I finally settled on a pear and almond cake, which was on the television programme River Cottage 2009 too, and looked too good to pass up. I've never really given much thought to pears, I tend to get over excited by apples, pumpkin, squash, and so on when autumn rolls around, however good old Hugh inspired me to give the humble pear some attention this year. And I'm really, really, really glad I did. I think this is probably the nicest cake I've ever made (well, the Chocolate Cake I made is a fairly strong contender, maybe I have two favourites!!).
The pears are quartered and cored, and softened in butter and sugar (I used vanilla infused sugar for a little extra delicious-ness) which are then set aside to cool while the sponge batter is made. This is a mix of the usual suspects - butter sugar eggs and flour, but with the addition of ground almonds for an extra moist sponge which also gives it a denser texture. The butter is whipped until pale and glossy, then the sugar is added, followed by the eggs, then flour and ground almonds. This produces a satisfyingly gloopy batter, thick and heavy, which is then transferred into a lined cake tin, and the pears are laid on top of the mix, with the sugar and butter caramel-syrup poured on top - for extra nutritional value!!
Then bake in the oven at about 180 degrees for 40 minutes. The pears will sink slightly into the cake, which is a little less pretty than when it first goes in the oven, but when you slice into it you discover hidden gems of pear, soft and yielding, sweet and buttery, encased in moist, dense and almond flavoured sponge, which is truly lovely.
Now, I'm not going to lie, we got through an embarrassingly large amount of this cake in a very short amount of time. However, there was a distinct chocolate shortage going on in the house, so I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies - using Terry's Chocolate Orange to give it a bit of a Christmassy feel! Another Hugh recipe, I melted some butter, then beat it into some caster sugar and soft brown sugar, before adding eggs and flour. Eight minutes in the oven, and hey presto, chocolate fix sorted!!