Everyone thinks I’ve ruined Thanksgiving.
This year, I thought it would be fun to try a new dessert. I just decided that if Thanksgiving comes every single year, then there’s no harm in playing around with new food. If it doesn’t work out or if my family hates me for taking away their pie, then I can do better next year.
And honestly? I’m tired of pie. I like it just fine, but I’m bored with always eating the same ones. In the past I’ve been known to make chocolate cake in addition to pies for Thanksgiving, just so I would have something a little different on the table.
That’s the other problem I wanted to fix: lack of chocolate. As I’ve mentioned before, I need it to survive. It baffles me that there is not a single ounce of chocolate in a traditional Thanksgiving. So I took it upon myself to finally put an end to this madness.
My solution: a cake light enough to eat after the biggest meal of the year, filled with autumnal pears (pears, people! don’t forget about pears!), and drizzled with dark chocolate and caramel.
I’ve actually been making this cake for years whenever I needed a light dessert, and it has yet to fail me. It’s super moist with a delicate white chocolate flavor most people won’t be able to put their finger on (so if you’re a white chocolate hater, fear not!). I added more pears this time for a higher ratio of fruit to cake. A simple confectioner’s sugar and pear juice glaze is the way to go for the everyday occasion, but for turkey day? I wanted to step it up a notch. That’s where the salted caramel sauce and chocolate ganache drizzle comes in.
This caramel sauce is extra buttery. I’m okay with that and you should be too. It also doesn’t require a candy thermometer, so this is the easiest caramel sauce you’ll ever make.
The chocolate ganache is the simplest thing to throw together at the last minute. I threw in a bit of bourbon to keep things interesting, but feel free to add your favorite liqueur or leave it out all together. Milk chocolate will work here too if you don’t like it dark.
For the cake, there’s only one thing to watch out for: don’t over whip your egg whites. I’ve made this mistake several times, and if it happens to you I’d encourage you to start over with fresh whites. If you don’t have more whites, or you’re just too lazy, not all is lost. When desperate I’ve used the over-whipped whites and the cake was still delicious, but not as light and a little less moist. The tricky part is folding the whites into the rest of the batter, because it’s very thick. That’s why it’s a good idea to mix in a bit of the whites to lighten up the batter first, then fold in the rest.
Oh, and yes, there’s a hole in this cake.
Pear Cake with Caramel Chocolate Drizzle
by L., adapted from The Golden Book of Chocolate
4 oz white chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
4 pears, cut into 1/2” pieces (or 1 15oz can of pear halves, drained)
2 oz dark chocolate
3 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp bourbon or liqueur of choice(optional)
Salted Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
1 tsp vanilla exract
1/2 tsp salt
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325F, and butter and flour a 9 inch bundt pan.
Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler on low heat, then set it aside to cool. Avoid melting white chocolate in the microwave because it burns easily.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, begin beating the butter on medium speed and slowly add the sugar. Beat the butter and sugar just until creamy, then add the egg yolks one at a time until fully incorporated. Lower the speed and slowly add the melted white chocolate. Once that is fully mixed it, slowly add third of the flour mixture, followed by half the milk, another third of flour, the rest of the milk, and the last third of flour. Mix on low until combined, then turn off the mixer. The batter will be thick.
In another electric mixer bowl (or the same one, if you just transfer the batter to another bowl and rinse and dry it thoroughly), whip the egg whites on high until you get stiff peaks. This should only take a few minutes, be careful not to over whip them. Take a bit of the whipped egg whites (1/2 cup to 1 cup) and mix it into the rest of the batter to lighten it, then fold the rest of the whites in.
Pour half the batter into the bundt pan, then layer your pear pieces evenly on top, and top with the remaining batter. Try to smooth out the batter gently to evenly cover the pears. Bake for 40-50 minutes (while the cake is in the oven, make your caramel!).
Take the cake out when it is cracked and lightly golden brown. If you poke it it should bounce back instead of sinking in. After letting the pan cool for 5-10 mins, pop it out of the pan and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
For the salted caramel sauce:
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat the granulated sugar on low heat. Do not stir it, just keep an eye on it. First it will start to melt and liquify, then it will start to brown. You can swirl the pan around gently if you see some of the sugar is not melting at the same rate.
After 5-10 minutes, when all the sugar is completely melted and it’s reached a light amber color, pour in the heavy cream, and stand back. It will sputter and boil vigorously. Keeping the heat on low, whisk the caramel until it calms down, then add the butter and whisk until fully melted. Whisk in the vanilla extract and the salt, then remove from heat. Set it aside until you’re ready to use.
Any left over salted caramel sauce will last a week in the fridge in an air tight container.
For the chocolate ganache:
Make this last, when the cake is already out of the oven, because you want the ganache to be warm and pourable. I used 70% chocolate because the caramel and cake are already sweet, but again, you’re welcome to use milk chocolate if you’re more of a milk chocolate fan.
I like to make ganache in the microwave (because my kitchen is messy enough as it is). Chop the chocolate and put it in a small bowl with the heavy cream. Microwave it for 30 seconds and stir. If it’s not completely melted throw it in for another 30 seconds. Stir until completely smooth.
If you don’t have a microwave, scald the heavy cream in a small saucepan and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for 30 seconds then stir until smooth. If it cools too much before you’re ready to use it, just pop it back in the microwave for 15 seconds. Add your optional liqueur.
Unused ganache will last a week in the fridge.
Put parchment or a sheet tray underneath the cake and rack to catch the chocolate and caramel drippings.
Then either using a spoon, crafting a parchment paper cone, or using a ziplock back with a hole in the corner, drizzle the chocolate ganache over the cake. For most people, the amount I put on the cake would be too much, so keep it light if you’re not a big chocolate lover.
Use a small spoon to drizzle the salted caramel sauce all over the cake.
Serve immediately. Drizzle each serving with extra salted caramel and chocolate ganache, because it’s just the right thing to do.