This wonderful healthy dessert is one of my favorite cakes to entertain. Gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free, this cake surprises the palette as the almond flour and polenta lend themselves to its nutty texture and contrasts with the silky smooth poached pears, while the spice flavor adds a depth of flavor and a hint of ginger zing.
Sweetened with a hint of honey, it’s the perfect light after-dinner dessert, and can be made ahead. To be enjoyed alone or with a cup of hot tea. You can also drizzle the top of each slice with a little syrup for more natural sweetness.
Spiced pear polenta cake
Yield: 1 cake of 9 inches
Serving: 8 to 10
Preparation time: ½ hour
Poaching time: 1 hour
Advance preparation: Yes
Poached Pears Ginger Saffron
- 5 Bartlett or Anjou pears, peeled, stems intact
- 6 cups apple juice
- 8 slices of fresh root ginger
- 1 pinch of saffron
- 1 vanilla pod, split
- In a saucepan large enough to hold the pears in a single layer, bring all the ingredients except the pears to a gentle boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Be sure to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and place it in the liquid, along with the bean.
- Gently place the pears in the poaching liquid. Cover the surface of the liquid with a piece of parchment paper to prevent the pears from discoloring while poaching.
- Poach for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the ripeness of the pears. Test by piercing the thickest part of the pear with a knife, it should have just a slight resistance.
- Carefully remove the pears once they are set and place them on a clean plate to cool.
- Once they’re cool, level the bottoms with a knife, removing about ¼ inch so they’ll stay upright in the cake pan later.
- Remove the ginger slices from the poaching liquid. Increase the heat until the liquid begins to boil again. Reduce the liquid until it thickens, resembling a light syrup. Put aside.
Spiced polenta cake
- 195g extra virgin olive oil
- 200g honey
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 60 ml pineapple juice, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt 270 g almond flour
- 130g polenta (medium grain cornmeal)
- ½ cup pine nuts
- Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. If your oven is hot, you can line the sides with parchment or use cake pan baking strips.
- Whisk all the spices, salt, almond flour and polenta in a bowl and set aside. Add the vanilla to the pineapple juice and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the oil and honey starting at medium speed, increasing the volume once emulsified, for 2 minutes.
- Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Once all the eggs have been added, continue mixing on high power for 4 minutes. This step is to add as much air as possible to the dough.
- Gently fold the dry ingredients by hand into the egg mixture, using a spatula, in 3 times, taking care to retain as much air as possible in the batter.
- Add the juice at the end, and fold gently to incorporate.
- Place the batter in the prepared pan and arrange the poached pears in a circle, making sure they are about 1 inch from the sides of the pan and there is space between each pear. Sprinkle pine nuts all over the top for a little extra crunch.
- Cut a square of aluminum foil. Place it very loosely on top of the cake pan. Place the mold on a baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes, covered with aluminum foil. Remove the foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Leave to cool for 30 minutes in the pan, before removing the circle, leaving the parchment intact until the cake has completely cooled. The center will be more moist, but will retain its shape once cooled. Gently lift the bottom cake and place it on a serving platter. Decorate with fresh raspberries and serve with the syrup reduction on the side.
Note: This cake will keep for 2 days, in an airtight container, at room temperature. Reheat slightly to enjoy the next day.
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