Having cake for breakfast is an indulgence I enjoy tremendously when I am in Italy – I mean everyone does it there, it’s almost expected. You’d get more stares from locals if you ate eggs and bacon than if you ate a custard-filled cornetto (Italian croissant), or took a rather large slice of ciambella (those simple ring-shaped cakes, like an over-sized donut). That breakfast sugary hit seems just the thing with a morning caffelatte, so when I am in Italy, I go with the flow. I am always on the lookout for simple “breakfast” cakes and with Spring giving way to sunny colourful fruit like strawberries, and early apricots, I thought I would give pears a final hurrah, seeing the weather has been cold-ish and generally wet here in Australia (even though Summer is round the corner).
Some of the pears I had were sweet and ripe, but more than half were on the firm side, more suited to stewing. I decided to purée the stewed pears using a stick blender (so much less washing up than using the food processor) and fold them through the cake broadly following this recipe.
NB: this post includes a review of a Classic Magic Wand, which Bamix provided to me. All opinions are my own; I have not been paid for this post although I have received the product for free.
I remember my mother having a Bamix stick blender, it was all the rage, maybe this was in the seventies; it was Swiss made and one of the first on the market. When I left home, there were lots of other brands of stick blenders around, and over the years I bought several nameless brands. But invariably they didn’t last long – either the motor would start losing power, or they just stopped working, fancy red ones as well as functional grey ones. But I have been through rather a lot of them – and in these disposable days, broken electrical appliances are sadly thrown into landfill rather than being repaired. Mamma however seemed to have her Bamix for many years – a rather retro-looking brown and cream number. So I was more than happy to try the sleek white Swiss-made Bamix Magic Wand, which felt solid and reliable. The Classic Magic Wand is the basic version with a multi-purpose chopping blade; there are more expensive versions that can aerate, grind and more. Given mamma’s experience, I totally expected it to work like a dream when I tried it out, blending soups in colder weather and now turning the stewed pears into a smooth purée a couple of seconds. And it didn’t let me down.
So the puréed pears were folded into the cake, making it lovely and moist, with just the right amount of sweetness and richness to be an Italian breakfast cake. The recipe is similar to another pear cake on my blog, but this version remains moist for longer (a good thing!) though it does rise a bit less. If you make the cake, it is important to cook off all the fruit juice and caramelise the pear pieces, before puréeing; otherwise the cake batter is on the wet side. You could try substituting apples for the pears, or maybe even apricots, making it a sweet breakfast to enjoy all year-round (even if you are not in Italy).
Breakfast pear cake - torta di pere frullate
2 tablespoons lemon juice
40g plus 50g raw sugar
2 large eggs
190g plain flour
30g potato flour
8g baking powder (2 scant tsp)
zest of one lemon
30 ml (2 tblsp milk)
1 tsp pure vanilla essence
100g butter, melted and cooled
Peel, core and roughly chop 750g (3-4 large) pears. Toss in the lemon juice and place in a non-stick pan, with 20g butter, 40g sugar and the pinch of salt. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the pears start releasing their juices. The juices will start evaporating as you keep cooking and stirring, eventually leaving the caramelised sticky pear pieces. Place the pears in a bowl and purée with a stick blender. set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 24cm cake tin with a removable base. Break the eggs into a large bowl, add the rest of the sugar and whisk by hand until well combined. Place the flours and baking powder in a bowl and give them a good whisk. Add half the flour, the baking powder, the milk, the vanilla and the lemon zest, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the flour, stir, and then fold through the cooled pear purée. Lastly, fold through the melted cooled butter until well combined.
Peel the remaining pear, cut into quarters, remove the core and cut into fine slices. Pour the cake batter in the prepared tin, then place the pear slices in the batter. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer placed in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Dust with icing sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.