Almond Pear Cake

February seems to already be flying by, with no complaints from me about that. We spent the weekend prop shopping and hunting down new surfaces for an upcoming wine shoot. I photographed the first part in Washington state, where Robert took my favorite photo of me ever, and I gained a whole new appreciation for the entire winemaking process.

I've been meaning to make an almond pear cake for a while now. I got stuck on the idea of an upside down, whole pear being the main attraction, and oh this cake. It is pretty special. Roasting the almonds to make your own meal gives it a rich almond flavor, with nothing artificial tasting here. Artificial almond is a flavor I could do without, and there's no need for it when the almonds do all of the work on their own. The cake is dense, with strong nutty flavor and crumbly goodness. The whole sugared pears that make it slightly sweet, along with an extra dusting of powdered sugar. 

Almond Pear Cake
makes one 9" cake

6 ounces whole almonds 
4 pears, peeled and cut in half with seeds removed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp plus 3 tablespoons for pan
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup confectioners sugar, plus more for dusting
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
¼ cup light sour cream
¼ cup raw sugar
about 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted for topping

Preheat oven to 325°. Spread whole almonds across a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Using a food processor, pulse the almonds until well blended and a coarse meal forms and set aside. 

Raise oven temperature to 350°, and in a small mixing bowl combine flour and baking powder and set aside. Using a stand mixer, combine one stick of butter and ground almonds on high speed until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add confectioners sugar, about ¼ cup at a time until incorporated. Add egg yolks and eggs one at a time on high speed. Fold in sour cream and mix on low until smooth. Add flour and stir until just incorporated. 

Prepare the sides of a 9" cake pan lightly with cooking spray. In a small saucepan, melt the three tablespoons butter over low-medium heat. Add raw sugar and stir until mixture begins to bubble. Pour the butter into the bottom of the pan, and place the halved pears on top, with the core side down. Pour the almond cake batter evenly over top of the pears. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the edges have browned and the cake is cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack for 5 minutes. Slide a knife around the side of the pan to help separate the cake, and carefully turn onto a serving plate. Top with slivered almonds and sprinkle with powdered sugar.