grow, forage, cook : pear and ginger cake

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My love’s birthday is in September (in actual fact, he and Sabrina are cosmic twins!). Whilst we are rarely short of cake in our house, this is always his opportunity to choose his favourite. He’s a fan of chocolate cake, but it’s sticky pear and ginger upside-down cake which has made the most appearances on his birthday table over the years. The pears for this year’s incarnation were carefully selected from one of the ‘pick and mix’ fruit stalls at the farmer’s market, at their juicy best.

This delicious autumnal recipe is one which I tore from the Guardian magazine long ago, and it has been stuck into my recipe binder, annotated and underlined. The crucial step in the whole process is the making of the caramel- timing is everything: undercook it and it will be anaemic and watery, but leave it for too long and it’s easily burned. I have learned the hard way not to take my eyes off it, and so this time it was cooked to perfection. The cake element is a simple but perfect gingerbread, which is wonderful with the caramelised pears and, unlike most birthday cakes, actually improves after a day or so in the tin.

Pear and Ginger Cake

4 tbsp water

200g granulated sugar

5 pears, peeled, cored and cut into slices

110g black treacle

110g golden syrup

110ml water

75g butter

85g light brown soft sugar

340g plain flour

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamon

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Grease a 22cm cake tin.

Begin with the caramel: in a heavy saucepan, mix the water and the granulated sugar and bring to the boil over a medium hear, swirling the pan to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, raise the heat and boil steadily until the mixture turns a rich amber, swirling the contents of the pan from time to time to disperse the heat. Remove from the hob, pour into the cake tin, and set aside to cool and harden.

Once it has cooled, arrange the pears quarters on top. If you have any spare pear left over, dice it and put it to one side ready to add it to the gingerbread.

In another pan, combine the treacle, syrup, water, butter ad brown sugar, and heat slowly until the butter has melted and you have a smooth mixture. Set this aside to cool. Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl, pour in the cooled mixture, add the diced pear and and beat thoroughly.

Spoon this mixture on to the pears in the tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top springs back lightly when pressed. Cool the tin on a wire rack for five minutes, then run a knife around the rim and place the tin base-side up on a plate. Let it sit for a few minutes before unclipping the sides, to allow the melted caramel to set a little.

There have been so many wonderful additions to the #growforagecook hashtag over the last month, and it’s almost time for Sabrina to pick her favourites as part of the September roundup (you can find the August roundup here).  Please do continue to share your own pictures or blog posts about your seasonal kitchen adventures using the #growforagecook hashtag on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, tagging @circleofpines and/or @wolvesinlondon. We can’t wait to see what Autumn brings to your kitchens…

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