Nostalgia and Cake: A Match Made in Heaven

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  Today’s guest is Lisa Jensen. Welcome, Lisa!

I wanted to make a special dessert for dinner with family friends and I was feeling nostalgic for my childhood.  My grandparents immigrated from Denmark and had a bakery.  I grew-up enjoying buttery almond pastries.  I’d never had this cake but it sounded delicious and a bit indulgent.

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Makes one 9-inch cake

2 to 3 very ripe pears (I used D’Anjou)

1 cup cake flour, divided

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups caster or superfine sugar

7 ounces almond paste

1 cup butter, at room temperature and cut into 1-tablespoon cubes

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

6 large eggs, at room temperature

Confectioners sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan or springform pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and butter that, too. Dust the pan with flour and shake off any excess.

Peel the pears and cut them into very thin slices from stem to bottom. Starting at the outside perimeter of the pan, place the pear slices in tight concentric circles until you’ve covered the pan’s bottom.

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In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of cake flour, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

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In a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of the cake flour until the almond paste has mixed with the sugar to form a sand-like substance.

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With the food processor running, add the cubes of butter one at a time. When the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla and almond extracts.  Process until the batter is smooth and light.

Add the eggs one at a time, processing after each addition.

Add half of the dry ingredients and pulse a few times. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and pulse the machine until the dry mixture is just incorporated. The batter will be light, fluffy, and thin.

Pour the batter over the pears, then bake the cake in the center of the oven. Check it after 50 minutes, at which point in may look like an ominous white blob. Cook it until the top is nicely browned and the center is not too jiggly.  There was enough batter to fill two round 9 inch pans (mine overflowed in the oven).

Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen it from the sides. Let the cake cool completely, then invert it onto a cake rack. Invert it once more if you want the pears at the bottom and the crackly, golden-brown side facing up. Dust it with confectioners sugar and enjoy.

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Lisa Jensen (above, left) is a psychologist in Louisville, Colorado. She is married to Carl and they have 3 outrageously fun kids.

This cake is a European love child, inspired both by David Lebovitz’s Almond Cake (in turn adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere) and Mimi Thorisson’s Italian Pear Cake. (less) —Sarah Jampel   Food52.com

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