Commonly it’s cooked with apples, but I prefer pears (which, when right, are my favourite fruit), so I’m using them here instead, and I’ve topped it off with another of my favourite ingredients – bee pollen. Pure bee pollen, as well as wax mixed with bee pollen, is sold at markets in all three Baltic countries, with a hefty price tag that reflects the value placed on its many health benefits. You can also find it in healthfood stores or online. I love the interesting floral flavour and extra texture it lends to the cake.
This is your classic fruit sponge cake, and one of the simplest, quickest cake recipes I know.
- 4 pears (approx. 550 g /1 lb 3 oz)
- juice of ¼ lemon
- 120 g (4½ oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
- 100 g (3½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 3 eggs
- 140 g (5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp natural vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp bee pollen (available at health food stores)
- whipped cream, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F). Grease a 21 cm (8¼ in) round non-stick cake tin with a little butter.
2. Peel and core the pears. Slice half a pear and set aside, squeezing over the lemon juice to stop it from browning, then cut the remaining pears into 1.5 cm (½ in) cubes. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer for 3 minutes, or until pale. Add the eggs and continue to whisk until pale and fluffy, then fold through the flour, baking powder, vanilla and cinnamon to form a batter.
4. Mix half of the pear cubes into the batter, then pour into the tin. Mix the pollen through the remaining pear cubes and sprinkle them over the batter. Tap the base of the tin on the work surface to settle the batter. Arrange the pear slices on top in a circle and bake for 45–50 minutes until the top of the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream.
Recipe and photography from Baltic by Simon Bajada (Hardie Grant, RRP $50)