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.
Almond flour, made from finely ground almonds, is available at specialty food stores and large supermarkets like Whole Foods.
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