Pear and Lavender Cake

Snugg

This a wonderful cake with an unusual flavour combination, just as at home at an English picnic as an autumnal harvest table. It is a show-stopping cake thanks to the layer of caramelised pears under the sweet cream filling, and a subtle drizzle of lavender sugar syrup. You’ll have some of the syrup left over and it works beautifully in a Martini, meaning that when I make this cake, I get to combine two of my favourite things...

Ingredients

For the Sugar Syrup

  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender
  • 120 ml water

For the Cake

  • 4 pears (about 240g in total)
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 200 ml vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 250 g self-raising flour

For the Filling

  • 250 ml double cream
  • 1 heaped tablespoon caster sugar
  • 2 × 23 cm cake tins

Method

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Grease your cake tins with butter and flour them lightly.

Make the syrup by heating the sugar and a teaspoon of dried lavender in the water in a small pan until the sugar melts and the syrup is thick and glossy and coats the back of a spoon. Strain to remove the lavender.

For the cake, peel and slice one of the pears thinly, and fan the slices round the base of one of the cake tins. Leave the other tin plain. Brush the fragrant syrup over the sliced pear, building up several layers, and over the floured base of the second tin.

In a large bowl, add another teaspoon of lavender to the caster sugar and then beat it with the oil until you have a thick syrup. It is best to use an electric hand whisk to do this. Add the egg yolks one at a time and beat until they’re thoroughly combined and the mixture looks glossier. Beat in the flour. The mixture may look slightly stiff and biscuit-like at this stage – don’t worry.

Peel and grate the remaining pears and add them and any liquid that comes off them to the cake mixture: it will start to look like a batter at this stage. Don’t be tempted to add any extra pear if it doesn’t look wet enough because your pears aren’t very ripe. They will release liquid when they cook. Wash the beaters of the electric whisk well.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean, grease-free bowl until they form soft peaks. Fold them into the cake batter with a metal spoon to keep the air in. Pour the batter into your prepared cake tins and bake for 30–35 minutes. They are ready when a toothpick poked into the centre comes out clean or when the cake bounces back when pressed with your thumb. Don’t go by colour alone as they turn a darker caramelised colour than a regular sponge because of the pears.

Turn the cakes out of the tins onto a wire rack within 5 minutes of removing them from the oven – otherwise the sugar syrup will make them stick as it cools. The cakes are quite fragile and may crack slightly: hold your nerve, handle them carefully and stick any rogue pear slices back on while no one is looking. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

Whip the cream and the sugar for the filling until the cream forms soft peaks. Put the cake with the caramelised pears on your serving plate with the pear side up and spread the cream over the pears using a palette knife. Gently put the other cake on top to form a sandwich and serve.

You can also make the cake in mini loaf tins. Put one slice of pear in the bottom of each tin and brush the tops of the cakes with the lavender syrup while they are cooling.