Pear & Almond Chocolate Spice Cake

Fall is in full swing. The air is brisk and the season of long knit scarves is here. Some days I feel as if I need to wear two just to keep my insides warm and toasty. I don't mind the chill of fall; as a matter of fact, I love the cool frost of autumn just until the leaves finish changing and fall, crumpled, at the bottom of the tree. Fall begins to wear on me as soon as the weatherman starts bringing up a certain four letter s-word.

You know, snow.

When the ground is littered with autumn leaves, I'm always reminded of my favorite fall flavors. Certainly pumpkin, ginger, and cinnamon top the list, but another, perhaps more subtle flavor, captures my heart. I am, of course, talking about pears. Early fall marks the beginning of pear season. Although pears are available year round, October is the month where pears truly start to radiate with beauty.

Recently, I have fallen in love with Bosc pears. They remind me of still life paintings—forbidden to touch, but beautiful to admire. I was afraid for many years to hold them (as silly as this sounds), because they didn't look real to me. The color, a natural cinnamon kissed brown, and the shading was just so. They stuck out in the supermarket like a sore thumb, fantasy juxtaposed against a consumer reality, and I danced around them, choosing the Bartlett or Green Anjou instead.

Last fall, while perusing a farmer's market, I came across a newly ripened batch. The necks and stems were long and graceful, with no unsightly marks in sight. I was drawn to these pears and they followed me around the market, as if they knew it was time we both sat down at a table together. I bought them, wrapped them carefully against the cold, and gave them a home on my kitchen counter. It was love of the edible sort.

Pear and chocolate have consistently been one of my favorite combinations. When I saw this cake from Honey & Jam, I knew I had to make it. When inspiration strikes, it strikes hard. Less than a few hours later, I could be found at the store, admiring the selection of pears, no longer afraid to reach for the alluring Bosc.

This Pear & Almond Chocolate Spice Cake holds the essence of fall in each slice. Chocolate cake batter is spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg, before diced pears and chopped almonds are folded into the batter. The cake bakes up with a fragrant smell that will linger long after the cake leaves the oven. As the cake cools, a pear cider glaze is poured over the top, which gives the cake a brilliant sheen and a flavor that soaks deep into the cake. If you love pears as I do, this cake will leave you feeling warm and content after a walk in the cool outdoors.

One Year Ago: Butternut Squash Custard

Pear & Almond Chocolate Spice Cake with Pear Cider Glaze
Adapted from Honey & Jam

Pear & Almond Chocolate Spice Cake
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-3 pears, diced
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease bundt pan heavily to prevent sticking.

In a small bowl, whisk together boiling water and cocoa powder until cocoa is dissolved. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat brown sugar, granulated sugar, and oil together. Add the eggs one at a time and continue beating until smooth. Beat in vanilla extract. Alternatively add the flour and cocoa mixtures, mixing well between additions. Using a spatula, fold in the diced pears and chopped almonds.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Pear Cider Glaze
1 cup pear cider
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or cardamom, if preferred)

In a small saucepan, bring pear cider, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Place cake on cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet and slowly pour over cake to absorb. The glaze that does not absorb initially can be poured over cake once more to coat.