Whether it’s a last-minute dinner with neighbours, a family feast or a casual summer picnic, Sophie Hansen has done the thinking for you and designed menus featuring 120 recipes that are simple, tasty and perfect for sharing. Her wonderful new book, In Good Company (Murdoch Books) features delicious dishes like this yum pear, walnut and nutmeg cake – the perfect dessert of tea party thriller! And if you love this recipe as much as we do, don’t forget to enter our easy contest to win a cookbook.
If this cake were a woman, she’d be Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient. She’d be classy and cultured and effortlessly wear white linen all the time, but also easygoing and not at all precious. Once you’ve made this cake, I hope you agree that it is indeed a classy, cool number. It’s all about the warm spices, the toasted ground nuts and, of course, the understated star of the show, those gorgeous pears.
This cake is fancy enough for dessert (it’s lovely served warm with caramel sauce and definitely with ice cream) or a grown-up morning or afternoon tea. This recipe makes quite a bit of batter so if you don’t have a large tin, you could use two 20 cm (8 inch) tins – the cakes may not be as high but you’ll have one to enjoy now and one to give away or freeze, so it’s a win-win!
Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 1 hour
2 cups (230 g) walnuts
⅔cup (110 g) almonds
1 cup (150 g) wholemeal plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
A pinch of salt
4 pears (not too ripe)
1 Tbsp (20 g) butter, cut into small cubes
1 ¼ cups (275 g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (250 g) unsalted butter, softened
Grated zest of 1 orange
½ cup (125 ml) buttermilk or yoghurt
Sweet dukkah (page 161) or chopped nuts, to serve
Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Grease and line a 24 cm (91/2 inch) cake tin.
Combine the walnuts and almonds on a baking tray and toast for about 10 minutes or until fragrant. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a food processor and blitz to a coarse meal (or a fine meal, if you prefer a fine-textured cake). Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the flour, baking powder, spices and salt. Set aside.
Peel and halve the pears. Using either a melon baller or a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds and cores. Fill each cavity with a little of the cubed butter. Sprinkle ¼ cup (55 g) of the brown sugar over the base of the cake tin, then place the pear halves on top, cut side down.
Using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter, orange zest and remaining brown sugar until the sugar has just dissolved. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the side and beating well after each addition. Fold in half of the nut mixture and half of the buttermilk or yoghurt. Mix on low speed and then repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Gently spoon the batter into the tin, being careful not to move the pears, and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the tin 180 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes or until it is beginning to pull away from the side of the tin and the middle feels springy.
Let the cake cool in the tin for 20 minutes before gently turning it out onto a serving plate and sprinkling it with sweet dukkah or a few chopped nuts. It’s beautiful served warm with some honeyed yoghurt or cream, or just on its own.
Images and text from In Good Company by Sophie Hansen; photography by Sophie Hansen. Murdoch Books RRP $39.99