Pears are a great to bake with when they come into season because they have a wonderful flavor, work well with all kinds of fall spices and add a ton of moisture to baked goods. In this Nutmeg-Spiced Pear and Walnut Cake, I added a lot of fresh pear into a nutmeg-laced buttermilk cake, along with some walnuts for texture. The cake is sweetened with sugar and a hint of maple syrup, and the combination of the pears, the nutmeg and the maple makes this a delicious and memorable fall treat that can be served for brunch or paired with ice cream for a dessert.
The cake is easy to make and comes together very quickly. Diced pears and walnuts are folded in just before the batter is poured into the pan to bake. I will use fresh pears that have been peeled when I have them available, but canned or jarred pears (packed in juice or water, but not syrup) will work just as well if you drain them well before using them. Canned pears will be a little more tender than fresh pears and you will have to fold them into the cake batter carefully to avoid smushing any small pieces. The cake is not too sweet, so the delicate pear flavor comes through beautifully in every bite. I think that buttery walnuts work well here, though pecans make a great addition, too.
Because this cake is very moist, I think it comes out best when baked in a tube pan with a removable bottom, although I have it pictured here in a bundt pan. With the tube pan, you don’t need to worry about the tender cake or fruit sticking to the sides of the pan. If you’re using a bundt pan, be sure to grease and flour it even if you are using a nonstick pan to ensure that you get a clean release. If some of the pieces of pear still stick to the pan, simply pop them back into place on the unmolded cake and dust with confectioners sugar and no one will know the difference.
Nutmeg-Spiced Pear and Walnut Cake
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup (pref. grade B)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp nutmeg (pref freshly ground)
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups diced, peeled pears (2 medium)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 12 cup bundt pan or a 10-inch tube pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking power and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by maple syrup, vanilla extract and nutmeg. Stir in one third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk. Stir in another third of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining buttermilk and the rest of the flour. Mix only until just combined and no streaks of flour remain. Stir in diced pears and walnuts, then pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake will spring back when lightly pressed.
If using a bundt pan, cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan then invert it onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
If using a tube pan, cool the cake in pan, then use a knife to loosen it from the sides. Invert cake onto a large plate, then reinvert onto a serving plate or cake keeper before serving.
Makes 10-12 servings.