I made this cake a year ago to share with my dear friends Tom, William, and Meghan who were returning from an expedition to the Grand Tetons. My intentions were sound as I assembled the ingredients and baked the cake. However, once I tasted it, all good intentions were thrown out of the window.
I ate a fourth of the cake when it was mere minutes out of the oven. For breakfast the next morning, I ate the rest. I just wanted a taste, you see. A sliver. A tiny little bite to satisfy my taste buds. And then, well, things just got out of hand. My fork began moving of its own volition. Really. You must believe me.
It is safe to say that my returning friends received exactly none of the cake I had boasted to them about. I could have made up a story about how it didn't turn out, or how I had "accidentally" dropped it on the floor, but I didn't have the heart to lie to them about a cake so dangerously good. And this cake is good. The pears keep the cake so deliciously moist and the chocolate adds a nice contrast to the fruit flavor. And then there's the browned butter. It gives the cake this lovely nutty flavor which pulls everything together... straight into your mouth.
Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yields one 9 inch cake
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 eggs, room temperature
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
4 small pears, diced in small pieces
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate pieces
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour a 9 inch spring-form (or cake) pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whip the eggs until they are pale and very thick. With a hand-held mixer, this will take 8 to 10 minutes. With your hand as a mixer, this will take roughly 20+ minutes. Thus, I recommend using a mixer at pretty much any and all costs (because your arm will feel as though it is going to fall off, speaking from experience).
In the meantime, brown the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. As the butter cooks, it will foam up. Stir occasionally and scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan as they accumulate. The butter goes from browned to burnt in less than a minute, so watch it closely. When browned, remove the pan from the heat and pour the browned butter into a separate bowl. This will prevent the butter from continuing to cook and possibly burning.
Add the sugar to the eggs and continuing whipping for a few more minutes. When the eggs start to lose their volume, turn the mixer onto low and add a third of the flour mixture. Then, add half of the butter, a third of the flour, second half of the butter, and the rest of the flour. Mix until the flour is just barely combined. Too much mixing will result in losing more volume.
Put the cake batter into the pan. On top of the cake, place the diced pears and bittersweet chocolate. When the cake bakes, the cake will rise up around the pears and chocolate, burying them deep within. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.