I might call this “Surprise Victory Cake”, instead of its actual descriptive name, because I did not expect this to work, and my god, it did. It really did.
I just about half-followed a recipe: made the topping up as I went along; tasted and guessed at the spice quantities; set to work bringing it all together with bowls strewn around the kitchen. The mixing stage was nerve-wracking, and for a split second, I wondered if it was a a waste of time and ingredients.
But then I put it in the oven and the kitchen filled with the smell of autumn. Cut into it and found it had the perfect level of springiness, just the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg flavour.
It turned out to be a cake that you take into the office and ten minutes later start getting “Oh yes 10/10” messages. A cake that might make your flatmate mutter, “Marry me,” as they take a bite. Maybe a couple of “I feel all warm and cosy inside”s.
It’s just a little too tall to be shoved into your mouth without thought, which is a good thing really, because you want to taste every bit of sugar and spice, every chunk of mellow sweetness the pear provides alongside warming cinnamon.
You’ll want a nice firm pear – oi, no sniggering, you at the back – to ensure that the pear chunks still have a little bite to them to provide texture, but that’s pretty much the only stipulation.
Adapted from Nigel Slater
Yields 16 large squares (32 perfectly acceptable portions; 64 bite-sized bits)
185g plain flour
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
knob of butter
420g pears, peeled, cored, and diced
100g dark brown sugar
185ml golden syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla paste
2 medium eggs
- Crumble topping first! Rub together all the topping ingredients until sandy, and set aside.
- Sift together the flour, bicarb, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Grease/line a 22cm square baking tray (different sizes are fine but aim for a similar total area. Baking time may vary.)
- Add the knob of butter to a large non-stick saucepan over a low to medium heat, then add the pear chunks. Cook for approx. 10 minutes, until just golden in places. Remove from the heat, and preheat the oven to 180C.
- Bump the hob up to a medium heat and melt together the sugar, syrup, and butter. When melted, add the vanilla paste and set aside.
- Whisk the eggs and milk together. Add the syrup mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until incorporated.
- Add the milk and egg mixture and stir – it may seem soupy and like it’ll never come together, but it will! When mixed, fold in the pear chunks.
- Finally, pour into the cake tin and bake on the middle shelf for ten minutes, after which it will have risen slightly. At this point, pull the shelf out and top the cake with the crumble, pressing it lightly down, and return to the oven for a further 25-35 minutes, until deeply golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for around 15 minutes before lifting out and slicing with a bread knife.