As we move towards spring, this pear loaf cake is light, sweet and delicately spiced with hints of cassia and vanilla. Cassia is also known as sweet cinnamon, or sometimes bakers’ cinnamon, and it’s often the spice used in cinnamon pastries, muffins and apple strudels. It has a very sweet, pungent aroma and almost bitter taste when used to excess. It’s delicious in desserts and complements the pears beautifully here in this recipe.
This spiced cake is gluten free, however you can of course use a standard plain white flour in place of the gluten free flour and xanthan gum. Gluten free cakes are often dry and crumbly in texture, as it is the gluten which gives the spring/elasticity in baked goods, but the addition of the xanthan gum means that the cake tastes just as good as a regular cake.
Cakes with whole fruit in are often soggy in the areas around the fruit, as recipes usually recommend peeling the fruit and poaching before placing in the cake batter. I made this cake a few times and experimented with different methods each time; I found that by adding the fruit directly in raw, and baking at a very low temperature for a longer period of time still resulted in a beautifully soft fruit and with the cake being cooked fully around the fruit. This is since leaving the skin on the pear prevents the juices from leaking into the cake and making it soggy. Plus, it’s much simpler and saves time so it’s a win-win :)
Cassia, vanilla and pear spiced loaf cakeIngredients:
155g (1 ¼ cups) gluten free white flour blend*
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon baking powder
¾ tsp ground cassia (sweet cinnamon)
100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
100g (1/2 cup) soft light brown sugar
½ cup buttermilk (or ½ milk mixed with a tbsp of lemon juice)
½ cup butter, melted and cooled
½ tsp vanilla extract
3 firm pears
Beat the eggs and sugar together for a couple of minutes, until very light and creamy. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix in. Next, add the buttermilk, butter and vanilla extract and beat again to incorporate. Finally, add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
To ensure the pears stay upright whilst the cake is being cooked, slice approximately 1 cm off the bottoms to give a flat base.
Pour the cake batter into the lined loaf tin and insert the three pears down into the mixture until they reach the bottom and sit firm.
Bake the cake for 1 hour, and then reduce the temperature to 120 degrees for the final half hour. If the cake begins to brown too quickly or starts cracking, reduce the temperature slightly. To test the cake is done, insert a metal skewer or wooden toothpick into the centre of the cake batter, not the pears, and if it comes out clean or with only a few crumbs attached, the cake will be cooked.
Leave the cake to cool completely in the loaf tin before removing and slicing. It will keep for 1 – 2 days.
* I recommend using a flour made up of primarily rice, potato and tapioca flours. Of course, if you don’t need it to be gluten free, simply use a standard plain white flour in place of this, and leave out the xanthan gum.
**This is sometimes called ‘sweet cinnamon’ in supermarkets
This isn’t a dense cake; it’s quite light and sweet, so I served it along with a dollop of crème fraiche on the side, and a drizzle of honey. It can be made a day in advance if needed, and is good served both cold and gently warmed.