This cake was recently featured in an episode of Bill Granger’s new program that’s based in London and primarily around the Notting Hill area, which is where he now calls home. I must say I love all the scenes shot in and around Notting Hill. We lived near Notting Hill for about four years and watching these episodes makes me hanker to go back for a visit.
This is a somewhat unusual cake in that the batter is a cross between a cake and a biscuit with the cooked fruit being placed in the middle. It’s lovely and comforting and perfect for a cool day with a nice pot of tea. The addition of cardamom and nutmeg gives a little bit of an adult edge to this cake which I really liked. The only thing to note is that the cake mixture is a little on the crumbly side (and I mean that in a delicious way) and with the addition of fruit in the centre it can be hard to slice perfectly so you definitely want to let the cake cool a little before slicing. I wanted to serve this cake warm on Easter Sunday morning so I prepared the dough and refrigerated it the day before. I did the same with the fruit and just assembled and baked it in the morning which makes it a very convenient do-ahead cake. I think this would work well with other fruit such as apples and dried cranberries and if you dressed it up with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream it would make a great dessert.
Ingredients Adapted from Bill’s Kitchen, Notting Hill
30 g unsalted butter
40 g brown sugar
3 cardamom pods, seeds crushed and pod discarded
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 pears, peeled, cored and chopped – don’t make the pieces too large
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
100 g blueberries
Milk, to brush
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 tablespoon Demerara sugar
125 g unsalted butter, softened
125 g castor sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
175 plain flour
50 g almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
Place the butter, brown sugar, cardamom seeds and nutmeg in a pan over low heat. Cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes until the butter melts and sugar dissolves. Add pear, lemon zest and juice, then cook over low heat until the pear is soft (but not mushy). How long this takes will depend on the pears you use and how ripe they are. Mine were a little hard so it took a good 20 minutes. But if your pears are ripe it will take much less time. By the end of the cooking time you want most of the juice that has been released from the fruit to have thickened – you don’t want they fruit mixture to be too wet. Remove from heat and stir through blueberries, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
For the shortcake, beat the butter and castor sugar until thick and pale. Add the egg and mix well. Add the flour, almond meal and baking powder, then stir until combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to bring the mixture together. Divide the dough in half, pat in to discs, then enclose in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line the base of a 24cm springform cake pan. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough portion in to a 23cm round, then press one round in to pan. Pile the pear mixture and any juices over the dough, leaving a small border around the edge. Top with the remaining dough round and press the edges together to seal. Brush with milk and sprinkle with almond and Demerara sugar. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until golden (cover loosely with foil if browning too quickly). Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove and serve warm or at room temperature.