A Comforting Pear & Chocolate Cake
On the far left corner of the stovetop sits one of my silver saucepans. It is a spot I find myself coming back to time and time again - a bubbling pot of water is positioned far enough away from inquisitive little hands, as well as allowing the many splatters and splutters of a simmering ragu or the spitting and hissing of hot oil that resembles a fireworks display to mostly miss the floor.
I've never actually given this minor detail much thought, but I have been made aware through these slower, repetitive days of late that it is in these minor details that we find the things that make us happy or the things that help make us feel at ease - like when I'm standing over the stove watching small, pebble-like pieces of chocolate meld into one another, slowly swirling that decadent river of darkness in a figure of eight motion - I am for a moment drawn into a vortex where there is not a worry in the world.
I guess that is why so many of us have found solace within the kitchen. A way to mark our days throughout the many stages of lockdown that so many of us have been challenged with. Is it lockdown number 6 or 7 here in Victoria? I seem to have lost count..
As I look over my shoulder, the sun has moved far enough around to shine its light through the kitchen window, illuminating the daffodil that I plucked from the garden the other day. The bright, cheery petals are a beacon of hope, paired with the orchestra of birdsong and the florescence of new life visible on spindly late winter branches. Hope for what is to come, and come it will.
As I fold the dry ingredients into the wet, I am once again reminded of the magic, the joy, and the comfort of what it means to bake a cake and why so many of us enjoy this simple act of creating something out of nothing. It warms the very centre of our being and is something that we have the power to emit onto others - leaving a freshly baked cake, a batch of biscuits or a jar of jam on the doorstep of a loved one, a neighbour and even a stranger can cure many an emotion for both the giver and the receiver, putting us in a state of ease, if only for a moment.
Pear & Chocolate Cake
Makes one 23-24 cm round cake
3 free-range eggs, at room temperature
300g caster sugar
200ml light olive oil
50ml freshly brewed black tea
150g dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
100g almond meal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
1 medium-sized pear (I use beurre bosc)
Grease with butter and line with baking paper a 23-24 cm springform cake tin, set aside. Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius (fan-forced) 180 degrees Celsius (conventional).
In the bowl of a stand mixer add in the eggs and the sugar and beat for at least 10-15 minutes on medium speed until the mixture is light, creamy and almost doubled in volume.
Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and slowly drizzle in the olive oil in a steady stream. Pour in the black tea and the melted chocolate followed by the vanilla extract and mix until combined.
Sift the flour, baking powder, bi-carb soda and ginger into a large bowl, add the almond meal and the salt and whisk to combine.
Remove the bowl with the chocolate from the stand mixer. Using a spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients and milk into the chocolate mixture, in two batches until it's combined. Making sure to scrape down the very bottom to ensure everything is mixed in properly.
Spoon into the prepared cake tin and smooth out the top. Slice your pear into quarters and then slice the quarters into thin slivers, arrange on top of the cake, pressing down lightly.
Place into your preheated oven, on the middle shelf and bake for about 60 minutes. I like to check mine at about the 40-minute mark to make sure it is baking evenly, turning my cake around if need be. Once baked the cake should lightly spring back when pressed lightly, insert a cake tester or skewer to check if it's ready, it should come out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before carefully removing. It will sink a little in the middle upon cooling but do not worry about this.
This cake is equally as delicious served warm as it is served at room temperature. It is soft, delicate and surprisingly light in flavour. Perfect for when a slice of comfort is needed most.
It will keep in an airtight container for at least 5 days, but I doubt it will last that long.