Nice right? After reading through the cookbook I decided that my obsession over the Pear Cake on the cover was so great that it had to be the first thing I made. The full title to the recipe is: Cardamom Cake with Whole Pears & White Chocolate. Ms. Boven admits that the cake and recipe have been published everywhere, which makes me think it must be a home bakers dream cake, cardamom and pears two of my favorite things and the white chocolate in this instance seems a brilliant use for my least favorite kind of chocolate.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the page, to really look at the recipe, was the first ingredient in the: “For the Cake” section: 1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons of butter (200g) well that’s,each stick of butter in the USA states that it weighs 113g equal to 1/2 cup…..so if each stick is 1/2 cup then that means the 1 1/2 cups the recipe is calling for is: 3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (22 Tablespoons) – 6 tablespoons short of a pound of butter! That, my dear readers, is a lot of butter for a loaf cake, maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m reading something incorrectly. I scratched my head and did some research on the interwebs.
Ms. Boven is European and spends her time between Paris and Amsterdam (lucky her ;-)) all the information I found on-line showed the recipe in European publicans. In my looking I found nothing in the North American press so all the recipes I saw called for 200g of butter – none of them gave a cup equivalent.
Then I just did what I should have done to begin with (I love a good diversion) I asked Mr. Google: How man cups of butter is 200g? The answer: 7/8th of a cup. Not 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons but 7/8th of a cup. Which as it turns out is 1 1/2 sticks of butter plus 2 Tablespoons – so 14 Tablespoons of butter (that would be 8 tablespoons less than the recipe calls for).
This seemed like a very careless error to make in a cookbook publication by a women whose last book Homemade was a run away success and that was published by a major publishing house: Stewart, Tabori & Chang.
…and it gets worse. The recipe calls for 3 medium crisp pears (such as Bosc) OK so call me madcap, but I had 3 Comice pears in the fridge and thought given they were on hand I would use them. BAD IDEA. When baked into this recipe they became Pear Sauce. The center of the cake fell in and was gooey I had to throw it out. Any casual reading of the ingredient “Pears” would be a mistake. I think Bartlett pears would react the same way the Comice did so really what this recipe means is: 3 crisp Bosc Pears. Full stop period.
Also it doesn’t say if you are to use salted or unsalted butter…which brings me to my last point about this recipe, like a fair amount of European baking recipes I have come across lately it calls for self rising flour (1 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder). I’ve been baking for 30 years and have never used self rising flour. It seems to me to be a made up ingredient to get you to buy something you don’t need that is made from things any baker in North America already has (flour,salt and baking powder). More to my point is that in order to make your own self rising flour (see recipe above) you are already adding 3/4 teaspoons of salt to this cake, which seems plenty to add to a cake, but then in addition she says pinch of salt. Obviously if you are using salted butter don’t do this. I don’t think it needs any more salt then is already in the flour. Up to you. All I’m saying is that most cakes call for about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, this struck me as a lot even thought the final product was not “salty” in the least.
Don’t you think when you are publishing a popular cookbook for the American market and you are featuring a baked good on your cover which has already received mega press that you would bother to run this recipe by a responsible test kitchen? OK maybe this is a one off mistake, I’ve made several recipes from this beautiful cookbook and had no problems, but now I am leery of each recipe and make sure that the U.S measurements measure up to the European ones for fear I make something and it ends up swimming is butter (mind you I can think of worse things, but still you get my point).
It Bosc Pears can be really big. The three in the pictures were the smallest ones I could find and they still seemed much bigger then the ones used in the cover picture. It’s America after all so everything is bigger here 😉 so be sure you get ones that are really small and will work in a loaf pan that has sides that are only 5″ high.
At the end of the day this is what I think about this recipe: it’s pretty, but you need to deal with Pear seeds and stems and a dry cake that needs to be doused in syrup and because you use whole Pears every slice gets a different amount of Pear some not so much some lots. The Syrup is a great equalizer and moistens the cake wondering also adding a seductive spiciness, but it seems to me like it should be an option not a necessity. Really what I think this cake needs is less aesthetic and more baking sense. I think the Pears should be seeded, stemmed and cut into large chunks and folded into the cake before it is put into the oven (and I think 4 pears would be better than 3 if you were to make it this way).
My third go at this cake will be the version I just laid out – more on that after I have made it! In the mean time: Hey folks at Stewart,Tabori & Chang I hear you need a good recipe tester….give me a call I’d love to help you out.