Pear Custard Cake
This delightfully simple cake is technically referred to as “flognarde”, a French custard cake that is essentially a clafoutis, sans cherries as we’re deep into the beauty of fall and my pear trees are *actually* dripping with ripe fruit. I’ve made this cake a total of 3 times this past week, tweaking Mimi Thorisson and Dorie Greenspan’s versions to suit my own preferences- using less sugar for a still perfectly sweet dessert, subbing apples for the pears, and baking in my cast iron skillet as I do with a dutch baby. If you substitute apples for the pears, choose a firm variety that will hold up well to cooking, and not turn to mush. I’ve used Jonagolds, Fujis, and Cortlands with good results. While this cake makes a perfect dessert, it’s just as welcome as an afternoon snack alongside tea, or for breakfast. I enjoy this cake warm, room temp, and cold, which when I think about it, is how I enjoy pretty much every other cake too…
5-6 medium pears or firm apples, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons alcohol of your choice (dark rum, calvados, or brandy all work well)
4 tablespoons butter
4 large eggs, at room temp (I’ve also made this cake with just 3 eggs with good results)
1/3 cup raw cane sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon honey
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sifted all purpose flour
Heat oven to 350. In a medium sauce pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium/low heat, swirl the pan to ensure even dispersal, then lay the pear and/or apple quarters in a single layer. Sprinkle the top of the fruit with 1 tb. sugar. Cook for a few minutes, until one side of the fruit is golden, then flip each quarter over and continue cooking until golden on this side too. Lower heat if needed to prevent the sugar from burning. When the fruit is golden on a couple sides, add your choice of alcohol to the pan and simmer for another minute, stirring to bring up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs, 1/3 cup sugar, honey, vanilla, and salt for about 1 minute, until the mixture is a little foamy and well combined. Sift the flour directly on top of the egg mixture, and whisk until combined and smooth. Add milk and whisk until smooth.
In a 9 or 10” cast iron skillet, heat remaining 2 tb. butter until melted, swirling the pan to coat the entire bottom and sides of the pan. Remove from heat, and pour melted butter into the bowl of batter, stirring to combine. Into the warm, recently buttered cast iron pan, scrape the fruit and any juices given off by the fruit, arranging the fruit in a single layer. No need to be too fussy, as the batter will move the fruit around the way it wants to. Finally, pour the batter over top the fruit, and place directly into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then check for doneness. The cake should have risen and puffed, especially around the edges, and the center of the cake should be a bit jiggly, but set. Remove from the oven when the cake is golden brown.
Let the cake cook for 10+ minutes before serving. It will deflate as it cools, this is ok! This cake is also delicious served room temp, and leftovers are delicious right out of the fridge.