This will be a really short piece. I just wanted to reconnect with you after a long absence, to celebrate the spring equinox in date if not in climate and to share with you a delicious Pear Almond Cake recipe.
The ‘beast from the east’ has visited twice in a short space of time, and even now is lurking for a possible return. In other words, where is our promised spring?
Surprises are about the unexpected and often bring us precious moments, if we take note and savor. The day after the equinox was one of those moments, ‘time out of time’. Yes, it was a little windy, a little overcast, and yes, a little chilly as I walked around Lampeter, waiting for the installation of new wheels on my car. Yet there was a softness to the day, a quiet peace, a sense of utter timelessness, normal life just carrying on. The lovely people at Huw Lewis completed the job, no fuss, no problem amidst the warm chat about…the weather of course! ‘How was it up there where you are near Tregaron?’ And the inevitable question: What brought you to rural Wales?
Then a drive to Aberystwyth. I didn’t bank on the bank being closed in Lampeter on Wednesdays. For some reason, my usual irritation, frustration, huffiness at the inconvenience to my very important life simply wasn’t there.
Barclays Bank was quiet too. They were only too happy to help me out. What was an impossible problem 5 days ago, today was no problem at all. All sorted out amidst some light banter and gentle exchange.
And then, to No.21, the flower shop. Yellow, of course, was the presiding colour-Narcissus, the ever -present Welsh daffodils. And then, I spotted in the back, lying forlornly on the floor, piles and piles of giant yellow tulips. ‘You can have them’, said the young owner of the shop. ‘They’re from last week and I am not selling them’.
So laden with tulips, daffodils, and narcissus, with a heart singing in gratitude, appreciation, celebration, I made my way home through the hushed lanes of rural Wales.
What better way to end this ‘pause’, this last, gentle moment of winter than with a Pear Almond Cake.
I happened to have some pears that were perfect today but tomorrow would be ‘past perfect’. What to do? I googled pear desserts and up came the ‘Italian Pear Almond Cake’. As it happens, the origins of this unbelievably delicious cake, are with one of Canada’s foremost food bloggers at www.seasonsandsuppers. Naturally I sent an email, as she is located in the town of Bracebridge, out ‘in the bush’ in Muskoka, Ontario’s hinterland. We visited often as children, because my mother’s best World War 2 nursing buddy lived there. Jennifer, the food blogger, emailed me back. Her grandmother came from Rural Wales!
Of course, I have added my own adaptations.
Pear Almond Cake
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
9 tablespoons white sugar
2 large eggs
7 tablespoons plain or all-purpose flour
4 oz ground almonds
½ teaspoon baking powder
3 medium pears, ripe, peeled, cored, halved
1.5 oz flaked almonds
½ teaspoon almond extract (my addition)
1 tablespoon mixed chopped peel or more to suit your taste (my addition)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (my addition)
Pre-heat oven to 375F/190C/170Fan/
Grease 8 inch spring-form pan and line bottom with parchment paper
Prepare the pears (as above)
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add almond extract and lemon zest.
Sift flour and baking powder together.
Fold in flour, baking powder mix, ground almonds, mixed peel.
Spoon batter into prepared pan.
Arrange pear halves on top of cake. (Here is where the size of the pears becomes important. If they are medium sized, you will have a lovely design of six pear halves laid out in spoke fashion. Mine were too big and I had to chop off the pointy tops. Not so pretty)
The instruction say to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with flaked almonds, and return to oven for an additional 8-10 minutes. I am not sure whether my oven might have been set a little too low, but I actually had to bake the cake for slightly over 1 hour. Do not worry. Keep checking the cake by poking a skewer in the middle. This did not harm the eventual, delicious outcome. In fact, it may have added to the slightly crusty, crunchy fine layer atop the cake.