Poached Pear & Caramel Chocolate Sponge

This is a real showstopper! It’s not a simple process and there’s certainly plenty of steps but when it starts coming together it looks incredible! I got the recipe from Tesco’s Christmas magazine and then found a simple chocolate sponge cake recipe from BBCGoodFood. This was a huge learning curve for me, it was my first time poaching pears, my first time making candied nuts and my first time making a drip cake! No matter what, at least I learnt A LOT of new techniques today. 


Ingredients 

For The Chocolate Cake 
Serves 10 

225g Plain Flour 
350g Caster Sugar 
85g Cocoa Powder 
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder 
1 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda 
2 Eggs 
250ml Milk 
125ml Oil 
2 tsp Vanilla Extract 
250ml Boiling Water 

Poached Pears & the rest 

2 ripe and firm conference pears 
350g Caster Sugar 
1 Cinnamon Stick 
50ml Whipping Cream
50g Skin-on Almonds 
50g Dried Cranberries 


To start with, peel the pears leaving the stalks on, place them in a lidded pan on their own making sure they stand snugly together. Add your water in until it just covers the pears then take them out. Add 300g caster sugar and a stick of cinnamon into the pan. 



Using medium-low heat, melt the sugar with the water and the cinnamon stick. When the sugar has melted, add the pears back in and allow the mixture to just simmer before turning down to low and covering the pot with the lid. Leave the pears to simmer for around an hour and a half, I checked on them after an hour and then left them to just finish softening for another 30 mins.


Whilst the pears are simmering, preheat your oven to 180C/ 160 Fan/ Gas Mark 4 and grease 2 sandwich cake tins. 


To make the chocolate cake, add all the cake ingredients (except the boiling water) into a large bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth with no lumps. 


Now, add in the boiling water in small amounts, mixing it in thoroughly each time before adding more. The mixture should be VERY liquid, so don’t worry if it is! 


Pour the cake batter evenly between your two tins (because of how loose the mixture is mine started leaking out the bottom of the tin so make sure you put a tray under your tins!) Bake the cakes for between 25-35 minutes until the top is crisp and a toothpick comes out clean. 
Once cooked, leave them on a cooling rack to cool completely. 


Now your pears should be done! If they’re soft all the way through and have taken on a lovely colour from the syrup allow them to cool for at least 20 minutes and then it’s time to remove them from the pot and set aside for now. 


With just the syrup in the pan, take it back up to medium-high heat for around 20-30 minutes until you have a sticky glaze.


Once you have a thicker syrup, take it off the heat and add in your whipping cream to create a caramel. Stir it through until you see it changes to a lighter colour and then leave this aside to cool stirring occasionally to make sure it thickens up. 


Now with the rest of the pot of whipping cream, put it in a mixer and allow it to beat for some time (around 15 mins) on a very high setting until it becomes fluffy and spreadable. I also added a couple of caps of vanilla essence and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon to the cream as it was whipping, but that's up to you.


Spread the cream over the top of one of your cakes, making sure it’s even all over. 


To make your candied almonds, add the remaining caster sugar into a frying pan with 2 tbsp water, put this on medium-high heat and add your almonds in, let this cook for around 4 minutes until the mixture changes to a sticky glaze. (Make sure to be constantly stirring this so it doesn’t burn!)


 Set up a baking tray with a non-stick sheet and pour your almond mixture onto the tray. Very quickly pour the almonds onto the nonstick sheet and IMMEDIATELY separate them with 2 forks as they harden very quickly! 


Now it’s time to put it all together! Sandwich your second cake on top of the first one and pour the caramel over the top, allowing it to drip down the sides. I made a ring out of the candied almonds to rest the pears on and then sliced each pear in half and splayed them out over the almonds before sprinkling some dried cranberries on top just to make it extra Christmassy!   


I had so much fun making this, it wasn’t easy and it took over 2 and a half hours overall to get it done BUT I learnt so much and I'm honestly really happy with how it looks! I feel like the hard work pays off when you can show off this absolute beauty to your friends and family. I made a chocolate sponge cake to go under the pears but the original recipe used a Christmas fruit cake, I really hate fruit cake but I don’t think the chocolate cake was the best match so maybe you could try a carrot cake underneath? Or make it into a loaf and arrange the pear in slices along the top for a neater look, there are lots of ways to play about with this recipe and I’m looking forward to perfecting it again some time. 
Although Christmas might be a bit different and slightly smaller for most of us this year, maybe this showstopper of a Christmas cake will impress just about anybody that you have around…even if it’s just you! 

Merry Christmas, 

H x 

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