Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pear Gingerbread Cake

A couple of months ago I read about this Pear Gingerbread Cake on the Food in Jars blog. I have now made it four times; twice it turned out amazing and twice it was a disaster. What was the deal? This is the story:

Attempt #1: I made this cake shortly after reading about it on Food in Jars. It was amazing. Moist, flavorful, and fluffy. I told Ryan that I thought it was the most delicious cake I'd ever made.

Attempt #2: Excited about the first cake, I made it again for my friend, and fellow grad student, Lisbeth's colloquium. This time I decided to add two pears instead of one. I also used slightly thinned yogurt instead of buttermilk (see recipe). The batter was very thin and the cake took FOREVER to bake in the middle - so long that the edges were seriously dark and crispy. Essentially the batter was too liquid-y - the cake had almost burned on the outside yet wasn't baked through in the center. I was so disappointed that Ryan even offered to run to Fred Meyer's at 10 o'clock at night to buy me a cake mix (or whatever would make me feel better) so I could make something else for Lisbeth's talk. In the end, I managed to salvage the baked, but not burned, portions of the cake. After all, grad students aren't terribly picky about free food. Even though I was disappointed, I knew there was potential for this cake to turn out so much better, so I tried again.

Attempt #3: Thinking I had learned my lesson about adding extra pear, I made the cake again in Kodiak for Patrick and Zoya's solstice party. Despite following the recipe exactly, I made one stupid mistake: I didn't bake it long enough! I used an 8x8" pan rather than the 5x9" pan I have at home. Once again, I was able to salvage some piece around the edge for the party, but I was STILL disappointed.

Attempt #4: Determined to make that fluffy, moist, delicious cake again, I've been saving a pear, waiting til it gets nice and ripe to make the cake again. Tonight was the night. Apparently the fourth time is the charm - it turned out exactly like it was supposed to.

Hopefully I have finally figured out all the bugs in this recipe and I can make this cake consistently from now on. The most important things I've learned? Use the 5x9" pan, don't add more than one pear, and don't underbake!!

Here is the recipe from Food in Jars:

Pear Gingerbread Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup cane syrup or honey (I used honey)
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (or some plain yogurt thinned out with milk - be warned, this didn't work out for me!)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup peeled and finely chopped pear (I used one pear - don't use two!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease baking dish.

Cream butter and brown sugar together. Once they well integrated, add molasses, honey, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla extract and grated ginger. Mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.
Add dry ingredients to wet and mix to combine. Once they are well integrated, fold in the chopped pears.

Scrape batter into the greased baking dish and bake for 25-35 minutes. It is done when the edges pull away from the corners of the pan and a tester comes out mostly clean.

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