Saturday, 21 December 2013

Pear and cardamom cake for Petra

Excuse my absence. I don't know what I've been doing. Oh yes I do! Potty training Kitty. I won't go into it, but there's been a lot of washing, scrubbing, mopping etc. I'm like Hercules trying to clean the Aegean stables!! Only I am better at accessorising. I like to team skinny black jeans and my new Adelphe diamond-slice ring with eau de toddlerpiss.

But look it's nearly Christmas and though I loathe Christmas recipe pull-outs at this time of year - so confusing, so distracting - I thought I would recycle this cake that I made for my Grazia column (she said casually) and show it to you here, in case you don't read Grazia and you're looking for a mildly spiced cake to serve at some party or other.

And say Merry Christmas to you all! But, especially, to a girl called Petra I once knew a long time ago. A friend of a friend. I bumped into her husband the other day at a party, who I never recognise because he keeps changing his spectacles. At the moment he is wearing some intimidating horn-rimmed pair. "Petra reads your blog," he said. "I'm sorry I don't, I…" he floundered. It's alright, I said. You're not my demographic.

Anyway Petra is absolutely terrific, but she wasn't at the party because she was working! At Christmas!! But I think she is a lawyer and so just works and occasionally, blinking at the daylight, leaves her office to eat a sandwich and breathe some non-recycled air.

(My favourite story about lawyers, by the way, was when I emailed my friend Jamie, who is a commercial barrister, on a sunny Bank Holiday Sunday about something - I wanted to email while I remembered what it was - and I joked "As it's a sunny Bank Holiday Sunday Jamie, I expected a swift response as you will, obviously, be at work." And he fucking was!)

The thing I remember most about Petra was at a dinner party I said I liked her necklace, some really beautiful magnificent choker-y thing with all manner of swizzles and sparkles on it. "It was my grandmother's," she said. "There's an extra bit you can fit on it," she said, describing a hook and eye in the air with her hands, "that makes it even bigger."I just stared at her, boggling at the poshness of it all - I thought she was going to say she got it at Accessorize.

Thinking about Petra made me a bit sad. There are all these people, I think, old friends, who read this blog but I don't see them or speak to them. Then it turns out they've been there all the time. It's possibly best this way, when I think about it. If we were together they would just have to sit there while I rattled on and on just talking about myself and telling boring stories that start off about one thing and then turn into something else and then I suddenly stare out of the window and shout "Oh look there's that fucking massive parakeet on the bird feeder again!!!" At least if you read this blog you can get up and go and make yourself a cup of tea or something. Get a bit of chocolate to sustain yourself until the pay-off.

And while you're at it make this cake why don't you.

This is a very classy cake because of the addition of cardamom, that most people are too scared to use in sweet baking because they don't want a cake that tastes like curry. But it doesn't taste like curry, it's very nice. It's like something they would make on Bake Off.

But it is absolutely huge, so only make this if you have a lot of people coming round.

Pear and Cardamom cake from The Ethicurean cookbook
Serves about 20, genuinely

315g salted butter at room temperature
315g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
5 eggs (!!!) lightly beaten
315g ground almonds
50g plain flour
1tbsp ground cardamom
1ripe pear (I used tinned pears, which worked very well)
70g dark chocolate

Heat the oven to 170C. Line the base and sides of a 23cm springform cake tin with baking parchment

1 Beat the butter and sugar together for about five minutes, or until pale and sort of fluffy. Then add the eggs. Don't fret too much if it curdles, just beat the shit out of it with an electric whisk or whatever until it doesn't look so awful. 

2 Add all the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold the mixture a few times with a spatula.

3 Turn it into the tin, level the top then place in the centre of the oven and bake for 20  minutes.

4 Slice your pear thinly and break the chocolate into pieces. 

5 Remove the cake from the oven. It will still be liquid. Press the chocolate pieces into the mix across the entire cake. Lay the pear slices on top of the cake and then sprinkle the cake with some sugar, for caramelisation and a bit of crunch. 

6 Put back in the oven. The recipe said for another 40 mins but mine took another 60 mins for a skewer to come out clean. All ovens are different, alas, which is why baking is such a fucking bore. 

Eat with creme fraiche, I'd say. While wearing a really amazing necklace. 


  1. I think you just made Petra's day. Merry Christmas.

  2. I'm embarking on the hell that is potty training after Christmas. I keep thinking it would be best to do it before the new baby arrives (due mid Jan) but what if the toddler regresses?...

    Either way, I expect it to be hell and only work with copious amounts of cake to be used as a bribe.

    1. ALL children are different - annoying thing to say, but true. Yours may nail it in 3 days but if not DO NOT FRET that you haven't chosen the "right" time. Once the nappy is off, just keep going. It may take weeks to nail the wees and longer to nail the poos. This is normal. Do not listen to people who say their kids did it happily or that it was easy or whatever. Not useful. It's a long, hard process for most people and if you find it dementing you haven't done anything wrong and your child is not in some way faulty. Just go for it & keep going & buy a LOT of pants xxxx

  3. Merry Christmas Esther!! Will be hosting Christmas eve dinner this year so shall re-read your Christmas series from 2 years ago..

    I am in total denial about potty training, and in any case boys supposedly take longer so I'll wait till he is closer to 3 (he's 25 months now..). We have a potty at home and for about a week he thought sitting on it was fun but now he just shrieks whenever I mention it. NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO PT.

    All the best to you and your family; your friends are lucky to have you

    Veronica x

    1. friends? I have 2 friends and neither seem that pleased to hear from me when I ring. but thanks all the same. Merry Christmas xxx

  4. Oh - that's a lot of eggs, but when do we actually put them into the cake? I guess something like "1.5 beat eggs into sugar and butter mix until curdled"?

  5. Yikes, how do you do deal with the masses of winter clothing worn by toddlers out and about in the wintertime when potty training?

  6. I guess I'm not really your demographic either, but I've loved Recipe Rifle for so long and this is a particularly fine example. I think it was the Augean stables, but who cares? The cake sounds delicious. Merry Christmas!

  7. I love, love this cake and love The Ethicurean. Bizarrely, my lovely mum made it for me to cheer me up a few weeks ago when I broke my ankle. Heaven on a plate, especially with copious amounts of cream. Gert lush as we say down 'ere.

  8. Cardemom is good with everything. Putting it in cinnamon buns makes them very Scandinavian tasting, I have found.

  9. I do want to get a copy of The Ethicurean, and always approve of cardamom in sweet recipes. Happy Christmas!

  10. She's so right, potty training in 3 days is an underground myth perpetuated by those people that say they only craved watermelon when pregnant hence why they're a size 6 again 3 wks after the birth!!
    Let them be naked from the waist down at home for as long as it takes, take the potty EVERYWHERE and I mean everywhere, don't be fooled into thinking a wee buys you even 15mins of dry-time coz that's when another one comes!!, buy a bucket load of jelly tots for rewards and stay calm. It's only wee and you needed a new carpet anyway!!
    Oh, also forcing Daddy to do a ridiculous potty dance for every success helps, if for no other reason than it makes you smile ;-)
    God speed xx

  11. Esther this cake looks amazing - I don't just want it, I need it! A question: do you eat it warm or at room temp?
    A big Christmassy thank you

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  13. Oh Esther, you have definitely made this Petra's day!! I too, am called Petra, I love your blog and am thrilled to have a cake dedicated to me, if only by proxy. Unfortunately, I am not posh and do not own a beautiful necklace bestowed upon me by a Grandmother. But a Petra I am, so thank you.

  14. This was a Christmas Day triumph!!!!!

  15. Hi Esther, I probably won't ever make this cake as I am shit at baking. I really love your writing though- have just downloaded the Bad Cook and it's ace. Thanks for shining some light into my life.

  16. Instead of revising I procrastinated by baking this cake as I love cardamom in anything. I was a bit doubtful of the amount of butter together with the ground almonds (it made a good substitute for lip-balm after eating) but my husband thought it was delicious and my 2.5 year-old said "want more cake!"(no 'please'). It is yummy, happy new year.

  17. This was delicious. Want to make it again but in advance - anyone know whether it freezes well?

    1. I don't think any cake freezes well. It will be okay, it won't kill you, but it won't be at its best x