Isn’t Rachel Allen adorable? She is one of those bright eyed, enthusiastic TV cooks that shows up on the telly every once in a while. I think she trained at the Ballymaloe cookery school in Ireland, and then went on to teach at the school too. Her recipes are all good solid fare. Not exactly ‘blow the budget – you’re entertaining the boss’ type food, but when you’ve got the folks coming round, you know that her books are a good place to look for inspiration. I like to think she is a little bit like Nigella Lawson, except six months later. So when my little sister and her boys were coming for their usual Sunday roast, I flicked through Rachel Allen’s book – Cake – to find something big and hearty for afters. I happened to have a bag of pears in the fridge that were begging to be noticed, so Pear Crumble cake seemed like an obvious pick.
I’d already got the caramelised pears done and out of the way (using honey instead of sugar for a more homely flavour – fancy) before I realised that I needed some hazelnuts for the crumble topping, which I didn’t have. I also needed the inclination to trudge up to the shops, and I didn’t have that either. But, as they almost say on mastermind, I had started so I was going to have to finish. I figured it was fine. I would just sub out the hazelnuts for rolled oats. Crumble topping made with oats isn’t exactly throwing the rule book out of the window. I’ve seen a thousand recipes for oaty crumble topping. What’s the worst that could happen? The thing is, I need not have been so worried about the ingredients. The ingredients were pear-fect. An entirely different problem was waiting to present itself. You see the oven temperature in the recipe said 160 degrees celsius. That’s Gas Mark 3 in English money. With hindsight I think it might have been a touch on the low side, and that’s pudding it mildly.
That sinking feeling.
When it came to baking the cake, it was in the oven for the full 45 minutes of cooking time suggested in the recipe. When I went to check the cake, it wasn’t cooked in the middle at all. It wasn’t just a bit underdone. It was wobbly. I’m talking full on, bingo wings in an earthquake wobbly. I gave it another 10 minutes. Nope. I covered the cake loosely in foil and put it back in for 15 minutes. Still no good. I baked it for another 10 minutes uncovered and it finally felt firm when I pressed it with a finger. Hurrah! Now there’s an old adage that says time makes fools of us all. In this case, time must really have been taking the Mickey Bliss. Because after I set the cake on the cooling rack to cool, I had to watch on aghast as it gently, gently sank in slow motion for the next thirty minutes. It wasn’t just the cake that was deflated. When it came to serving, the outside of the cake was done to a turn but the very centre was still quite gooey. It was only by minor miracle that I managed to slide it onto the serving plate in one piece. Still, musn’t crumble. I think it was definitely a win. It may not have looked perfect, but it tasted delicious. And that’s the main thing. I just did the only thing you can do in that circumstance. Call it a pudding cake and be done with it.
A tin to bake it in.
The Rachel Allen recipe had said to use a 23cm spring form tin that was 6cm deep. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to go for the sightly larger 25cm spring form, 6cm deep. As it was, the cake rose up a little above the rim of the cake tin. I assume that had I used the smaller tin I would have been cleaning the oven for a week. The 25cm tin was nothing remarkable. I think that I bought it from somewhere like the Aldi for about £3 Sterling. One thing I do like is that it came with it’s own lid. If you are doing a bake and take, it just saves you the hassle of fighting a roll of clingfilm. I will give you the recipe for my version of the cake, exactly as I made it below. Or you could just use the original recipe, if you think it might be more dip-endable. Now here’s that recipe… Enjoy.
PEAR CRUMBLE (PUDDING) CAKE.
- 5 Pears.
- 50g Runny Honey.
- 50g Unsalted Butter.
- 1 tsp Cinnamon.
- 150g Plain Flour.
- 100g Demerara or Soft Brown Sugar.
- 100g Rolled Oats.
- 100g Unsalted Butter (chilled, cut into cubes).
- 230g Self Raising Flour.
- 1 tsp Cinnamon.
- 230g Granulated Sugar.
- 220g Margarine.
- 4 Eggs.
- Peel, core and chop the pears into large chunks. Place in a large frying pan with the honey, unsalted butter and cinnamon.
- Stir together over a medium heat for around 10 minutes or until the pears are tender and any liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Position a shelf in the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3. Grease and base line a 25cm spring form tin that is at least 6cm deep.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the plain flour, demerara sugar and rolled oats on a low speed until well mixed.
- Add the unsalted butter and continue to beat on a low speed until there are no lumps of butter and the mixture begins to clump together.
- That’s the crumble topping done. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside in the fridge until later.
- Sift together the self raising flour, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
- Using the paddle attachment, cream together the granulated sugar and margarine until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
- Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, taking care not to over mix.
- Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.
- Place the cooled pears in an even layer over the top, leaving a space of around 1 inch around the outside edge of the tin. Drizzle any juices over the top.
- Scatter the crumble topping in an even layer over the whole cake.
- Bake for 55 minutes uncovered. Cover with tin foil and bake for a further 15 minutes. Bake for another 10 minutes uncovered.
- Cool completely in the tin before removing the sides. Cut into slices to serve.