Recipes Desserts Cakes and Cupcakes Lemon-Olive Oil Cake with Poached Pears

Lemon-Olive Oil Cake with Poached Pears

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6

The bright flavor of lemon juice and zest contrasts nicely with the richness of the olive oil in this dessert from Aatxe, a Basque-inspired restaurant in San Francisco. Here we serve it with a poached pear, but it would be equally delicious topped with poached peaches or other stone fruit.


For the cake:

  • 1 cup (5 oz./155 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. (4 1/2 fl. oz./140 ml) olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml ml) water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbs. (8 1/2 oz./265 g) sugar

For the poached pears:

  • 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) red wine
  • 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 3 Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored

  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • Lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving (optional)


Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly grease an 8-inch (20-cm) square pan.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest and water. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium speed until slightly thickened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to slow and add a third of the olive oil mixture and mix just until incorporated. Add a third of the flour mixture and mix until blended. Repeat twice more, alternating wet and dry ingredients, until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.

While the cake is cooking, poach the pears. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the wine, sugar, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, cloves and star anise. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the pears and simmer until the pears are tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a plate. Let cool to room temperature.

To serve, dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar. Cut the cake into 6 rectangles and divide the pieces among 6 plates. Top each slice with a pear half and a dollop of whipped cream and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Ryan Pollnow, chef, Aatxe, San Francisco, CA

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