Salted Caramel Pear Cake – fresh pear cake with cinnamon buttercream, salted caramel and homemade caramel dipped pears.
The calendar might not agree, but it feels like fall has arrived. The weather is cool, crisp and as I look outside, I can easily spot the first few leaves that are starting to turn on our towering oak tree in the back. This is by far my favorite time of year. Why? I honestly cannot say for certain. Maybe it’s because autumn signals the return to normal routines around here. School, work, weekends spent at the park and watching football. When the weather takes that first dip towards moderate, the mosquitos slowly die off and our family gravitates towards the outdoors. Sporting layers of clothes to balance the crisp autumn air, we ride bikes more, go on trail walks more, breathe in the fresh air more. The excitement of the approaching holiday season is on the horizon — it’s all just so familiar and comforting.
This time of year is also my favorite for the blog. The cooler weather beckons back into the kitchen, luring us in with the likes of apples, cinnamons, caramels and rich fall flavors. This year I wanted to give a little love to our dear friend, the pear. My family eats almost as many pears as apples, yet I tend to bake with them less often. So in an effort to try something new, this Salted Caramel Pear Cake was born.
A classic butter cake gets a hefty dose of chopped pear and warm cinnamon. As it bakes, the house is filled with the most glorious aroma. Then comes the cinnamon buttercream that’s as silky and smooth as can be, with the teeniest flecks of earthy brown from the ground cinnamon. And let’s not forget the homemade salted caramel. It’s easier than you think and is so much better than that “caramel” in the jar that’s predominantly made of corn syrup. Make it once and then let the caramel pull double duty in this recipe — it’s drizzled between the layers and also acts as the elegant dip for our pears. The whole thing is delectable and undeniably fall.
Salted Caramel Pear Cake
- Yield: One 8" Round Cake (3 layers)
- Category: ✽ ✽ ✽ ✽
For the Pear Cake:
- 3 cups cake flour + 2 tablespoons cake flour, divided
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 9 ounces unsalted butter (18 tablespoons), softened
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 cups fresh pear, peeled and petite diced into ¼” cubes
For the Cinnamon Buttercream:
- 6 egg whites
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup salted butter, softened
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Caramel Pears and Caramel Sauce:
- 2 pears
- ½ cup water
- 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
For the Assembly:
- Remaining caramel from caramel pears
- Fresh bay leaves
- Cinnamon sticks
Make the Pear Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350. Butter and lightly flour three 8″ round pans. Line with parchment paper circles.
- Sift together 3 cups cake flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high using the paddle attachment. Beat until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- With the mixer on low, add eggs one at a time. Mix well after each egg. Scrape down bowl as needed.
- Add vanilla extract. Mix to combine.
- Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Do not over mix. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
- In a small bowl, gently toss diced pear with 2 tablespoons cake flour to coat. Using a spoon or spatula, gently fold pear chunks into batter, being careful not to smash the pear.
- Divide batter evenly between the three 8″ round pans.
- Bake for 25-28 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
- Let cool in pans for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.
Make the Cinnamon Buttercream:
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.
- Place bowl over a pan of simmering water to create a double-boiler. Whisking constantly, heat the egg mixture until it registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Carefully transfer the bowl onto the stand mixer.
- Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch and the meringue is fluffy, glossy and holds a stiff peak.
- Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, slowly add cubed butter and mix until incorporated.
- Add vanilla extract and cinnamon. Continue mixing on low to med-low until silky and smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- The buttercream may look like it’s broken at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.
Make the Caramel Pears:
- Liberally spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
- In a 3-quart stainless steel saucepan, combine water, sugar and salt over medium heat. Using a fork, stir 4-5 minutes until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Stop stirring. Continue to cook without stirring for 10-12 minutes until mixture is a golden honey butterscotch color. Add cream (be careful as the mixture will bubble A LOT). Reduce heat just a tad. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula for 10-12 minutes until mixture reads 250F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove from heat and carefully pour into a glass measuring cup. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick and ready for dipping, about 180F.
- Dip pears into caramel, allowing excess to drip off back into the measuring cup. Place pear onto baking sheet and allow to set for 10 minutes. Caramel will remain pliable even once set. If too much caramel puddles at the bottom, simply pick up pear and gently remove some of the excess.
- Allow pears to set. Excess caramel will be used in the cake assembly.
Assemble the Cake:
- Place one layer of cake onto serving plate or cake stand and top with about one cup of cinnamon frosting. Drizzle with salted caramel sauce remaining from pears. If needed, slightly warm caramel so that it drizzles again, but allow to cool slightly before putting onto frosting so frosting doesn’t melt.
- Repeat with second cake layer, more frosting, more caramel and then last layer of cake. Crumb coat and frost cake with remaining frosting.
- Decorate by drizzling thin strands of caramel into a circular pattern along outside edge of cake. Add a few circular drops of caramel here and there. Place pears on one side of cake and tuck in a couple of bay leaves around them. Break several pieces of cinnamon stick to place along pears as well.
- If at any point the buttercream appears curdled, just keep mixing. If the buttercream appears soupy, try placing it in the refrigerator for about 10 to 15 minutes then mixing again.
- When making the salted caramel, the 3-quart stainless steel saucepan is a must. The mixture will bubble A LOT and using a smaller pan will result in a huge overflowing mess.
- If you like the appearance of one pear standing and one laying on its side, be sure to set them that way on your tray when you first dip them. The caramel will pool and firm with the correct “bottom area”, depending on how you want them placed.
- I made the small dots of caramel when I dipped the pears. Just drop a little dab on to your baking tray and it will form the prettiest little dot. Once set, lift off with a small offset spatula and place on the cake.
- Breaking the cinnamon sticks takes some might but gives them a more rustic appearance.
- Store in refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.