A Sour Cream Pear Cake That Proves More Isn't Always More

February 21, 2016

It seems an assumption of modern life that more is more, especially when it comes to dessert. There’s a reason bakeries line their pastry windows with custard-filled tarts topped with rows of glistening fruit and multi-tiered cakes with intricate frosting designs. They know what sells.

There’s even a restaurant in New York City that garnishes your milkshake with an entire slice of cake.

Don’t get me wrong: I like a little decadence. But I also love coming across a recipe that reminds me how sophisticated simplicity can be.

This particular cake illustrates the benefits of a little restraint. It’s not too sweet nor too showy. A stunning design of sliced pears fans across the surface, making the cake perfectly worthy of bringing to a dinner party or serving at a sit-down brunch.

Sour Cream Cardamom Pear Cake Photo by Posie Harwood

Sour cream and butter give it a moist texture, but the crumb remains quite delicate. Be sure not to over-bake it: A cake this simple can dry out easily.

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I’ve added ground cardamom to the batter, because I love the flavors of cardamom and pear together. You can easily swap it for cinnamon if you aren’t a big cardamom fan.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Don’t slice your pears too thinly. Aim for around 1/4-inch thickness. The way that the fruit softens is one of the best parts of this cake: Where the batter cradles the fruit, you get a thin custard-like layer, reminiscent of clafoutis.

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Top Comment:
“Printing this recipe right now. I love pears and cardamom together, and this reminds me of an apple cake I also love. mmmm good!”
— ChefJune

I can’t tell you how long this cake will keep because we ate in all in one day! But that should be recommendation enough for you, don’t you agree?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Cheri Mayell
    Cheri Mayell
  • Siany the cook
    Siany the cook
  • glutwin
  • Terry
  • Betsy
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Cheri M. March 1, 2016
Oh dear Glutwin, I have an idea, why not top cake with half Apple & half pear!
Best of both worlds Up the Apples & Pears! Get it?
Siany T. March 1, 2016
Hi there. Sorry could you possibly give the butter in ounces please? Butter in tablespoons is a smidgen confusing
Posie (. March 1, 2016
Sure, 8 tablespoons of butter equals 4 ounces (1 stick).
glutwin February 29, 2016
WHY do I have a pear-hating husband...could this brunch-worthy lusciousness be made instead? I love cardamom.
Terry February 28, 2016
Do you think I could substitute a gluten-free flour mix in this?
Betsy February 22, 2016
So I made this cake, following the recipe exactly. Are we sure that it's not meant for TWO 9 inch pans instead of the one that the recipe mentions? Because I'm dealing with a bit of a spill-over disaster in my oven at the moment.
EL February 22, 2016
My favorite is plum cake. Like this cake, it is extremely simple but is the sort of thing that can easily get eaten within a day!
ChefJune February 22, 2016
Printing this recipe right now. I love pears and cardamom together, and this reminds me of an apple cake I also love. mmmm good!
Arron U. February 21, 2016
Could you recommend some other cardamom-using recipes? I got on an Indian kick a while back and ordered some for use in some of the dishes I was making. However, I never got as into the cuisine as I thought I would because I'm the only person in my household that really likes it (so sad), and now I have this big jar of ground cardamom that I want to use before it loses its flavor. Any suggestions would be appreciated. (Even if they are Indian, etc.)
hardlikearmour February 21, 2016
This is tasty:
Jacqueline W. February 22, 2016
This is fantastic
Jacqueline W. February 22, 2016
I've made this every Christmas the past 4 years. This was in the traditions issue for Bon appetit.
ChefJune February 22, 2016
This pear tart "needs" cardamom, as well.
Deb February 21, 2016
Do you think I could substitute the same amount of whole plain yogurt for the sour cream?
ktr February 21, 2016
I have not made this recipe but I often substitute plain greek style yogurt for sour cream in recipes.
Molly R. February 22, 2016
I was thinking of doing the same thing