Pear and Almond Cake

September 19, 2014
13 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Makes one 9-inch cake
Author Notes

This cake is a European love child, inspired both by David Lebovitz's Almond Cake (in turn adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere) and Mimi Thorisson's Italian Pear Cake. —Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • 2 to 3 very ripe pears (I used D'Anjou)
  • 1 cup cake flour, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups caster or superfine sugar
  • 7 ounces almond paste
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature and cut into 1-tablespoon cubes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 dash confectioners' sugar, for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan or springform pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and butter that, too. Dust the pan with flour and shake off any excess.
  2. Peel the pears and cut them into very thin slices from stem to bottom. Starting at the outside perimeter of the pan, place the pear slices in tight concentric circles until you've covered the pan's bottom.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of cake flour, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
  4. In a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of the cake flour until the almond paste has mixed with the sugar to form a sand-like substance.
  5. With the food processor running, add the cubes of butter one at a time. When the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla and almond extracts. Process until the batter is smooth and light.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, processing after each addition.
  7. Add half of the dry ingredients and pulse a few times. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and pulse the machine until the dry mixture is just incorporated. The batter will be light, fluffy, and thin.
  8. Pour the batter over the pears, then bake the cake in the center of the oven. Check it after 50 minutes, at which point in may look like an ominous white blob. Cook it until the top is nicely browned and the center is not too jiggly (mine took 60 minutes in one oven, 70 minutes in another; it has also been known to take 55 minutes. Moral of the story: Watch closely).
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen it from the sides. Let the cake cool completely, then invert it onto a cake rack. Invert it once more if you want the pears at the bottom and the crackly, golden-brown side facing up. Dust it with confectioners sugar, then slice a piece for yourself.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Karen Brooks
    Karen Brooks
  • holly dart
    holly dart
  • Debra Ellerbrook
    Debra Ellerbrook
  • Susan Betz
    Susan Betz
  • creamtea

97 Reviews

Karen B. August 24, 2022
Wowza! This is a fantastic cake! My family requests this often.
holly D. April 24, 2021
One of my all- time favorites! Simple, classy, beautiful, unique, and easy!!
Carol October 10, 2020
I followed the recipe as written, including all the sugar and almond extract. The flavor was delicious.
I didn't care for the texture which is a little rubbery. I don't know know if I did something wrong or if that's just the way it's supposed to be. It's not cakey and it's not custardy. Won't beaking this one again.
Debra E. January 8, 2019
I made the cake today, it is beautiful, my only issue was telling when it was done
Susan B. December 27, 2018
Anyone intending to serve this “cake” to others should do a practice run ahead of time with their ingredients, their equipment, and their skill set. I made it Christmas Eve day for dinner that evening and it was a failure. Only the outer edge was edible; the rest was a gelatinous mess—the most generous description would be the texture of a dense old-fashioned steamed pudding.

I had to buy 3 ingredients not usually in my kitchen cabinets: almond paste, cake flour, and superfine sugar. My food processor does not have buttons and the lid must be twisted back and forth for each “pulse”, so the process was beyond tedious. And I, who was not afraid to make a highly recommended recipe the first time for guests, have had my confidence shattered.
Mandy September 15, 2018
This is one of our go to desserts. My Italian husband LOVES it because it isn't overly sweet like many desserts.
zoomorphic December 16, 2017
I have made this cake every year since it came up on this site, and each time it's a hit! Except this time the cake deflated in the middle :( the ingredients were at room temp and I don't think I overmixed the batter. Any thoughts? I'm not terribly worried, mainly curious. It'll still taste great!
Jenna G. November 6, 2017
Will this tolerate freezing?
creamtea October 11, 2017
Can I use (blanched) almond flour in place of almond paste? I don't usually have the latter.
Jennifer October 11, 2017
Unfortunately, almond flour is not a substitute for almond paste. I usually purchase several cans at various on-line retailers so that I always have it on hand during the fall/winter baking season. I did find this recipe on-line for almond paste: Happy baking!
Jeannine D. October 11, 2017
I wouldn’t, the intense wonderful almond flavor would be diminished!
Theresa L. August 20, 2016
So could you freeze it without the pears?
I've made this a few times now and we all just stand silently around the plate and eat furtively while glancing furtively at each other. It is so good! Four of us polish off this puppy in no time at all. Marzipan is not always easy to find in this backwater town and I have used almond pie filling once (quite runny) and even that could not destroy this paean to deliciousness.
Juliane January 11, 2016
I made this cake last year and it was light and airy, and so fabulous! This year, it was much eggier and less airy. Any thoughts on what I might have done incorrectly?
Jeff P. August 28, 2016
Is it possible that you made the cake the second time with colder ingredients?
Juliane August 31, 2016
It's possible... I'll try it again with room temp this time :) Thanks!
leigh F. November 25, 2015
Jeannine D. November 21, 2015
I would bake it the day before and serve on the next day. Holding it will lose the lift of the eggs
leigh F. November 21, 2015
I'm wondering if you could put this together the day before and bake it on Thanksgiving?
Dawna November 21, 2015
I would bake it the day before since I think it's better the next day!
Allison November 21, 2015
Can you freeze this cake? I need to start Thanksgiving baking.
Anyoota November 20, 2015
Thank you for the answers everyone!
I made the cake today, and it tastes good, my only problem is that the almond taste seems to overpower everything (I didn't even use the almond extract) and I can't feel the pear taste. I used two medium pears and the bottom of the pan was covered with them. I read the recipe 10 times and made sure to do everything (except I skipped the almond extract). Maybe my pears weren't ripe enough?
Jennifer November 19, 2015
I couldn't find any paste myself. I used more almonds and also put in some almond extract. It was great - I have made this cake several times and it always comes through.
Johanna T. October 12, 2019
Almond paste isn’t difficult to make , it just takes a little time . Good luck
Jeannine D. November 19, 2015
Almond Paste is totally different from Almond butter. It is available at most supermarkets.
Anyoota November 19, 2015
Oh, I am glad I asked - Thank you!!
Anyoota November 19, 2015
can someone please tell me what is almond paste? Is it the same as almond butter? can I use almond butter? or do I take blanched almonds and just grind them in a food processor with some water? if yes, then how much water exactly?
Sorry, I am just starting to experiment with baking, so this might be a stupid question.
Windischgirl November 19, 2015
Almond paste is similar to marzipan (marzipan is sweeter). Almond paste is a blend of peeled almonds, egg white, and sugar syrup. In can be found at the supermarket in the baking section, either in a can or in a plastic tube.
No silly questions! We are all here learning from each other.
Laura415 November 19, 2015
I used this food52 recipe for the almond paste. I used already ground almonds from Trader Joe's.
I only used 1 cup of powdered sugar and it was more than sweet enough. I froze half of the almond paste to make the cake again sometime. If you make this recipe for almond paste and do the cake you can use one egg white for the almonds and then for the cake 5 whole eggs and the one egg yolk left over from the almond paste recipe. Cake comes out fine with 5 1/2 eggs instead of 6:)