a year between cakes February 18, 2010

I remember sitting at my desk early last year and an instant message window popped up – "! ! !" was all that was contained in that box, followed by a link. We had been friends – and secretly dating each other in our minds without the other knowing it – for some time. I clicked that link and it took me to a recipe on Smitten Kitchen's blog – pear and bittersweet chocolate cake. I wanted to impress him. Show him how well I could cook. Woo him with food. 

So for his birthday, I made the cake. Timidly toting that cake in its pan to his birthday party. He swooned and raved about it – and didn't share a piece with anyone. To this day, he still tells people that I made him this cake last year. He's also still telling people that I made it four times to make sure it was just right (which is true, I can embarassingly attest.)

This year, I made him this cake again. After his birthday – but only slightly – as an early Valentine's Day treat. I only had to make it once…and I made it in a kitchen we share together. While the circumstances around the cake have changed – this one got shared with friends and was instantly devoured – the taste of it hadn't. Dense but still light. The flavor combination of the pear and the chocolate woven together with a slight whiff of nutty browned butter. It's one of the most remarkable cake recipes I've ever made – you won't miss the frosting or frou-frou touches. I'm sharing the recipe here so you don't miss out on sharing it with someone else. 

Al Di La's Torta di Pere – Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake – original recipe found here at Smitten Kitchen 

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, at room-temperature
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 pears, peeled, in a small dice (I used anjou, but would recommend a softer variety, like a bosc or any other of your favorites)
  • 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

– Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with breadcrumbs (I cheated and used flour), set aside.

– Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.

– Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick. (In a professional Kitchen Aid, it takes at least five minutes; on a home machine, it will take nine minutes to get sufficient volume)

– While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.

– Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.

– Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to loose volume, turn the mixture down to stir, and add the flour mixture and brown butter. Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume.

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes or a tester comes out clean.


Dana Feb 18, 2010 11:02 am

What a sweet story! And delicious looking cake. I love pears and chocolate together.

Amy from She Wears Many Hats Feb 18, 2010 11:02 am

This does look delish. And no doubt you impressed his socks off. I’ve never thought of pear and chocolate together but it sounds perfect as you describe it. Can’t wait to try this – soon!

Jen Blehm Feb 18, 2010 11:02 am

Awww. Happy anniversary and thanks for sharing a slice with me this year! xo

mara Feb 18, 2010 11:02 am

This cake sounds amazing, and I love the story that goes along with it.

Sean Feb 18, 2010 11:02 am

Lucky guy! ;)
Great story as always t and you already know how I feel about your recipes/photos! :)

vivefresh Feb 18, 2010 11:02 am

I remember that birthday gift…and the stingy birthday boy who wouldn’t share ;) Cheers to creating many more sweet memories together!

Lindsay C Feb 18, 2010 11:02 am

It kind of looks like Pennsylvania Dutch “Funny Cake” but with pears! I will definitely have to try it!

Maria Feb 18, 2010 12:02 pm

The cake looks wonderful. Sweet cake and story:)

barbara Feb 18, 2010 01:02 pm

Congratulations on a year together Tami. An interesting method to make this cake.

Michelle Feb 18, 2010 02:02 pm

What a great story, and a beautiful recipe to go with it.

Ciaochowlinda Feb 18, 2010 03:02 pm

SOLD! I want to make this cake right now.

Caitlin Feb 18, 2010 07:02 pm

I can’t help but go “aaawwwww” and smile goofily at that story :) And then giggle that you made it four times just so you knew it was right!

Beth Feb 19, 2010 08:02 am

Your story is so sweet and I love that you made it again for him this year. Do I see a tradition forming? I just got a recipe last week for “Engagement Chicken” but don’t have anyone to make it for right now… keeping it tucked away, along with this recipe for dessert!

Tisha Feb 19, 2010 09:02 am

What a sweet story! Inspired by your posting last year, I made this cake for my bf’s birthday a few days after Thanksgiving. It was perfect–sweet but not too rich after a weekend of feasting. Happy anniversary and thank you for sharing your relationship with all of us.

my spatula Feb 19, 2010 02:02 pm

sooo sweet! pear + chocolate…how can you beat that?

joey Feb 21, 2010 06:02 pm

Very sweet story :) And delicious looking cake!

Mowie Feb 23, 2010 11:02 am

Oh that looks lovely and I bet it tastes divine. I was going to incorporate some chocolate into the pear clafoutis I just made, but changed my mind in the end. Yours looks much nicer than mine!

Rose Feb 23, 2010 02:02 pm

Very cute story ;) That cake looks fantastic. I love the layer of pears and chunks of glorious chocolate!

marla {family fresh cooking} Feb 26, 2010 07:02 pm

Pear and chocolate, what a great combo. I have never tried a cake like this…..but I am not one for frou frou desserts, all about the flavor!

Helen Feb 27, 2010 08:02 pm

And you guys go together like pear and chocolate: perfectly.
Belated V-Day, Birthday and everything around.

Monster Librarian Mar 5, 2010 10:03 pm

How sweet. I did the same thing once, I mean make this to die for cake recipe for the guy I liked, made a couple of trial batches to make sure I got it just right, so I really appreciated your story. I just had to say how much I LOVED your latest four postings of recipes. Can’t wait to try them out! :)