Spiced pear and vanilla sponge
Skill level: Bit of effort
Transform a simple sponge recipe by adding spiced pears and vanilla – it's a great alternative to traditional Christmas cake. Cooking the pears first means this takes a bit longer than a quick sponge, but you can be making the cake mix while the pears poach so it needn't be a hassle. You can ajdust the spicing to suit yourself, or substitute apples or even plums. Make sure not too much juice from the poached fruit ends up in the base of the cake tin or it'll be soggy and cook very slowly.
- 2 conference or other hard pears
- 50ml red wine
- 25ml orange juice
- 1tsp caster sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 200g softened butter
- 200g brown sugar
- 2 medium eggs
- 2tsp vanilla essence
- 1tbsp milk
- 200g flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- 1tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp cinnamon
This makes a great dessert with chocolate sauce or ice-cream, or serve cold for a snack.
- Pre-heat oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 5.
- Peel the pears with a potato peeler. Quarter and core them, and then slice thinly.
- Put the pear slices in a pan and add the orange juice, wine, 1tsp sugar and the cinnamon stick.
- Poach over a low heat for about 10mins until very tender.
- Remove from the pan, and roughly mash about ¼ of the pears.
- Reserve the sliced pears and the poaching liquid.
- Grease and line a deep (preferably spring-form) 10cm cake tin.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.
- Beat the eggs with the vanilla essence and a splash of milk.
- Mix in 1/3 of the eggs and 1/3 of the flour and gently fold in. Repeat until all of the eggs and flour are used up.
- Add baking powder, ginger and cinnamon. Fold through the cake mix.
- Add 1tblsp of the paoching liquid and the mashed pears.
- Lay the pear slices over the bottom of a greased and lined cake tin and cover with the cake mix.
- Bake for 20-30mins until the cake is risen and golden brown. A skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out with a few crumbs but no raw cake mixture attached. If it browns too much before it's cooked in the middle, cover with tin foil.
- Cool in the tin for 10mins, then turn out upside down onto a plate, so the pear slices are on top.
- Serve warm with a spoonful of the poaching liquid.