I am conflicted about the end of summer.
I don’t want to say goodbye to peaches, or long swings in the hammock in Connecticut, or walking barefoot through grass, or taking Mitra for her morning walk in flip flops and short sleeves. I don’t want to say goodbye to the farmer’s markets that dot the northeast and flourish only a few months a year. I don’t want “school to start again”. Or to admit that I haven’t “started school again” in ten years.
There are pumpkin-laced candles to be burned. And root vegetables to roast. And CHRISTMAS. And fireplaces to light. And scarves and jackets and warm cocktails and long, hot baths. And apples and pears and gingerbread.
This past weekend, I got a bit of an early start on the pear and gingerbread part. And then all this happened:
I made the cake for the celebration of my brother and his girlfriend’s new home by the water. I woke early, baked it, swung in my hammock, then shuttled supplies in our company’s Wrangler with the top off and Dave Matthews blaring like it was 12 years ago and I was in college again. Then I shook some Lucy Basilias, shucked some oysters, ate an oyster crab, went on a spinning ride with my cousins, collected my things and went home. Where Mitra and I passed out together on the couch at 8:30. Because we’re cool that way.
My summer’s been a quiet one, the quietest and most reclusive of my life. I’ve hermited in the almost-empty house in Connecticut, and declined invitations, and cooked and eaten simply. And that did well for me. But now I’m eking out summer celebrations, and cherishing time with good friends and those I love.
So, I might have burnt out a tad and went home before eating this particular gingerbread cake. But it wasn’t my first time on the merry-go-round, and I know well what it was:
Dense, and sweet, and full of warm molasses and maple syrup. Heavily perfumed, and dotted with freshly grated ginger. An indulgent addition to an autumn table. It’s not hard to make. And it’s damn pretty.
Happy (almost) autumn. Now I’m going to make one more peach pie.
Makes 12 servings (a little goes a long way)
- 1/4 cup sugar (I used coconut, because it’s the friendliest)
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (I used organic, but whatevs)
- 2 large, ripe pears (I used organic bartletts, but whatever excites you)
- 1 cup brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup white rice flour
- 1/2 cup oat flour
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour (starch)
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp dried ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup unsalted better, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/2 cup kick-butt maple syrup from a place you respect
- 3/4 cup of the best molasses you can find
- 1 tsp white vinegar (or white wine, or cider)
- 1/2 cup warm milk (I used unsweetened almond)
- 1/4 cup hot water (but not scalding or anything)
Preheat your oven to a real 350°. Line a 9″ cake pan with parchment, and then lightly spray it. I used a round springform pan, but make do with whatcha got.
Toss the white and brown sugars together, and sprinkle into pan, leaving a little lip around the edge. Peel and core your pears, and then arrange them all pretty-like in layers on top of the sugars.
In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients up to the baking soda.
Make a well in the center and add the egg then beat it a bit (because it’s fresh!) Whisk in the melted butter, maple syrup and molasses. Add the vinegar to your milk (this sorta sours it to me like buttermilk…sorta) and whisk that in. Finally, whisk the hot water in and pull it all to come together.
Pour this beautifully dark batter onto the pears and smooth it all out with a spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until the center isn’t jiggly (the knife, fork or toothpick in the center always works, obviously.)
Cool for about 15 minutes in the pan. If you used a spring form, gently pop it open after about 10 minutes, then let it cool another five. Invert the cake onto a serving plate and gently peel the parchment away.
I served a variation of this at work a while ago with freshly whipped cream and chopped raw pears. Let me know if you come up with something more creative.