The nights are really starting to get dark and gloomy since the clocks went back, and rather than go out in the rain I decided the perfect thing to do was sit back, watch a film and eat a huge piece of chocolate cake. This chocolate cake is an upside-down cake, meaning the fruit is arranged on the bottom of the tin with cake mix baked on top, so when it is tipped out upside down there is a lovely pattern of the fruit on the top. I made this cake with pears poached in a mixture of autumn’s best aromatic spices which made the house smell gorgeous. Unfortunately, when I took a piece of this cake to my 92-year old grandmother (who looks great despite a diet consisting of pretty much nothing but chips and cake) with the hope of getting some 5-a-day in her, she flicked of the pear no problem. Must try harder next time.
Said nan eating said chips
For the pears
3 large pears
200g caster sugar
rind of 1 lemon
2 star anise pods
1 vanilla pod
1 cinammon stick
small knob of ginger- approximately 2 x 3 cm
For the caramel
250g caster sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons of poaching syrup (from the pears)
For the cake
150g dark chocolate
125g ground almonds
150g plain flour
225g unsalted butter
200g light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
spoonful of natural yoghurt
- The first step for this bake is to poach the pears. Fill a pan half with water and bring to the boil adding all the ingredients bar the pears (i.e. the cinnamon stick, vanilla, star anise, sugar, lemon rind and ginger). Before adding the vanilla pod, slit lengthways with a sharp knife to allow the flavour to escape. Also peel the ginger before adding to the pan. Stir the liquid until the sugar has dissolved so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan.
- Whilst you are getting the poaching liquid ready, peel the pears and chop each in half. Be careful to remove any pips.
- Place the pears in the poaching liquid and leave for 30 minutes until nice and soft. Fish out of the poaching liquid, being gentle because they are now more likely to break apart, and leave until ready. Retain some of the poaching syrup for later
- Line your cake tin with a circle of baking parchment on the base. This will make it easier to tip the cake out at the end. Grease and flour the sides as you would normally. You could even line the whole tin with baking parchment but I’m too lazy to work this one out.
- To make the cake mix, break the dark chocolate into chunks and melt it over a pan of boiling water, along with the butter.
- Whisk the sugar and the eggs together in a separate bowl until all the sugar has dissolved. Add a spoonful of yoghurt.
- Once the melted chocolate has stirred slightly, add it to egg mixture and stir thoroughly. Measure out the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder, then sieve into the liquid mix. Fold in the flour in figure of 8 motions until all is incorporated. Be careful you don’t have any lumps of flour that have sunk to the bottom as flour is sneaky like that, and it won’t taste good.
- Mix in the ground almonds and then your cake mix is good to go.
- Preheat the oven to 180•C.
- To help hold the pears in place and give the cake a little extra moisture, next make some caramel for the bottom of the tin. Ready a pan over high heat then add 4 tablespoons of water, plus 2 tablespoons of the poaching liquid from the pears, and the sugar. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved then stop stirring and watch…. watch intently! The liquid will start to bubble and turn from clear to a rich, golden brown. Once the rich, golden brown stage has been reached take of the heat immediately and pour over the baking parchment lining the base of your tin. If the caramel goes past the golden brown stage your buggered, so start again.
- Arrange the pears in the caramel over the caramel layer, flat side down. Leave to set for a few minutes then spoon the cake mix gently over the top being careful not to disturb the pears.
- Bake for 35 minutes at 180•C.
- Try to wait until the cake is cool before taking it out the tin. I didn’t quite manage this step which is why my cake had a crack across the top, but oh well. Once out of the tin, tip upside and peel away the baking parchment.