This week marked our wedding anniversary – unbelievable twenty years. Mountains and valleys, leavings and comebacks, withdrawals and togetherness. Loving another person is not easy. The man I stand next to today is certainly not the guy I married… the guy I promised to love but in fact had no clue how. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to.
And I still do.
We’re so different from where we started – young and eager to do life together. The journey brought us immense joy… and also challenges I’d never have anticipated on my wedding day; where the only thing one could do was to take the next step. Through clenched teeth, in the dark. But as for me, all those growing pains have been worth it… because knowing there is this one person you can come home to every day to is the best.
Thanks to all those years living with a photographer I learned one thing. Everything is always about the light. You might have wrinkles deep as canyons and countless blemishes inside and out, but when a photographer loves you, he makes sure to show you in just the right light. Suddenly, you’re flawless. And beautiful.
And that’s what he does for me.
And the cakes are something I do for him. He doesn’t like cakes that are too airy and fluffy, and prefers something more substantial to sink his teeth into. When I came across this recipe, it had Mr. Photographer’s name written all over. First, THE CHOCOLATE – dark and bitter. Then, autumn pears poached in WINE which made them fragrant and delicious. And lastly, WHISKEY! The recipe called for 1 tablespoon, but I am not exactly known for following recipes, and prefer to play in the kitchen… so I added a good splash 🙂 If that’s not a “manly” cake, I don’t know what is!
Spiced Pear Chocolate Caramel Cake
(adapted from http://84thand3rd.com)
- 1 cup white sugar
- ¼ cup golden brown sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 100 ml red wine
- 150 g (5 oz.) butter
- pinch salt
- 100 g (3.5 oz.) bittersweet chocolate, broken up
- 1 tablespoon whiskey
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 35 g (½ cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 130 g (4.5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour (for gluten-free option see Note)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
Wine poached pears:
- 4 firm pears, peeled, halved, and cored
- 1 ½ cups each water and red wine
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
+ 1 cup heavy whipping cream whipped with 2 teaspoons powdered sugar (for serving, optional)
- To poach the pears, combine wine, water, sugar, and spices in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Carefully add pear halves to the poaching liquid, and cook over low heat until the pears are just tender. Don’t overcook. Remove the pears from the wine syrup (reserve the liquid), let them cool, and then cut each half in half again, so that you will have 16 quarters. Reduce the poaching liquid by half, and serve as a syrup with the cake, if desired.
- For the cake, butter and flour two 9-inch (23 cm) tart pans with removable bottom. (If you’re making the cake for a person that’s gluten – intolerant, make sure to use a gluten-free flour for this.) Line the pans with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
- Make the caramel: Combine sugar and water in a deep non-stick pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer until the water evaporates and the sugar turns nice golden color. Don’t stir, because stirring encourages crystallization – just gently swirl the sugar syrup in the pan from time to time. When the water evaporates, watch the sugar closely, and take it off the heat the moment it starts to caramelize – it will continue to darken even off the heat, and you don’t want it to burn.
- When the sugar turns to caramel, immediately pour the wine over it (it will sizzle and the caramel will crystallize). Return the pan to the heat, bring to a boil, remove from the heat again and stir, until the caramel melts.(This took a while.) Add the butter and salt. Lastly, add the chocolate, and stir until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Stir in the whiskey and let the mixture cool slightly.
- To make the cakes, combine the flour, cocoa, soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs. Slowly and carefully add about a third of the caramel – chocolate mixture, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs, and then combine the tempered eggs with the rest of the caramel – chocolate mixture.
- Add in the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, and ending with the flour mixture. Stir just until combined.
- Pour the batter into prepared pans and smooth out the tops. Carefully arrange 8 pear quarters on top of each cake.
- Bake for about 25 minutes until just firm in the center. Let the cakes cool in pans before removing. Serve with whipped cream and sweet wine syrup if desired.
If making the cake gluten-free, swap the all-purpose flour for your favorite gluten-free mix. (Be sure to add 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, if your mix doesn’t contain it already.)