Chai Spiced Pear Bundt Cake is filled with fresh ripe pears and gently spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. A spiced icing is accented with chai tea.
I’ve taken a step away from more traditional fall apple recipes and made a wonderful Chai Spiced Pear Bundt Cake.
The truth is that I fell in love with some pears at the store.
The first time I saw them, their rich color and elegant stems completely captivated me. I wanted to make something with them. I wanted to make something with them that would highlight their amazing beauty.
I looked into baking them whole, in a cake or figuring out some way to insure their beautiful color and shape could be preserved.
I visualized some type of amazing culinary masterpiece that would be a food photographer’s dream….
And then I started thinking about fall and comfort food and some nice warming chai spices and bundt cake. Bundt cake? Yeah. I know. There goes the masterpiece.
No, I wouldn’t be baking my beautiful pears whole in a cake with their tops peaking out hinting at the amazing whole pear held within.
That would have been impressive and different. I love to be impressive and different :) But, I didn’t think the skin would maintain it’s color through baking and after the muffin trials of last week, I wasn’t up for a lengthy testing process.
I thought about poaching them, so even if they were peeled, I could add back that gorgeous color with some spiced red wine. I’m sure that would have been lovely as well…
One of my favorite things to do with pears is make cobbler. You can see the theme here…casual comfort food.
So, as I said, I started thinking about chai spices and cake. You know I’m a tea drinker. I’m not big on a million different flavors of tea. I don’t mind a cup, but if I buy more than that, it will sit in my pantry as a novelty while I return to my favorite black tea of the moment.
Chai, on the other hand? It’s generally my flavored tea of choice, especially authentic chai tea.
My brother in law apparently makes the most delicious, authentic chai tea and I look forward to the day I get to sample it. (If my family lived on my street instead of 1000’s of miles away, I certainly would have checked that off my list already.)
For every day use, I keep a box of vanilla chai tea bags on hand for when the mood strikes. I love adding a bag to a pitcher of iced tea. Just one bag mixed in with the rest of the black tea adds just a hint of spice to the background. I also use it in my Vanilla Chai Sugar Cookie Bars. But I digress…
As I was figuring this all out, my beautiful pears were getting ripe. I stashed them in the fridge to stop the ripening so that they didn’t turn to mush before I could use them. I thought I’d better get cracking with this Chai Spiced Pear Bundt Cake if I wanted it to happen at all.
How can I tell if my pears are ripe?
Pears are one of the few fruits that ripen off the tree. You can’t get that fully ripened sweetness from a crunchy pear. You’ve got to let it sit at room temperature and allow all that delicious sweetness and flavor to develop.
Pears ripen from the inside out, so sometimes it can be hard to tell. That’s why sometimes you cut into a pear that “feels” ripe on the outside, only to find that the core is brown and overripe. I hate when that happens.
So, to check, apply gentle pressure to the stem end. If it gives a little, it should be good to go. If the whole outside of the pear gives in to pressure, it’s probably overripe. You’ll definitely find out once you cut into it.
This recipe calls for peeled and chopped pears. Goodbye beautiful ruby red pears! Parting is such sweet sorrow…
(Just as an aside, as I was peeling the pears, I let some of the red skin remain here and there. I didn’t try to perfectly peel them. No one else would know about or see those few slivers of red. But I would know, and that thought made me smile.)
What’s the right amount of spice?
I knew I would use the chai tea somewhere in the recipe, but what about the other spices? I chose cinnamon, cardamom and clove to be my chai inspired spice mixture.
But let me be clear on something…I wasn’t looking to make this a spice cake where spices would be front and center. (I know we just covered this recently, but the whole topic bears repeating again. In other words, more is not always better.)
I love, love, love spice and I love, love, love almond flavor! But too much of either would overtake the delicate flavor of the pears. I feared the cake would simply taste like other cakes I had already made that didn’t have pears in them.
So, I was conservative with the spices and flavors. I wanted them to sit in the background and let the pear flavor shine through.
(I will add that more spice would also be delicious. It all depends on what your goal is. If you want a more intensely spiced cake, feel free to double the spices or add others to the mix. On the other hand, if you’re all about pears and almond, increase the almond extract.)
The Best (aka EASY) Way to Grease and Flour a Bundt Pan
Raise your hand if you hate greasing pans? I used to loathe it when I was a kid. That was before we had easy cooking sprays. Now? I don’t hate greasing them at all…even if I do it the old fashioned way.
I don’t know what my issue was when I was younger. I’m sure it had something to do with impatience. Now, it’s just a quick step in the baking process.
Unless, however, I’m greasing and flouring a bundt pan. The greasing part? Ok, no problem. The flouring part? Seriously? I’m supposed to tap the darn flour in every ridge and around the darned center tube?
Ugh! it’s tedious and messy. And you know I’m going to try to do it perfectly so that I get full and even, but light coverage. <<<See? I can’t even write that sentence without all of the descriptors to insure I’m doing it “just right.” Who wants their cake to get stuck in the pan because it wasn’t properly prepped? Not me.
But wait! ;) There’s an easier way! Yep! Just melt a Tablespoon of butter and mix it with a Tablespoon of flour. Get yourself a pastry brush and “paint” the inside of your bundt pan.
You’re going to LOVE how easy it is to get into all of the nooks and crannies. That darned center tube ceases to be a challenge. Just brush a layer of the paste and you are good to go.
If you don’t have a pastry brush, you can use a piece of waxed paper, a butter wrapper, your hand…whatever. If you can, though, get yourself a pastry brush. It’s a good tool to have in your baking arsenal.
I normally use silicone brushes for almost everything, but I like a natural bristled brush for this particular purpose. It gives me greater coverage and has more bristles to get into the crevices. (You do have to be careful with natural bristled brushes though, they can shed bristles and they are often not dishwasher safe.)
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Icing a bundt cake…Drizzle or Spread?
When it came time to figure out the icing, I knew I wanted it to echo the spices of the cake and I wanted it to be thick, but not solid.
I went for a cream cheese and butter based mixture then added in the sugar, spices and flavorings. You’ll see in the photo that the mixture ends up very creamy with soft peaks.
If that’s what you’re going for, stop there. At this stage, its like a creamy frosting. You’ll have to spread it over the top of the cake or pipe it back and forth over the top so that some of it makes it down the sides.
I wanted it to drizzle down the sides. So, I made a strong brew of some chai tea and added it, a spoonful at a time until I got a thick, but somewhat fluid consistency, one that I could coax into flowing down the sides a bit.
I could have added more tea and just gone to town drizzling the thinned out icing everywhere, but I chose to hit a middle ground.
The icing was thick, but kind of fluffy. I think it worked well.
Then, I wanted one more topping…something to add some texture to the cake. I originally thought I’d put some nuts in the batter, but, you know, some people love nuts in things and some do not.
Since I had added almond extract to both the cake and the icing, I wanted to stay in the same nut lane for the topping.
I thought I had some sliced almonds that I could toast and sprinkle on top, but no. However, I did have some mixed nuts and yes…I extracted the toasted almonds right out of that bag and chopped them up for the top.
In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t have the sliced almonds. I liked the chunky texture of the chopped almonds instead for both flavor and looks.
So, after all that, how did this Chai Spiced Pear Bundt Cake turn out? It was delicious! The pears and sour cream kept it nice and moist. The butter adds a wonderful richness.
When you bite into it, you taste the pears surrounded in the rich cake batter. Then, the gentle spices kind of hit you in the end. The icing adds more spice and sweetness to the mix, so when you take a bite with the icing, you get a slightly more punched up spice profile.
So, yep. I made a bundt cake instead of some gustatory masterpiece that we could all fawn over. Except that we did all fawn over it.
I sent a big section of the cake over to a friend. She texted me later, “Holy smoke! I almost ate the entire thing last night!”
See? Masterpieces. They’re all in the eye of the beholder.