Sweet and fragrant with a maple-cream cheese icing, this Pear Cardamom Cake is a beautiful and comforting dessert. Great for holiday entertaining!
I attended a Williams-Sonoma Cookbook Club class last week featuring Giada De Laurentiis’ new book, Happy Cooking. We had such a fun evening chatting about food and cooking with Williams-Sonoma’s talented Chef Roger, with a demo of several new recipes to add to our holiday entertaining repertoires. (Plus, I got to take home a signed copy of Giada’s book, score!) Check out my Flickr feed for photos from the class, including a delectable Porcetta and a Brown and Wild Rice Dressing, both of which I’ll definitely be making at home. We ended the class with a slice of Giada’s “Spiced Apple Walnut Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze”. The cake was delicious and I liked the concept so much that I decided to adapt it to feature three of my favorite flavors for Fall: pears, pecans, and cardamom. Let’s just say that I made this cake yesterday and have had a hard time ignoring its presence on my cake stand today. I doubt that this Pear Cardamom Cake is going last more than a few days in my house, but both Giada’s original recipe and this adaptation are going in the “keeper” file in my recipe box!
As much as I love apple-everything during the autumn months (pies, cider doughnuts, salads, you name it!), I’m absolutely crazy for pears and cook with them whenever I have the opportunity. They have such a wonderful mild, sweet flavor, and just feel elegant in every dish they’re in. When making this cake, I diverged from the spice mix in Giada’s original cake (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger) in favor of cinnamon and cardamom. I love how the floral notes of the cardamom pair with the delicate flavors of the pears, complementing each other with neither stealing the spotlight.
One of my favorite components of this recipe (and something I didn’t stray from in the original) is the use of maple syrup as the cake’s primary sweetener. It brings such a roundness of flavor to the batter, and coupled with the vegetable oil and juices from the fruit, produces a tender crumb that keeps well for several days. I so enjoyed how well the maple syrup paired with the pears and cardamom that I decided to add it to the cream cheese glaze as well for an extra layer of flavor.
This cake would be a delicious addition to any Thanksgiving dessert table (it’s the kind of dessert that transports well, too, if you’re bringing it to family or friends). It has all of the warm, sweet flavors of the holiday, in a presentation that’s a little different from the traditional Thanksgiving fare. With the season of entertaining upon us, this would also be a beautiful (and easy to prepare) cake for a holiday brunch. Personally, I had a piece for breakfast this morning with a cup of tea. Cake for breakfast? Sure! It’s fruit, right? No shame!
Did you know I have a weekly newsletter? It’s a great time of year to subscribe and have delicious recipes delivered to your Inbox for all of your holiday entertaining needs!
Pear Cardamom Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Glaze
Inspired by "Spiced Apple Walnut Cake with Cream Cheese Icing," Giada De Laurentiis, Happy Cooking (Pam Krauss Books, 2015)
To make the cake
- 2 pears (about 3 cups fruit), peeled, cored, and cut into a 1/4 to 1/2-inch dice
- 1-1/2 cups pure maple syrup
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 cups all purpose flour, divided
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom*
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
To make the icing
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon cool water, plus extra, as needed
Make the cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle position. Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together maple syrup, eggs, and brown sugar until very smooth. (You can also use a hand mixer or stand mixer on medium-low speed for convenience.)
In a medium bowl, toss diced pears with 2 tablespoons flour. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in 3 additions until combined. Fold in pears and pecans.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, 55-60 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the icing and serve
In a blender or food processor, process confectioners' sugar, maple syrup, heavy cream, cream cheese, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon water until smooth, scraping bowl as needed. Add additional cool water 1 teaspoon at a time until the icing is a pourable consistency. Pour icing over the cooled cake and let stand for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
*The strength of your cardamom will vary by brand and freshness. If you don't like a prominent cardamom flavor, or if the particular brand of cardamom you're using is extremely aromatic, decrease to 1/2 teaspoon. If your cardamom is very mild, consider increasing to your personal spice preference.