepare, but the result is still most definitely delicious.
This cake was an instant favorite in our house. I don't bake larger cakes too often as we sometimes struggle to get through them unless we know we have visitors to help. Some friends helped us with this and it was quickly and happily enjoyed by all.
It's sweet, but not overly so (I have reduced the sugar from traditional recipes as I'm less of a sweet tooth but it's certainly still sweet enough). It has a lovely light texture and the juicy little chunks of pear are an extra treat as you eat it, too.
Tips for making this cake
This cake is pretty easy to make but there are a couple things to keep in mind to help it be a success.
You start by creaming the eggs and sugar together, then add the butter. This might seem a bit unusual - you often cream butter and sugar together first - but the reason is this way you get a bit of air into the mixture as the eggs and sugar combine and the sugar starts to dissolve.
So take a few minutes to get the mixture glossy, but also don't beat heavily (you're not making a meringue).
For baking, you are best to use ripe but still gently firm pears. Very ripe pears will tend to fall apart and bruise easily. Under-ripe won't have as good a flavor, so just ripe is the best fit. I feel like I'm writing about Goldilocks saying that, but hopefully you know what I mean!
Use a teaspoon or melon baller to help get the core out. Pear flesh is relatively soft, so this is a great easy way to remove the bit you don't want to eat.
In terms of the additional liquid, some recipes use milk and others use sour cream. I've gone with crème fraîche as this is a French cake after all. And the smooth texture and slightly sour flavor works well.
Don't skip the sugar on top! I know you might think the cake is sweet enough already, but the sugar on top gives a lovely little crust once it bakes. And it's really nice as you take a bite.
This French pear cake is a wonderful combination of soft, tender cake and juicy chunks of pear. It's easy to make and the result feels more fancy than the effort involved. There's no need to tell, just let everyone enjoy, as they will!
Try these other tasty cakes:
- French lemon yogurt cake (a classic French cake, that's also light and delicious)
- German plum cake (more of a bar, in some ways, but incredibly tasty)
- Sour cream mocha cake (great with a cup of coffee)
- Plus get more dessert recipes in the archives.
I'd recommend using a springform cake tin for this such as this one to make this easy to remove from the pan.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
French pear cake
- 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour 175g plain flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 pears (ripe but not overripe)
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup sugar 100g
- ½ cup unsalted butter 115g, melted
- ¼ cup creme fraiche 60ml
- 2 tablespoon sugar to top
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180C and line an 8in/20cm springform round cake tin.
- In a small-medium bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Peel and core the pears. Cut them into a relatively small dice, around ½ - ⅔in (1 ¼-1 ¾cm). Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and ½ cup sugar until the mixture is relatively glossy and the sugar is starting to dissolve. Add the butter in a steady stream while whisking it in at the same time. Add the creme fraiche and mix this in as well.
- Mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture and stir until combined but try not to over-mix. Fold in the pears carefully so that they are mixed through but you don't break them up.
- Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin and spread the mixture to the edges with a spatula and flatten out the top. Sprinkle on the 2tbsp sugar then bake for approximately 40-50 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake is a gentle golden brown color.
- Leave to cool on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before loosening around the edges to remove from the cake tin. Works well both served warm or at room temperature, as it is or with cream/creme fraiche on the side.