This simple cake topped with a thick layer of cinnamon-laced pears is a variation of an apple cake my mother often made.
I am guessing the origin of this cake is German. It’s an everyday kind of cake, and the ‘cake part’ is not too sweet; it’s basically a foil for the fruit on top.
When I ventured from apples into the land of pears, I was pleasantly surprised. I am now a convert! Pears turn soft, almost creamy when they bake. My husband swore there was custard involved, but as you will see, there is not!
A Riff on Grandma's Apple Cake
My mother called this cake Grandmother’s Apple Cake. I always assumed it was my grandmother’s cake, but then it dawned on me that it was her grandmother’s recipe. Who really knows how many generations back it actually goes?
Sundays at my grandmother’s house meant lots of visiting relatives for Sunday lunch and an extra cake or two on the kitchen table for the children. Mom did not enjoy (understatement!) cooking or baking, but the nostalgia of her childhood and the call of her sweet tooth would motivate her to make this special treat.
Whether you use apples in this recipe or opt for this version made with pears, this casual cake is sure to be a hit. If you want to fancy it up for teatime or an after supper dessert, add a dollop of whipped cream.
What Is the Best Pan for This Cake?
A 9-inch round cake pan or tart pan with a removable rim, set on a baking sheet, is the best choice for this cake. In a pinch, you could use an 8-inch cake pan, but the surface will not hold as many pears, and that’s a compromise I would not want to make unless pressed!
What Are the Best Pears for This Cake?
The pears in this cake should be ripe, since they do not soften well when they bake if they are hard to begin with. The choices are many—this is a throw-together cake, not a fancy one, so use what you can find.
That said, Bosc, Anjou, and French butter pears keep their shape well when baked, while Bartlett pears are somewhere in the middle, and Comice pears tend to lose their shape.
I usually use Anjou pears since they are easy to find and work well. Since this is such a rustic, simple cake, I don’t bother to peel them, which also saves time.
Can You Make This Cake Ahead?
The $64,000 question always is, can I make it ahead?
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this cake is best eaten on the day it is made. BUT, if you cover it well with foil and store it at room temperature, you won’t cry if there’s some left over the next day!
Eat Cake for Breakfast!
This cake is so easy, my mom often made it for breakfast on the spur of the moment. It’s a great recipe to have in your back pocket when guests are staying over, and you don’t want to fuss with more involved recipes like cinnamon rolls or coffee cake.
It’s such a quick cake to make; it brings joy to any non-occasion with its simplicity and deliciousness.
Need More Cake in Your Life?
- Classic Coffee Cake
- Lemon Pound Cake
- Plum Walnut Skillet Cake
- Apple Coffee Cake
- Grain Free Apple Honey Cake
Pear Cake with Cinnamon Sugar
- For the cake:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick/4 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into thick slices
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- For the topping:
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 large or 4 medium Anjou, Bosc or Bartlett pears
- Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven:
Set a shelf in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400oF. Butter a 9-inch cake pan or a 9-inch fluted tart tin with a removable rim. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.
Make the batter:
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until blended. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
In a measuring cup, lightly beat the milk, egg, and vanilla with a fork until blended. Add to the bowl of the food processor and process until the dough is smooth.
With the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula, spread the batter evenly in the cake pan (the batter will be thick).
Slice the pears:
Halve the pears. Use a melon baller to cut out the cores and remove the stem ends. Slice the halves into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Make the cinnamon sugar:
in a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon until combined.
Top the cake:
Starting at the outside edge, arrange the pears over the batter in a circular pattern, overlapping them slightly to cover the batter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
Bake the cake:
Set the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, and the cake looks golden at the edges.
Cool and serve the cake:
Let the cake rest in the pan for 10 minutes. If you used a pan with a removable rim, go around the edge the cake with the tip of a knife to release the edges. Set the pan on top of a small bowl and let the rim drop away.
Cut into slices from the pan and serve warm or at room temperature. A dollop of whipped cream is always a nice touch.