Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bittersweet chocolate and pear cake

It was a beautiful summer evening last year, when at the last minute, my friends called me over for a potluck dinner. A nice get-together is always a great thing and the weather was perfect for that. I agreed instantaneously.

But after hanging up, I panicked. What should I do? What should I make? I don't have time to go grocery shopping. What can I make?

Looking around my pantry, my keen observational skills picked up on a bag of bittersweet chocolate chip. But what do I do with just chocolate - make a chocolate cake? No, I will not be one-dimensional this time!

Ok, so we have chocolate, but what else could I use? Searching high and low, I came across a few ripe pears I bought at a sale. Then, it clicked. At the farmer's market, I had a fantastic crepe with pears poached in Zinfandel wine and with a chocolate drizzle.
Now, I clearly didn't have Zinfandel wine in stock, but at least, the pear and dark chocolate chips would make a great combination. And fortunately for me, it seems that Deb in Smitten Kitchen had a winning recipe combining just those two ingredients - luck was clearly on my side today!

And so I dashed forth and prepared this cake.

Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: One 9-inch cake pan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, separated
1 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of sugar
3-4 Bartlett pears cut into small pieces
3/4-1 cup bittersweet chocolate (and a little something extra for the cook)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray (although the left over butter wrapper is great too.)
2. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl - flour, baking powder, salt.
3. Brown the butter. Heat it until it starts forming brown bits at the bottom and smells nutty.
3. Add the sugar to the egg yolks and whip it well.
4. Add the dry ingredients and the brown butter alternatively to the sugar-yolk mixture and mix until barely incorporated.
5. Here's where I differ: Whip the egg whites until they gain a lot of volume and form soft peaks (I tried to get it to whip as much as I could in the short time which was not a lot) - Deb simply whips the entire egg and then adds the batter in which seems to work great, but I like it this way.
6. Mix 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter to soften it up. Then fold in the remaining egg whites, until just incorporated.
7. Pour into the pan and sprinkle the pear and bittersweet chocolate chips on top.
8. Bake for 30-40 minutes until it's golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

The folding of egg whites into the batter adds to the fluffiness to the cake and gives it a souffle like texture. I recommend it for all future cakes - even though it's a little more tedious, it's definitely worth it.

The cake was fluffy and delicious. Folding in the beaten egg whites just dramatically increased the volume and the air made it fluffy. And oh my god! The flavors of the pear and the bittersweet chocolate are unbeatable.

This cake was a definite hit at the dinner and one of my friends who is not a fan of pears became a convert after this cake.

Personally, this cake falls in the top tier of my baking creations - get it? "Tier" - as in cakes - sorry, my jokes are really corny.



  1. My oh my, that sounds wonderful! I'll be going up to Oregon to visit my family next week and they have a big pear tree in the backyard, I'll have to whip this up as a treat for everyone :)

  2. Look like you are a fan of Deb, I too. this pear chocolate cake looks awesome.

  3. This sounds like something I'd love! I don't think I've ever tried pears and chocolate together but it sounds really good! Maybe you should call in convert cake? LOL! :) My jokes are corny too. :)