THE BOSTON GLOBE

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Food Section

 

Fruit in Center Makes for Cake Pear-fection

 

Most of the fruits in the market don't look great this time of year, but pears can still be fragrant and juicy. Anjou, Bartlett, and Bosc may be the most recognized varieties, and Comice pears have been gaining popularity. Round and chubby, Comice have a firm fiber and succulent taste that work well in baking. Look for smooth-skinned fruit with their stems intact. Since pears are picked from trees well before they are ripe, place them on the counter for few days. With a little patience, you can turn rock-hard fruit into ripe treats. In this cake, which is baked, frosted, and served in the same pan, slices of Comice are highlighted between layers of a moist and tender butter batter. Brown sugar in the cake and frosting gives a caramel-butterscotch flavor that enhances the natural sweetness of the pears.

 

Pear cake with brown sugar frosting

 

 

For the cake:

 

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 medium Comice pears, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup brown sugar

5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup milk

 

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Generously butter an 8-by-8-inch

baking pan.

 

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set them aside.

 

3. In a bowl, combine the pears, cinnamon, and 1/4 cup of the sugar.

Toss lightly.

 

4. In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment (if you have one)

or the beaters, cream the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar

on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until

the batter is pale and smooth.


 

5. Add the milk alternately with the flour mixture, beginning and

ending with flour. Turn off the mixer and scrape the sides and

bottom of the bowl in between each addition. Mix until the batter

is well incorporated.

 

6. Place half the batter in the baking pan. Cover with the pears and

pour any leftover juices from the bowl over the pears. Cover the

pears completely with the remaining batter.

 

7. Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes or

until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out

clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

 

 

 

For the frosting:

 

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 teaspoons milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

 

1. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar and

stir for 1 minute or until the mixture turns smooth and glossy.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside to cool.

 

2. In an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, combine the vanilla,

milk, and salt. Beat just to mix them. Add the cooled sugar

mixture and whisk until smooth.

 

3. Add the confectioner's sugar 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the

bowl when necessary. Whisk until smooth.

 

4. Using a metal spatula, spread the frosting on the cake. Cut the

cake into squares to serve.

 

A few very thin slices of pear with the cinnamon and sugar, and

glazed with the frosting, may be used to decorate a corner of the

top of the cake. They should be just visible through the frosting.

 

 

 

Makes 1 square cake.

 

 

 

-- CHRISTINE MERLO

 

 

Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company