Honey Cake With Caramelized Pears

I’ve already baked with apples and pumpkin, ginger and molasses. And today was a day for cake, a real, rich cake you cut into and serve on its side, like an odalisque on a gold-rimmed plate. This is a milk and honey cake. On Valentine’s Day, 2002, Malcolm took me to a super secret speakeasy called Milk & Honey. We felt like international men of mystery and intrigue and romance and coolness, like Adolph Menjou meeting Chloe Sevigny in a darkened alleyway. But, I digress. This cake feels like autumnal bounty, like harvest in a land of earthly delight. It makes itself fancy with a sticky pear glaze, but isn’t arrogant at all. You can eat it in your underpants and everything.

Honey Cake with Caramelized Pears
Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • pat of butter
  • 1 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

For the caramelized pear topping:

  • 5 Anjou pears
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • dash of cinnamon

Method:

For the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch springform pan. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl; set aside. Mix eggs and sugars on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until pale and thick, about 3 minutes.
  2. Whisk together honey, milk, oil, and zest. With mixer on low, add honey mixture to egg mixture; mix until combined, about 1 minute. Add half the flour mixture; mix until smooth. Mix in remaining flour mixture. Pour batter into pan.
  3. Bake until dark golden brown, about 50 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of cake; carefully remove sides of pan. Transfer cake to a platter. Top with pears. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

For the caramelized pear topping:

  1. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar and cinnamon, stir for a minute or two. Add thinishly sliced (I peeled mine) pears and cook, stirring gently for approximately fifteen minutes.

I would not hesitate to bring this to a Thanksgiving celebration at Great-Aunt’s Mary’s, or devour it in private in a state of casual undress, while listening to Serge Gainsbourg, and, let’s face it, weeping a little. Either way!

Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.

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