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Ginger-Pear Torte

Ginger-Pear Torte
Freshly whipped cream adds a delightfully rich finish to many desserts. It's easy to make if you know a few tricks. Be sure the cream is fresh (check the sell-by date) and is not ultrapasteurized; it will whip higher. Chill the cream well and beat it in a deep chilled bowl with a chilled whisk or electric mixer beaters. Beat just until soft or stiff peaks form, but do not overbeat or the cream will turn into butter. Once whipped, the cream will hold for about 30 minutes, covered and refrigerated.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1⁄2 cup finely ground blanched almonds
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 firm but ripe Bartlett pears, about 1 lb. total
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 3 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. brandy
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) of the butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs until blended. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is pale yellow and a slowly dissolving ribbon forms when the beaters are lifted, 6 to 8 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the flour and ground ginger. Sift half of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in with a rubber spatula. Fold in half of the melted butter. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and melted butter. Fold in the almonds.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until the edges of the cakes are golden and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pans, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the racks, peel off the paper and let cool completely.

Just before serving, in a deep bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Sprinkle the nutmeg over the cream and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate.

Place one cake layer, bottom side up, on a serving plate. Peel and core the pears and cut into 1⁄2-inch chunks. In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter. Add the pears and crystallized ginger and cook, stirring once or twice, for 2 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the brown sugar and brandy, and cook, stirring often, until the liquid is reduced to a thick glaze, about 4 minutes. Spoon the pears over the cake layer on the plate. Top with the other layer. Dust the top with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm with the whipped cream.
Serves 6 to 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Thanksgiving, by Michael McLaughlin (Simon & Schuster, 2001).