Friday, January 11, 2013

Pear Almond Cake

by Sheila Connolly

Oh, no! I'm going to run out of Irish recipes! But not quite yet. This one is my interpretation of a lovely cake I had in a small café in Union Hall, population 192 as of the last census.

The place is run by two or three young women, and is open only for lunch and tea. When I was there, there was only one other customer, an older woman who the owners greeted by name.  They asked about her recent trip to visit relatives, and we ended up chatting as well (something that happens all the time in Ireland).  The woman asked for a piece of pear almond cake, and after seeing it, I ordered some as well.

I've had a go-to recipe for almond cake ever since I clipped it from a newspaper a few decades ago, and I love it. But the Irish cake was lighter—no almond paste. And of course I've got lots of apple cake recipes. But this cake was different—subtler. I even asked the baker whether she cooked the pears before adding them to the batter and she said yes—she poaches them lightly. (I knew it!)

So here's my version of the Union Hall Coffee Shop Pear Almond Cake:


1/2 cup butter (room temperatureBsoft)

1½ cups of sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1 cup wheat flour

½ cup almond flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 ripe pears, peeled and cut into half-inch chunks

Juice of one lemon

2 Tblsp sugar

1 Tblsp butter

Butter and flour a 9" round springform pan.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Peel and dice the pears. In a bowl, toss them with the lemon juice to keep them from discoloring. When all are chopped, place them in a small saucepan, along with the lemon juice, and add the sugar and butter.  Simmer gently until the pears are soft but not mushy.  Drain.

In a stand mixer, combine the soft butter and sugar and mix until fluffy.  Add the eggs and continue beating.  Add the almond extract and vanilla.

Sift together the dry ingredients.  Note: some recipes call for ground almonds, but this would change the texture of the cake significantly.  But feel free to experiment!

Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar-egg mixture and mix until blended (do not overmix).  Pour into the prepared cake pan.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

I'll admit that this is a work in progress.  My cake still isn't as light at the Irish version—but it tastes great!


  1. I was just thinking about baking something with fruit. This sounds wonderful! I'm trying to figure out what would make it lighter -- maybe she beats the egg whites separately and folds them in? I have a lovely recipe that doesn't contain any butter or oil . . .

    ~ Krista

  2. Pretty cake and I love the idea of pears with almonds. Yum!

    Avery / Daryl

  3. Looks and sounds lovely.
    When do the pears get added? Gently folded in as the last ingredient?

  4. You know, Krista, I looked at a lot of different recipes trying to find one that matched what I tasted, and I have to say I have seldom seen less consistency among recipes. Yes, I've seen at least one that used the whipped egg whites to make it rise. Some have milk, some don't. Proportions are all over the place. It's an adventure!

    Yes, Libby, the pears get folded in last, and then you pop it in the oven.

    1. Oh no! You might be *forced* to keep trying until it's perfect. ; )

      ~ Krista

  5. Mmm pear cake. Sheila, Union Hall is a beautiful little place. I've been there too. Now when I make this, I'll remember it.


  6. Oh, yum. Must add pears to my grocery list...

  7. Goodness, MJ, I didn't know anyone else had ever been to Union Hall! Buried in a Bog and the new series is set in Leap, at the head of the harbor there--you can see it from Union Hall.

    There's also a smoked salmon producer in Union Hall (I asked about visiting it, and the fish guy said there wasn't much to see there), and almost every restaurant we went to featured it. It's excellent--not too salty.

  8. Leap! I know Leap! We got some gorgeous pix there. Stayed at a B & B in Union Hall. Missed the smoked salmon though. How can that be?
    Perhaps too much Jameson. Ahem.
    Can't wait for your new series.