It’s been a while since I’ve made a rustic cake like this. Something that could be as welcome at a breakfast or brunch table as after dinner. Something your grandmother might make. Something unpretentious; something that just says “Hey, it’s late summer, sit down and enjoy some pear cake.”
I’d picked up some small pears at the farmer’s market, and they sat around in my kitchen for about a week. I knew I wanted to do something with them, but wasn’t sure what. I wasn’t up for making jam. (Although I need to sometime before pear season is over – I’m out of habanero pear from last year!) I opted instead for cake. After all, who doesn’t like cake?
Buckwheat happened to be the perfect compliment to the subtle sweetness of the pears. Now, I am not really a fan of store-bought buckwheat flour. It’s really strong in flavor. However, if you take raw buckwheat groats and grind them (I use my Vitamix), the flour that results is much lighter in flavor – something that’s more readily accepted by the gluten-eaters. It also doesn’t overwhelm the pears. And even if your flour isn’t powder-fine (mine wasn’t), there’s no residual gritty texture once the cake is baked. Buckwheat flour isn’t for everything, but in this cake, it was lovely.
Of course, if you don’t have access to raw buckwheat groats, you could simply substitute sorghum flour or superfine brown rice flour. I haven’t tried these substitutions myself, but since they are similarly weighted flours, I imagine they would substitute pretty well. Don’t have pears? Apple slices would make an equally delicious cake. The beauty of a cake like this? It’s opportunistic. What you have available is what you use. (That’s often how many recipes appear here, to tell the truth!)
Pear Buckwheat Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)
6 T vegan butter, softened
¾ c plus 2 T sugar
1 large egg
1 t vanilla extract
¼ t almond extract
½ c buckwheat flour (raw buckwheat groats ground)
¼ c sweet white rice flour
¾ c arrowroot starch
¼ + 1/8 t guar gum
2 ½ t baking powder
½ c coconut milk
1 T grated lemon zest
About 1 lb pears, peeled, cored, and thickly sliced
Confectioner’s sugar, for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9-inch springform pan and dust with sweet white rice flour.
Beat the butter and ¾ cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extracts and beat for about a minute on medium.
Whisk together the flours, baking powder, guar gum and salt in a bowl. Add the flour to the butter mixture a little at a time, alternating with the coconut milk, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for at least another minute or until everything is well mixed. Add the lemon zest and mix in.
Scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan and spread out evenly with a spatula. Arrange the pear slices in a circle on the top of the batter, starting at the edge of the pan and standing them on end with the narrow point in the batter. Fill the center with as many slices as you can fit. They should be close together. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake (not the pears) comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack, removing the outer ring after about 10 minutes. Once completely cool, serve, dusted with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.