It was 27 degrees today with sun and blue skies in Calgary. Tomorrow, the forecast is for snow and a high of 2. Back off fall, you’re coming on too strong.
The (very small) consolation of going from high twenties to zero is that you can pull on your woolies, turn on the oven and bake a pie. Or a cake. And eat the whole thing yourself because fall just up and snubbed you altogether, just like spring did. It’s tough getting the shaft.
With my condolences, I offer a spice cake with salted caramel. (Now that swimsuit season is about as far away as it’s going to get.) Granted, I still have no oven to turn on. This is a cake I made way back when I had an actual kitchen, not a microwave on a cart in the dining room and a barbecue in the back yard. I made it to use up overripe pears and salted caramel that did so well on chocolate cupcakes, and then I shared the cupcakes and the cake seemed like leftovers.
I’m about ready for more salted caramel, and the pears are starting to pile up. And if I can’t make our house smell like butter, sugar and cinnamon to offset the blanket of wet snow we’ll be scraping off our cars a week into September, I’ll take comfort in knowing you guys can.
Besides, it’s always somebody’s birthday somewhere.
Pear Spice Cake with Salted Caramel
This recipe may look long and complex, but it’s really just cake, frosting and salted caramel, each easy enough to make on their own, then put together. The caramel can be made at least a day ahead, if you want to make it on another day.
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. each cloves and allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
2 ripe pears, coarsely grated
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla
3-4 cups icing sugar, plus extra if needed
2-4 Tbsp. milk or cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray two 8 or 9-inch cake pans.
In a large bowl, beat the sugars and eggs for 2-3 minutes, until thick and pale. beat in the oil and vanilla. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture along with the grated pears and any juices that have accumulated underneath them (grate them onto a cutting board or into a flat bowl or cake pan), beating on low speed or stirring just until combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Cool for 15 minutes in the pans, then invert them onto wire racks to cool. If you like, slice the domed part off the tops of the cakes using a serrated knife.
To make the frosting, beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in the icing sugar and milk or cream, adding extra sugar or milk if needed to achieve a spreadable consistency. Spread over the cake layers, and if you like, spoon some into a frosting bag with a star tip and pipe over the top of the cake – this will provide ridges for the caramel to drip from.
To make the caramel, stir together the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, stop stirring and swirl the pan often, cooking until it starts to turn golden. When it starts to change colour don’t leave the pan – swirl it often until it turns a deep golden – the colour of maple syrup. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream – it will foam up. Whisk in the salt and let cool to room temperature – it can be slightly warm, but not so warm that it will melt the icing.
Once cooled, dribble the caramel over the cake. Serves 16-20.