Perfect Coffee Cake: Italian Pear Cake Recipe
The best cup of coffee can only get better with a slice of coffee cake. One of my favorite coffee cakes is an Italian pear cake, typically called a torta di pere. This is a dense cake that gets all its moisture from the fruit. So while it’s low on butter and oil, it’s high on sugar.
No matter what brew you choose—whether it’s from a classic Italian espresso machine or it’s from your trusty one-cup coffee brewer—the coffee flavors will be heightened with the light and delicate fruity sweetness of this cake. The syrupy pears will melt in your mouth, while the cake will feel moist on the inside and crispy with crystallized sugar on the outside.
Of all the Italian pear cake recipes that I’ve sampled, the recipe from Anne Willan’s Perfect Italian Country Cooking is by far the best. Willan describes that firm fruits (you can choose to substitute apples for pears) are perfect for this cake. Since all the fruit’s moisture will be released in baking, the fruit must be firm enough to still hold its shape in the oven. This cake is most delicious when it comes straight out of the oven. But personally I wouldn’t know how it tastes otherwise, because every time I make this cake (and no matter how many extra batches I make up) it’s always gone within the first round of coffee.
For the batter:
2 oz Butter
6 oz Sugar
4 tbsp Milk
6 oz Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Powder
For the pears and glaze:
4 lbs Pears
1 oz Unsalted butter
2 oz Sugar
1. Peel and slice the pears. Roughly try to get 8 wedges out of each pear. Sprinkle some lemon juice on the pears.
2. Melt the butter into a saucepan. Add the pears and turn them over until coated with the butter. Add the sugar and heat over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the pears have turn golden.
3. Cream room-temperature butter with the sugar. Beat the eggs into this butter-sugar mixture one by one. Add milk to the mixture until it's evenly incorporated.
4. Sift the dry ingredients and incorporate the dry mixture into the wet mixture little by little. The resulting batter should feel thicker than normal cake batter. (Remember most of the moisture will come from the fruit.)
5. Remove the pears from the saucepan with a slotted spoon, saving the liquid for the glaze. Incorporate the fruit into the batter, reserving a quarter of the pears to layer them over the batter. The batter will be surprisingly thick for cake batter and it will seem like there are more pears than batter. But do not fret--this is the way a perfect torta di pere should be.
6. Pour the batter into a greased cake tin.
7. Layer the reserved pears on top of the batter.
8. Bake for about 45 minutes to 90 minutes at 350 F.
9. Cook down the liquid from the saucepan to make a delicious glaze for the cake. When the cake is piping hot from the oven, lightly glaze the cake with this mixture for a crispy sheen.
The best coffee to complement this cake would be a really dark cup of coffee that boasts both fruity notes and some buttery notes. Green Mountain Coffee Dark Magic Espresso Blend could offer perfect harmony to this syrupy, fruity dense cake. Ken Davids at CoffeeReview.com describes this Keurig coffee as giving off a “simple, roasty aroma, with smoke, toast, butter, cedar, a hint of banana-ish fruit. In the cup, [the coffee is] heavily astringent but rich and sweet-toned with gently scorched cedar and dark chocolate notes and a surprising hint of night flowers. The rich sweetness dominates the astringency in the finish.”