Serves a Crowd

Pear and Cranberry Cake

September 11, 2011
1 Ratings
  • Makes 1 bundt cake
Author Notes

This is a family recipe, no denying it. It was my Aunt Martha’s creation, but quickly became a holiday staple in my house as well. I distinctly remember eating this cake as part of our Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and then again the next morning for breakfast; a huge treat for my sisters and I. Now I make it too, because it is mixed and in the oven in under fifteen minutes, and because it makes my kitchen smell divine. The flecks of mild, sweet pear and bites of sour cranberry are little gems, lending this moist, citrus-spiked cake a distinctive holiday look and taste. —Cristina Sciarra

Test Kitchen Notes

Cristinasciarra shares her aunt's luscious cake recipe which she adapts here with pears. This cake is a snap to put together, there's a tantalizing aroma while it bakes, and it's very gratifying with that first bite. The tart pop of the fresh cranberries with the bright citrus notes in a perfectly moist rag-cake texture is simply divine. You could add a tiny pinch of salt, if you like. This is also a very forgiving recipe, if you happen to forget the wheat germ: it will still be lovely. I made this both ways. Thanks, cristinasciarra for sharing this gem! —Sagegreen

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups sugar
  • zest of one orange
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries (if frozen, do not defrost)
  • 2 very ripe pears, peeled and partly mashed (if unripe, cook them with ½ tablespoon butter, ½ tablespoon sugar and ½ tablespoon fruit brandy until soft)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, zest and eggs.
  3. Mix in orange juice. Pour in melted butter, while whisking vigorously, so the butter does not coagulate.
  4. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. Add wheat germ and baking soda, and incorporate.
  5. When the batter is mixed smoothly, add (slightly mashed) pears and cranberries, and integrate.
  6. Pour batter into a well-buttered bundt pan.
  7. Bake for one hour, or until a knife comes out clean.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at

31 Reviews

cosmiccook December 9, 2018
I don't have wheat germ on hand--but what about nuts? I sure have a lot of them! Also would like to 1/2 the recipe and make in mini bundt pans for holiday giveaways.
Jenny October 26, 2015
Im trying to get rid of some really sour cranberries, so this recipe sounds like it could work perfectly. Would you suggest that I cook down the cranberries with a little sugar syrup or something?
Manhattan T. October 26, 2015
I wouldn't bother with sweetening them up at all, but I may cut them back to 1 1/4 cups so their tartness isn't overwhelming.
Tina M. January 25, 2015
Thanks for sharing this family recipe! I found myself with a bag of gorgeous fresh Massachusetts cranberries and some extra time on my hands. I love to cook but my baking has at least a 50% fail rate - this was delicious for dessert and even better with coffee or tea the next morning. Very pretty too! I used corn meal, but curious to try it with wheat germ too - a keeper for sure!
lois December 8, 2014
Has anybody made this in advance and frozen it?
Manhattan T. February 7, 2014
Have subbed cornmeal for the wheat germ and it's delicious; the cornmeal isn't a distraction from the other fabulous flavors, it just adds a nice little crunch. Love this cake!
learningbycooking November 8, 2013
Thinking of using persimmons in lieu of pears. do you think this would work, especially with the orange notes? beautiful 'go to' recipe!
adele93 March 2, 2013
would rolled oats work as a substitute for wheat germ? Also, as i was going to use blueberry's and the cranberry's provide a "pop" of tart should i reduce the 2 cups sugar to 1 1/2?
Cristina S. March 3, 2013
Hi Adele, the wheat germ provides a nutty flavor note, although it doesn't alter the texture of the cake the way rolled oats would. It wouldn't be my inclination to add the oats, but by all means, experiment as you see fit! (You can also just skip the wheat germ if you want.) As for the berries, the zest from the citrus really shines through, particularly the orange, so I might only use fruit you think marries well with orange. And lastly, the sugar: the wheat germ helps temper some of the cake's sweetness; since the fruit only studs the cake, I don't think it lends the cake as a whole much sweetness. However, if you like your desserts on the less sweet side, feel free to experiment with the sugar quantity until you're happy!
norcal L. January 24, 2013
I am finally making this now:) but need to use a different berry.....any other you like? Leaning toward raspberry or blueberry.
aargersi January 24, 2013
Norcl Liz I would stick with something tart - one of may favorite things about this cake it that tart cranberry pop - so I would choose raspberry over blue berry, or maybe fresh currants if you can get them
norcal L. December 31, 2012
Will dehydrated cranberries work?
Cristina S. December 31, 2012
Hi norcal liz, I wouldn't use dehydrated cranberries-- part of the goodness of this cake is the plump, moist bites of cranberry.
Josephsm December 22, 2012
Raw wheat germ or toasted wheat germ, or doesn't it matter? Thanks, looks like a great cake.
Cristina S. December 31, 2012
Hi Josephsm, Toasted would be my inclination, but I suppose it doesn't matter.
barb48 December 12, 2012
Can I just skip the wheat germ? What effect will it have on the cake?
Cristina S. December 12, 2012
The wheat germ adds a bit of a nuttiness, and balances the sweet/citrus. However, the cake will still be tasty without it.
Kaycita November 25, 2012
This worked great with my 2 substitutions. I used flax meal instead of wheat germ. And I used Cointreau instead of fruit brandy because I wanted a little extra orange flavor. I think it would work well with apples too.
BavarianCook March 10, 2012
This is fantastic. Just had my first slice of it after pulling it out of the oven an hour ago. It's not "holiday season" right now but I had some leftover frozen cranberries to use up and this cake fit the bill. Deliciously moist and the citrus is not overpowering but goes wonderfully with the pears. A keeper and thank you for the recipe, Cristinasciarra!!!
Waverly December 6, 2011
Perfect holiday bundt cake!
Sagegreen November 22, 2011
Lovely flavors!
Sagegreen December 4, 2011
Aargesi is so right! This is delicious. It worked really well with a pinch of salt and even my forgetting to add the wheat germ the first time. Everyone still loved it!
Cristina S. December 4, 2011
I'm so glad it worked out! Thanks so much for testing it! Just in case you ever want to enjoy this cake in a more tropical setting, my Aunt adds: "You can also use pineapple juice instead of orange juice and chopped pineapples (use the pineapple chunks and cut them down) instead. Cut up macadamia nuts mix with sugar and sprinkle on top. All other ingredients are the same and you prepare the same way."
boulangere November 22, 2011
How beautiful, and what lovely flavors.
aargersi September 23, 2011
It is in the oven!
Cristina S. September 23, 2011
I hope you love it!
aargersi September 24, 2011
Absolutely delicious! Moist tender cake, tart pops of cranberry, and the perfect citrusy notes. We love it!!!!
Cristina S. September 24, 2011
I am so glad you like it! :)
Cristina S. September 12, 2011
I hope you guys like it!
aargersi September 12, 2011
I have a bag of frozen cranberries that I have been hoarding, and a lot pf pears too - this is perfect!!!
nannydeb September 12, 2011
Just in time for another potluck at work! I can taste it already. thanks!