This is my first time poaching fruits, actually poaching any kind of food. The first time I had poached pears was at a restaurant in Madras and I didn’t much care for it. So, I’ve always let skepticism get the better of me when it came to poaching, but not this time. I’ve always heard how pears and chocolate work fabulously well together – poached pears dipped in chocolate, pear and chocolate tart; the sound of their combination might not seem delicious, but it’s the classic case of odd ingredients getting along with each other.
When you want to poach pears for any dish, make sure they are firm. You want the pears soft yet firm after they’ve been poached. Let me come out with my disclaimer right away – this cake is an expensive affair. Good quality pears are expensive. They are poached in a dry white wine along with spices – star anise, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves; I used Sula Chenin Blanc but if you feel like indulging in a more superior variety, feel free to do so.
Also, when it comes to any chocolate dessert, use a good variety of dark chocolate, a minimum of 50% cocoa solids. It’s one of those things you can’t afford to be cheap with – the better the chocolate, the better your cake is. I used walnuts because chocolate and walnuts are great together, but you can use hazelnuts or even almonds.
This cake is very boozy and unctuous, with all those pears, butter, chocolate and walnuts. It is rather a very over-the-top cake, but what’s Christmas without a little drama? 🙂 Oh and finally, never throw away the poaching liquid. Chill it and have a glass or two along with dinner, it is divine!
- 5 pears, cored, peeled and quartered
- 500 ml white wine
- 300 ml fresh orange juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 cloves
- 5 star anises
- 3 cardamoms, pounded
- Zest of an orange
For the cake
- 150 g plain flour
- 200 g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla sugar
- 150 g butter, diced
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 100 g walnuts, chopped
- 2 tbsp cocoa
- 4 eggs
- 200 g dark chocolate, chopped
- 150 g dark chocolate, chopped
- 10 g white chocolate, grated
- Preheat the oven to 160 C. Line a 20 cm round cake tin with parchment paper. Set aside. Peel, core and quarter the pears.
- In a saucepan, add the white wine, the orange juice, the zest, spices and the quartered pears. Poach the pears in gentle heat for about 12-15 minutes.
- Once the pears are poached, drain them using a strainer. Allow the pears to cool down. Reserve the poaching liquid for later.
- Combine flour, cocoa, caster sugar, vanilla sugar, baking powder and walnuts. Mix well and set aside. Add the chopped chocolate in a bowl and place it over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the diced butter. Allow them to melt together.
- Once the chocolate has been melted, take the bowl off the heat and add the eggs, one at a time, while whisking continuously. You don’t want the eggs to curdle. Now, pour the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and fold till combined.
- Reserve 4 quarters of pears for decoration. Dice the remaining pears into smaller chunks and plop them into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and cook for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Once the cake is done, allow it to cool. Meanwhile, for the garnish, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Cut each pear quarter in half so you have 8 pieces of pears.
- Dip the broad end of the pear in the melted chocolate and place on wire rack. Pour the remaining melted chocolate on the cake. Place the pears on top of the cake in a star pattern. Sprinkle the grated white chocolate.