recipe: fresh pear cake with coconut

fresh pear cake with coconut

Last weekend we had some of Jeff's extended family over for homemade pizza and board games. (Smart Ass and Cranium are big hits!) I love hosting company not just for the food, laughter, and conversation but because it motivates house cleaning, something we usually need more of around here.

We also needed a dessert. I had several soft and bruised Harry & David Royal Riviera gift pears in the fridge drawer, desperate for salvage. Fresh pear cake to the rescue! The pears too ripe to eat raw worked fine baked (though one, sadly, I had to compost whole as it was a mushy mess).

This is a simple recipe cut from a magazine (Sunset, maybe?) years ago submitted by Elsa Kleinman in Topanga, California, that I've tweaked by subbing whole-grain flour, a little cornmeal for texture, and unsweetened coconut. For a dessert cake, add a little extra sugar and butter, using half-and-half or cream instead of milk. Or for a lighter coffee cake, use milk, less butter, just two eggs, and no extra sugar. While the little three-year old cousin didn't like it (Jeff suspects because it's "too adult" and not sickeningly sweet), his mother, who bakes the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had, said the cake tasted "gourmet," and that's about as good a food compliment as it gets.

Fresh Pear Cake with Coconut

2-3 T. butter
1 c. whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. unsweetened coconut (plus more for dusting)
3 eggs
1 c. sugar (preferably turbinado)
1/2 c. milk, half-and-half, or cream
pinch of salt
3 large ripe juicy pears (e.g., Bartlett, d'Anjou, Comice)

Butter a round baking dish and evenly sprinkle it with sugar. Slice, core, and peel the pears. Blend eggs, sugar, milk, and salt, then adding the dry ingredients (including the coconut) until well combined. Fold half the pears into the batter, scraping the batter into the pan. Fan the remaining pears over the top and dot with small chunks of butter. Bake at 350 degrees F on the bottom oven rack (to prevent excess browning) for just under an hour, checking with a toothpick or knife edge for a clean crumb. Dust the top of the cake with a layer of coconut while still warm. Slice thinly and serve warm or at room temperature. Covered with plastic wrap, it will keep for a few days out on the countertop or for well over a week in the fridge.

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