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Pear and Ginger Cake
(recipe, Nick Malgieri)
Use firm-ripe Bartlett pears for this cake. When you press the blossom end of the pear with your thumb, it should yield to gentle pressure. Softer pears will immediately turn to a watery purée if you try to grate them. This cake, and the apple variation that follow it, utilize the grated fruit as a means of retaining moisture in the baked cake. While each contributes a dimension of flavor to the cake, it's one that successfully blends with the seasonings to create a moist, harmonious finished product. Neither is anything like biting into a ripe pear or apple.
- Butter, fine dry breadcrumbs, and vegetable cooking spray for coating the pan (see Note)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1½ cups vegetable oil (see Note)
- ⅓ cup finely minced crystallized ginger
- 4 cups peeled and chopped or grated Bartlett pears, about 2 pounds or 4 medium pears (see Note)
- Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)
- Butter a 10-inch (16-cup) tube or Bundt pan. Coat it with the breadcrumbs, then spray it with vegetable cooking spray.
- Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and spices, and whisk well to combine.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla. Whisk in the oil, followed by the crystallized ginger.
- Use a large rubber spatula to stir in all the grated pears, followed by the dry ingredients, a third at a time.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake until it is well risen and firm and the point of a paring knife inserted halfway between the side of the pan and the central tube emerges clean, about 65 to 75 minutes.
- Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert it onto a rack to cool completely.
- Cut into slices to serve, with the sweetened whipped cream if you like.
Store the cake under a cake dome or covered with plastic wrap at room temperature. Double-wrap the cake and freeze it for longer storage. Defrost and bring to room temperature before serving.
You may replace half of the vegetable oil with melted butter.
Variation: Apple Spice Cake. Replace the pears with peeled and grated Granny Smith apples. Omit the ground ginger and crystallized ginger and fold in 1 cup each of coarsely chopped walnut or pecan pieces and dark or golden raisins after the last of the dry ingredients.
Culinate editor's notes: If you don't have fine dry breadcrumbs on hand, you can simply butter the pan and dust it with flour. If you need to grind your own breadcrumbs, do so in a food processor, then use the processor to grate the peeled, cored, and sliced pears.