This lovely French pear cake is light in texture, with a crispy, crackly sugar topping. Lovely enjoyed warm with a dollop of Crème Fraîche.
I have a fondness for pear cakes. Baked pears are simply divine, especially when combined with some delicious cake. A few years ago, I shared this delicious Italian Pear Almond Cake. Like that cake, this French Pear Cake is more pears than cake.
This French Pear Cake has some differences though, as it uses a lighter batter to produce a lighter and airier cake. It also features a lovely crispy, crackly sugar-dusted topping. Same great baked pear cake goodness, in another delicious form!
Ingredients and Substitutions
Pears – pick pears that are ripe, but still firm. You can use any variety of pear you enjoy, such as Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc or red pears. I used a combination of both Bartlett and red pears here, as that’s what I had on hand, though ideally, just use one type of pear per cake, so they cook evenly. I didn’t peel the pears for this cake, although you certainly can if you like.
Crème Fraîche – Enjoy this cake slightly warm with a dollop of Crème Fraîche. Crème Fraîche is the perfect creamy, tangy foil for the baked pears and cake.
If you don’t have or can’t find Crème Fraîche, fear not! You can make your own easily and economically. Scroll down for the how-to! If Crème Fraîche isn’t an option, a dollop of very lightly sweetened whipped cream would be a great alternative. Or vanilla ice cream. You really can’t go wrong here :)
How to Make Your Own Crème Fraîche at home
To make your own Crème Fraîche at home, in a glass jar or cup, simply combine 1 cup of heavy, 35% b.f. whipping cream with 2 Tbsp well shaken buttermilk. Stir well to combine. Cover the top of the jar or glass with something breathable, such as a ring of parchment paper, slightly damp paper towel, a coffee filter, cheesecloth etc. and secure with string or a rubber band. Let stand at room temperature for 12-24 hours (depending on the temperature in your kitchen), until mixture thickens into a creamy, but not stiff mixture. Transfer to the refrigerator, where it can be used and kept up to 2 weeks.
To core the pears, simply cut in half down from just beside the stem. Using a small spoon, scoop out the centre core, then use the tip of the spoon to remove the upper stem spine (the part leading up from the core to the top stem) and cut out the bottom blossom end, as well.
To quickly and easily line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper, simply lay a sheet over the bottom ring, then attach the outer ring over the parchment. Trim the excess on the outside of the pan (it doesn’t have to be pretty to work :)
Making Ahead, Storing and Freezing
This pear cake is best enjoyed on the day it is baked. I love it slightly warm, though it is lovely at room temperature, as well. As there is a lot of moist fruit in the cake, it will begin to soften the cake as it sits. Left-overs should freeze, though freezing wouldn’t be my first choice.
Get the Recipe: French Pear Cake
For cake batter:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 3 pears, ripe but still firm, peeled or unpeeled, halved and cored
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup flaked almonds, optional
- Crème Fraîche, alternately whipped cream or ice cream
- Preheat oven to 350 F. (regular bake setting/not fan assisted) with rack in centre of oven. Prepare a 10-inch springform pan by spraying with baking spray and lining the bottom ring with parchment paper. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.
- Prepare the pears: You can peel the pears if you like, or simply leave the peel on. Cut in half down from the stem end to the bottom. Scoop out the core with a spoon and remove the stem spine and bottom blossom end. Place cut side down on a cutting board and cut each half in to 1/4-inch-ish slices. Transfer the sliced halves to the prepared baking pan, cut side down, fanning out the slices slightly. Arrange the sliced halves in a ring around the outside of the pan. The sliced halves should just touch each other in the centre and fan out slightly towards the outside edges. The centre couple of inches should be empty. You may or may not need all your pears. Simply fill until it's filled around. Set aside.
- In a large bowl with an electric beater or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and the 1 cup of sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until combined after each addition.
- Spoon the batter in to the centre of the prepared pan. Using a knife, gently spread the batter in to a thin layer out to the outside edges of the pan. It will seem very thin and barely cover the pears. Scatter the flaked almonds over the centre area of the batter. Sprinkle top of batter evenly with the 1/4 cup white sugar.
- Bake in preheated oven until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes.
- Let the cake cool 5-10 minutes in the pan, then run a knife around the outside and remove the outer ring. Allow to cool a bit more, then slice and enjoy warm with a dollop of Crème Fraîche.
Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!