This was a good cake.
I have to say "was" because even though I only made it Tuesday, it's all gone now. Maybe that's how you know a cake was really good. I'd been eyeing the recipe for pear spice bundt cake in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook ever since my mother gave me a lovely and rather architectural looking bundt pan as a Christmas gift. The photo of cake in the book looked beautiful (but of course, this is a Martha Stewart cake we're talking about), but it also looked like something I'd really want to eat- a mixture of spices and brown sugar with caramelized pear compote swirled in to keep the crumb moist and fragrant.
The recipe came together easily enough, though it took me about ten times as long for the pears to cook down as the recipe advised- the only Bartlett pears I could find at the grocery store were hard as rocks, so this didn't come as a huge surprise. The cake baked for just under an hour and when I extracted it from the mold, it was golden and beautiful and it perfumed my whole apartment
Simple, unfrosted cake is the cake for me. Martha provides a recipe for a cream cheese glaze to drizzle over the top of the cake, but I nixed that in favor of a dusting of powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream and we ate this after our dinner of braised short ribs. It was the perfect dessert after a rich meal, but I could just as easily imagine serving this at a brunch, or eating a small wedge as a late afternoon snack with a cup of tea. It is a true everyday cake and I'll most definitely be making it again, and soon.
Pear-Spice Bundt Cake, very slightly modified from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 pounds ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
In a saucepan, spread the granulated sugar in an even layer. Cook over medium-high heat, without stirring, until sugar around the edge of the pan melts and begins to turn golden, 3-4 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, slowly stir until all the sugar has melted and the mixture is golden.
Add pear chunks to the caramel, and stir to coat. Cook, covered, over low heat until very soft (this will depend on how soft your pear is to begin with- for me it took roughly 40 minutes). Mash the pears until they are broken down but still slightly chunky. Continue cooking, uncovered, 5 minutes more, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour a 10-inch bundt pan, tapping out the excess (I used liquid cake release). In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, baking soda, pepper, and nutmeg; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and honey on medium high speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. With the mixture on the lowest speed, add the flour in two batches, alternating with the milk. Add the reserved pear compote and mix to combine, about 1 minute. Do not overmix.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth down. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cake is a deep golden brown and a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes (mine took closer to 55 minutes). Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. Invert the cake onto the rack and allow to cool. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.