For a simple but elegant dessert, Countess Florence Daniel Marzotto chose to serve a basic sponge cake baked with fragrant almond flour, split in half and filled with a layer of tender pears. Cooked in butter in a covered pan, the pears steam in their own juices, releasing a syrupy sauce all their own.
1 1/2 cups almond flour (see Note)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
6 large egg whites
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
4 ripe but firm Bartlett pears—peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Crème Anglaise, for serving
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 10-inch springform pan. In a large bowl, whisk the almond flour with the all-purpose flour, grated orange zest, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Add the eggs and whisk well.
In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and beat until the egg whites are firm and glossy, about 2 minutes. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the almond-flour mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites until just incorporated.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is puffed and golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs still attached. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
In a large skillet, melt the butter with the sugar over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Arrange the pear wedges in the skillet in an even layer. Cover the pears and cook them over low heat until the pears are tender and a syrupy sauce forms, about 7 minutes.
Using a large serrated knife, cut the cake into two layers. Spoon the pears and their sauce over the bottom layer of cake and cover the pears with the top layer of cake. Lightly dust the cake with confectioners' sugar and serve, passing the Crème Anglaise at the table.
The cake can be prepared through Step 4 and kept covered at room temperature overnight before proceeding. The poached pears can be refrigerated overnight; rewarm gently before assembling.
Almond flour, made from finely ground almonds, is available at specialty food stores and large supermarkets like Whole Foods.
This light dessert doesn't need a big, sweet wine as a partnerin fact, that would be overwhelming. Count Marzotto poured glasses of his graceful Moscato di Noto that, unfortunately, is not exported to the United States. However, fellow Sicilian producer Planeta does export its bottlings, including their lush, gold-colored, apricot-scented Moscato.
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Review Body: I've had this recipe on file for 8 years and decided to try it today. I agree that a nine-inch pan would be better since it rises up and the sinks so I did not cut it into layers and served it in a wedge. I also lines the bottom of the pan with parchment, greased this and floured it. I used 6 medium sized pears and increases the butter and sugar by half and added some nutmeg and a pinch of salt to heighten the flavor. At the end, added a squeeze of lemon juice since I thought that the flavor was a little flat. I also reduced the sauce as it was runny. Instead Of making Crème Anglais, I melted some French vanilla ice cream which I read somewhere and since the colors were bland I served it with fresh raspberries.
Review Rating: 5
Date Published: 2017-02-22
Author Name: Jodyrah
Review Body: Just made this. Against my better judgement, per instructions, I used a buttered/floured springform pan (9'). I've made innumerable sponge and chiffon cakes. They are always baked in an ungreased tube pan and cooled in the pan, upside down, supended over the counter atop a wine bottle. They do not shrink and are extremely light. They are everything this cake could have been. Additionally, I found the cake itself lacking in flavor. The pear filling is too subtle even with the additon of pear liquor. While I love creme anglaise, it is an ill suited foil. Rose Levy Barenbaum's raspberry sauce would be a better choice. One descriptive word; "bla".
Date Published: 2017-08-24
Author Name: GianP
Review Body: Excellent dessert. Made the components ahead and the assembly was quick and easy. Since I love the combo of pears and hazelnuts I substituted 1/2 cup of hazelnut flour/meal for part of the almond flour and I thought it worked really well. I may experiment and increase that proportion next time. This recipe is a keeper.
Review Rating: 5
Date Published: 2016-12-12
Author Name: saltychelle
Review Body: WOW! This cake is delicious and perfect and so impressive! I made this for a dinner party last weekend, and it was met with rave reviews. I was nervous to try a recipe with zero ratings or reviews, but it sounded so amazing that I went ahead and risked it and am so glad that I did. This is my perfect kind of dessert – simple to make, beautiful presentation, and makes you look like a culinary genius even though you didn’t try very hard at all. The cake itself couldn’t be easier and took about 10 minutes to whip up. I prepped and simmered the pears while the cake baked, and made the crème anglaise while it cooled on the rack, and then everything was ready at the same time and worked out perfectly. I used food and wine’s classic crème aglaise recipe, and added a bit of orange zest to it along with the vanilla bean, which was lovely. I made the cake exactly as written, except I used a 9-inch springform pan instead of 10”, and honestly I would recommend using a 9”. In the 9” pan, the cake was just tall enough to make the two layers at around 2cm. each (not quite one inch each). I think it would end up too thin in a 10” pan, making it difficult to cut the layers. I removed the pears from the syrup when they were at the right consistency (soft but not falling apart), and then reduced the syrup in the pan a bit more because it was a bit too runny. I also bought an extra pear, and sliced a few pieces to make a pinwheel on the top of the cake (covering the hole I made with the knife to check for doneness), which made for a beautiful presentation. I will definitely be making this one again and again!