Last year it seemed I was constantly chasing extremes - from surprisingly cold winters in Northern Vietnam to scorching listless days on Thai beaches. From chilly Spring days in Scotland and the freezing Rakiura nights in New Zealand my days last year were either bloody hot or bitterly cold. I missed Autumn all together. It feels like I haven't really had a proper Autumn for years. I guess I forgot how incredibly beautiful they can be. Now I am in the mountains and the trees are so red they look like flames licking the ether. The air is cold and sharp and so is my focus. While all the leaves and plants die around me something in my mind is reborn. A creative drive. A need to move. I am feeling that familiar hunger for change gnaw at me. Visas are being researched and plans are being made, which I hope to share with you soon.
The beauty of Fall seems infectious right now. Driving into town the streets are littered with weekend tourists up from the city, eager to feel that seasonal shift and they are getting in everyone's way to do it. Phones out trying to capture the perfect shot of the trees, wandering into oncoming traffic while repeatedly throwing fistfuls of leaves in the air trying to capture that perfect selfie. The one that screams look how whimsical and adventurous I am. I get it, the season is glorious and I myself am super snap happy right now but seriously guys keep it to the sidewalk. I almost ran down 12 of them in one go.
It's all apples and pears in my kitchen at the moment. Oh and feijoas off our tree but I have no idea what to do with them yet as I cannot stand the taste of them. How does one cook a fruit one loathes? This cake is like a towering sticky toffee pudding. Sticky caramel soaking into fluffy layers of cake and soft buttery pears - it is autumn in cake form.
Pear, Date & Salted Caramel Layer Cake
For the Cake Layers;
- 1¼ Cup Chopped Dates
- 1¼ Cup Boiling Water
- 1 tsp Bicarb Soda
- 50g Butter
- ½ Cup Brown Sugar, Packed
- 2 Eggs, beaten
- 1 Cup Self-Raising Flour
For the Poached Pears;
- 4 beurre bosc pears, peeled & cored
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Orange Juice
- 2 Cups Water
- Vanilla Bean, split, seeded
For the Mascarpone Frosting;
- 220grams/2 Sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 225grams/8 oz mascarpone
- 3 Cups Soft icing sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
For the salted caramel:
- 1 cup (light packed) dark brown sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ teaspoons flaky sea salt
1. For the cake layers: Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease and line two 6 inch cake pans. In a large bowl combine together the dates, boiling water and bicarb soda. Stand for 5 minutes. Blend/process the date mixture with butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and blend until smooth. Fold in flour until just combined. Pour into prepared cake pans and bake for 40 mins- 1 hour or until cake springs back when lightly pushed. Turn out onto cooling racks and cool to room temperature.
2. For the poached pears: Place sugar, juice and water in medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add pears and vanilla bean. Allow pears to simmer in the liquid for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Turn occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat and cool pears in liquid to room temperature.
3. For the mascarpone frosting: In a large bowl beat the butter using electric beaters until fluffy. Add the sugar, vanilla and salt and beat until smooth. Add in the mascarpone and beat until just smooth, do not over-beat. Refrigerate until needed.
4. For the salted caramel drip: In a heavy bottom saucepan bring to a boil the cream, sugar, butter, and vanilla stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to low medium and cook stirring frequently until thickened. Add sea salt to taste and leave to cool to room temperature.
Assembly: Take cool cakes and level them. Half each cake into two even layers. Place first cake layer, cut side up onto serving platter and pipe mascarpone filling starting at the centre and working your way out (leave a cm or two at the edge). Top with the second cake layer cut side facing down and repeat piping the mascarpone on top. Repeat with remaining cake layers. Place in the fridge to firm up for 20 minutes. Top with the poached pears and drizzle with the salted caramel.