Got Pears to Spare?: Pear Spice Cake

A few weeks ago I decided to make the Pear Spice Cake from Euro Pane Bakery in Pasadena, after the recipe made the Los Angeles' Times list of top ten recipes from 2012. I had to scratch a previous planned attempt, but I finally got my act together and assembled the seven ripe Anjou pears required for the cake.

While peeling, coring, and dicing seven pears requires a bit of time, once you have the pears ready, you can mix the batter in about two minutes. You simply beat together eggs and sugar, add in oil, incorporate the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon), and fold in the pears and chopped walnuts. The resulting mixture was mostly pears and walnuts held together with only a little bit of batter; when I poured it into a parchment-lined pan, a significant portion of the pears were not submerged in batter.

During baking, the batter rose quite a bit to cover all of the fruit, and a firm and thick crust formed on top. I had to use a serrated knife to cut the cake so that I could gently saw through the top crust without crumbling it. All of the fruit ended up on the bottom half of the cake; I don't see how I could have avoided this, given that the batter didn't cover all of the pears to begin with (and this was quite different from the slice of cake in the photo accompanying the recipe, which has pears evenly distributed throughout, including at the very top of the cake).

This cake was very moist, especially because of all of the fruit. I particularly liked the hearty texture and flavor of the top crust. As I was eating the cake, I kept thinking that the flavor was very familiar, and I finally put my finger on it -- to me, this tasted almost exactly like zucchini bread, except with pears. I like zucchini bread and I liked this cake, but I have to say it did not meet my high expectations, given its inclusion on last year's top ten list. In fact, I actually prefer one of the recipes that didn't make the list and was only a "runner-up" -- House of Bread's Berry Bars -- but this pear cake is a homey, tasty snack.

Recipe: "Euro Pane's Pear Spice Cake," printed in the October 27, 2012 Los Angeles Times.

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