Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake

This is my second Thanksgiving post on the blog, to follow up on Monday’s Stuffing. Though I am a big fan of the three traditional Thanksgiving desserts – pecan, pumpkin, and apple pie – I always try and make something different at Thanksgiving, just to add a bit of variety to the table – not to mention I’ve posted three pumpkin desserts, shared an apple cake not so long ago, and although I love pecan pie, corn syrup and pecans are hard to come by in Rome.

This recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake comes from Al di La restaurant in New York City. Though I had seen it circulating on many a food blog a while back with rave reviews, I hadn’t ever gotten around to making it, preoccupied as I was with over the top layer cakes and icebox cakes. No matter what my fellow bloggers said it seemed like such a simple cake, and I wasn’t sold on the chocolate/pear combination; I’ve always thought that fruit and chocolate are best eaten apart, (I’m in the minority here in that I’ve never liked chocolate covered strawberries –weird, I know). I did however like how this cake is Fall-ish, using pears as one of its main ingredients. I thought I would give it a try before Thanksgiving, on the off chance I liked it enough to add it to the menu.  

I must say my only regret in making this is how long I actually waited to make it. This cake passed the taste test with flying colors. Though it looks fairly simple from the outside – a one layer, vanilla cake, no frosting -- it packs a punch in terms of flavor and texture. The pears add a nice sweetness to the cake that is balanced well by the melty bittersweet chocolate (pears and chocolate are a match made in heaven, who knew) the brown butter adds a deeper layer of flavor to the cake, and the texture is beyond fluffy and light. It is great for breakfast or with tea or coffee as a snack, but also elegant enough to act as a grand finale to the turkey, stuffing, and potatoes.

A few things before making this cake: There are two important steps here that you don’t want to skip to make the best version of this cake possible:

1. Don’t skip making the brown butter -- cooking the butter in a pan over low heat transforms not only the color but the flavor as well, making it almost nutty. Any baked good that calls for regular melted butter is made even better when you brown it – I’ve even seen a few recipes for brown butter chocolate chip cookies. Brown butter is also good served over pumpkin ravioli or gnocchi.

     2. Beating the eggs – whether you have a standing mixer or electric beaters, now is the time to use them – don’t try and beat the eggs by hand. Beating the eggs for the 5 or 9 minutes suggested in the recipe makes the cake incredibly light and fluffy.

     3. Don’t worry about sprinkling the pears and chocolate on top of the cake – it seems strange, but they sink right in to the cake and get incorporated as they should.



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 Bosc pears, peeled, in a small dice
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, and set aside.

Begin by browning 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.
Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick, about 5 minutes. If you’re using electric beaters for this step, you will need to beat the eggs for about 9 minutes to get sufficient volume.
Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.

Next, using a whisk, incorporate 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 until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Let cool completely and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar or fresh whipped cream.

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