When pears are in season, I eat a lot of them. I love their sweet, delicate flavor and enjoy them on their own, with good cheeses and baked into tasty desserts. I am particularly fond of comice pears, and since I happened to get a wonderfully big box of them from Harry & David over the holidays, I have been using a lot of them. This Pear Custard Loaf Cake is a lovely, easy to make dessert that is a nice way to put a lot of pears into one dish.
The loaf cake is made by folding lots of thinly spiced pears into a thin, custardy batter. The batter bakes up to be just firm enough to hold the dessert together, but retains its soft, tender texture. It is flavored with vanilla and allsipce, two flavors that give the dessert dimension while still showcasing the pears. I used just about 2 pounds of pears in this cake. Choose pears that are ripe and have a little bit of give to them, but not pears that are overly ripe or mushy, since they will break down in the oven before the cake is finished baking.
Since this cake is baked in a loaf pan, it is important that you prepare the pan well before adding the batter. The pears make the cake heavy and, since the cake is tender, you don’t want to risk the cake falling apart when you try to remove it from the pan. There are two options: you can serve it directly from the pan or you can line the pan with parchment paper so that you can simply lift it out when it is cooled. I typically choose the first option when I’m going to be eating the cake at home and don’t mind if a slice or two gets a bit squished as I pull it out of the pan. If I’m serving guests, I choose the second method so that I get neater slices.
The cake is excellent when it is served chilled, and it is also the easiest to get neat slices when it has been refrigerated. That said, it is also very delicious when it is slightly warm, so don’t hesitate to pop it into the microwave for a few seconds to heat it up before serving it with a scoop of ice cream.
Pear Custard Loaf Cake
2 lbs ripe-but-firm pears (3-4 large, pref. Comice or Bartlett)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk, any kind
1 1/2 tbsp sugar, for topping
1/4 tsp ground allspice, for topping
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a loaf pan and place a large piece of parchment paper so that it covers the base and sides, with an overhang so that the cake can be lifted out after baking. Grease the top of the parchment paper, as well.
Peel the pears. Slice them in half and remove the core with a spoon or melon baller. Cut each half into slices lengthwise about 1/4-inch thick, then cut the long slices in half so that they are approximately 1 1/2 – 2 inches long (depending on the size of your pears).
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, allspice and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together vanilla, eggs, vegetable oil and milk until smooth. Pour into flour mixture and whisk until batter is smooth and well-combined. Fold in pear slices.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 tbsp sugar and additional 1/4 tsp allspice. Sprinkle generously on top of the cake.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until cake is set and springs back when lightly pressed.
Allow cake to cool completely, or chill it in the refrigerator until cold, before removing it from the pan. To remove it, run a knife around the sides of the pan and lift it carefully out by holding the overhanging parchment paper.