A friend of mine is currently forbidden to ingest dairy at all (which is a shame because she loves cheese), so I decided to bake her a cake. Ordinarily I would just go with my standard chocolate cake recipe (naturally dairy- and egg-free), but no dairy means no frosting, no ganache, no whipped cream, nothing! So the cake would have to have a little extra oomph to it to make up for the lack of topping.
I’d previously bookmarked a recipe for a chocolate cake with poached pears baked inside, which sounded delicious, but the cake part looked a lot moister and denser than my standard recipe, which usually requires butter to achieve. I decided, therefore, to try to enrich my usual recipe with the addition of two eggs. Also, instead of poaching my own pears (fussy, tedious, and ultimately the delicate flavors of the poached pears would be drowned in chocolate) I opted for canned pears.
Results? Not bad. Even with the eggs, though, the cake without frosting lacked richness, and the pears were too soft (and too sparse) to stand up well to the cake. I think next time I make a chocolate-pear cake I’ll use raw pears, probably whole and cored so they can stand up in the pan and aren’t confined to the bottom of the cake. And perhaps next time I’ll use a cake recipe that involves butter and just substitute margarine, so my friend can partake despite her dairy problems.
I will note that while the cake was a distinct “meh” the first day, it actually improved a lot by the second day. The pears kept the cake moist (even uncovered on the countertop) and the flavor of the cake itself deepened over time. If this hadn’t happened I’m not sure I’d have bothered posting the recipe, but since it did I feel comfortable telling people that they can make this cake and be pleased with it. Just wait at least 24 hours before cutting into it!
Chocolate Pear Cake
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbs. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups water
2 tsp. instant coffee
2 cans pear halves in juice
1. Drain pear halves and slice crosswise into 1/4″ thick slices. Arrange in the bottom of a 9″ springform pan lined with parchment.
2. In a large bowl, mix flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, combine eggs and vegetable oil.
4. In a heat-proof measuring cup, heat 1 cup of water with instant coffee, then dilute with remaining cup of water.
5. Add eggs/oil, vinegar, and vanilla to dry ingredients without stirring.
5. Pour coffee over remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly.
6. Pour batter over pears and place springform pan on a baking sheet lined with foil.
7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-50 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.
8. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before removing the springform ring. Don’t try to remove it from the pan entirely– the pears are too delicate!