Pear and ginger cake

A simple, light cake studded with juicy, sweet pear and the warm depth of ginger and cinnamon.

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There’s an old Italian biscuit tin, a bit smaller than a shoebox, that lives on top of my fridge. It has one purpose these days, and it’s a very noble one: storing cake. When there’s something in it, and this is especially true on the weekend, it makes me feel competent and content – a feeling I’ll take any way I can get.

It’s never a fancy cake; a cake made to celebrate an occasion would serve a very different purpose. Something plain, proudly domestic, often a loaf, never iced or decorated, the kind of cake that doesn’t need a celebration yet, once made, finds little occasions for eating it presenting themselves again and again.

This pear-studded cake is always a reliable option. (Another is my Metric Pound Cake.) It keeps beautifully for days – or, at least as far as I know, for the length of a weekend – ready for a moment of calm with a coffee or for some impromptu entertaining when friends drop by.

To complement the sweetness of the pear, I flavour the cake itself with cinnamon and ginger – ground ginger, to be exact. Ignore the pointless snobbery about ground ginger: it has a different, warmer tone than its fresh counterpart, less heat and sweetness but with enough of a punch to sit perfectly with cinnamon and the fruit.

Use ripe but still-firm pears in this as they will soften quite a lot in the baking and you want to avoid them going mushy and leaching out too much juice. All the ingredients need to be at room temperature before you start, and the butter, especially, needs to be very soft.


Pear and ginger cake

Serves 6–8.

75g (⅓ cup) unsalted butter
100g (1 cup) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
2 eggs, separated
1 egg white
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
120g (1 cup) plain flour
250g pears (9 oz, about 3 pears), peeled and cut into 1cm (½ inch) dice
a little butter and 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs, to prepare the tin

Butter a 23 x 13cm (9 x 5 inch) loaf tin and dust it with breadcrumbs (panko is good here), tapping out the excess.

Set your oven to 180°C (350°F).

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar to it a spoonful at a time until well combined. Beat in the 2 egg yolks, ground ginger, cinnamon and salt.

In another bowl, whisk the 3 egg whites until stiff peaks form. Beat a spoonful of the whites into the batter to slacken the mixture, then carefully fold in spoonfuls of whites, alternating with spoonfuls of flour, until just incorporated. Fold in the diced pears.

Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf tin, smooth the top with a spatula and bake for 50 minutes. Test the centre of the cake with a skewer – it should come out clean.

Cool in the tin on a wire rack before turning out to cool completely. Dust the top with a little icing sugar just before serving.