Spiced Bundt cake, with roasted pears and a thyme and salted caramel sauce

A full-bodied Autumnal cake, and the equivalent of a big, warm, enveloping hug. The edges are golden brown, caramelised and chewy, while the inside is dark, moist and packed with flavours that linger on the tongue.

This feel-good cake incorporates pears, contributing to our ‘five a day’, as well as dark brown sugar, treacle, stem ginger, and an abundance of warm spices. The plant-based version is perfect for vegans.

It can be served as a ‘simple’ cake for afternoon tea, perhaps after taking a long walk in the woods or an invigorating march along the breezy coastline. Equally it can be transformed into a decadent pudding with cider-poached pears, crunchy caramelised pecan nuts, and a salted caramel and thyme sauce.

Serves 10-12

INGREDIENTS

Caramelised pecan nuts
50 g golden caster sugar
20 pecan nuts
Pinch of sea salt flakes

Pinch of chilli flakes

Cake
145 g unsalted (or non-dairy) butter
180 g dark brown muscovado sugar
160 g black treacle
120 g ginger (in syrup), finely chopped plus 2 tablespoons of the ginger syrup
½ nutmeg, grated
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon of sea salt flakes
2 pears, grated
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
300 g self-raising flour

Poached pears with salted caramel & thyme sauce

500 ml pear cider

100 g golden caster sugar

5 stems of lemon thyme

1 tsp vanilla paste

4 firm Williams or Comice pears, peeled, stalks intact

100 ml double (or oat) cream

Pinch of sea salt crystals

METHODS

Caramelised Pecan Nuts

  1. Put the pecans on a piece of baking parchment and place in a heatproof dish.
  2. Place the sugar in a small heavy pan and place on a medium-high heat. Swirl the pan occasionally once the sugar starts to melt around the edges (don’t be tempted to stir).
  3. Once the sugar has melted and turned golden, pour over the pecan nuts and sprinkle with sea salt and a pinch of chilli flakes.
  4. Allow to cool completely, then chop into chunks and set aside.

The caramelised pecans can be made a couple of days ahead, and stored in an airtight container.

Bundt Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC / 150ºC fan. Spray the Bundt tin with cake release, or butter well, making sure to coat all the grooves.
  2. Place the butter, sugar and treacle in a large heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan containing a couple of inches of water. Place on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and stir briskly.
  3. Sift the flour, spices and sea salt into a bowl and whisk to combine.
  4. Add the chopped ginger, syrup and grated pears to the melted butter and sugar, then fold in the dry ingredients.
  5. Pour in the cake batter, then bake for 45 mins until cooked (when a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake for 3 seconds comes out clean).
  6. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then invert over a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

The cake can be made 1 day ahead, and stored in an airtight container.

Poached pears with salted caramel & thyme sauce

  1. Place the pears in a saucepan large enough to fit the them snugly. Add the cider, sugar, thyme and vanilla to the pan, then add enough water just to just cover the pears. Bring to a boil, cover with a cartouche (scrunched up, damp baking paper), and gently simmer until the pears are tender (about 20 mins, depending on how ripe they are).
  2. Remove the pears from the pan using a slotted spoon, take a small slice off the base so they can stand up, and place in a serving dish.
  3. Return the pan to a medium-high heat, and boil until the liquor is reduced by three-quarters and is syrupy and thick. Whisk in the cream and gently heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring, then add the salt to taste.
  4. Pour the reduced syrup over the pears (serve with double cream, for a truly indulgent treat).

The pears can be made 1 day ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.

To Serve: Cut the cake into 10-12 pieces. Top with the chopped caramelised pecans and caramel sauce and serve with the roasted pears.

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