I won't pretend that this loaf cake will win prizes for its looks. That said, I love the deep blackness of the cake and the cocoa crumble, interrupted only by the translucent pears within. The textural contrast between the velvety crumb, the nutty, crunchy topping and the buttery sweet pears is the highlight. Let's not be too prescriptive about the olive oil – it doesn't have to be extra-virgin. Just use whichever you have and prefer.
For the cocoa crumble
75g self-raising flour
1½ tbsp cocoa powder
45g light-brown sugar
50g slivered almonds
¾ tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
3 tbsp olive oil
For the cake
80g dark cooking chocolate*, roughly chopped (or use chips)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
150g light-brown sugar
100ml olive oil
120g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon powder
¼ tsp salt
2 small ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1cm-thick slices
whipped cream, to serve (optional)
*check chocolate is dairy-free, if required
1. Make the cocoa crumble by mixing all the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over the olive oil and stir with a fork until it's the consistency of wet sand. Squeeze to form irregular-sized clumps, then place in the fridge while you make the cake.
2. Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan-forced). Grease and line a loaf tin, roughly 20cm x 10cm, with baking paper, making sure you have a good overhang at each end to help you lift the cake out later. Set aside.
3. For the cake, start by placing the chopped chocolate in a small bowl and pouring 125ml of recently boiled water over it. Allow to stand for 30 seconds, then whisk gently until the chocolate has melted. Set aside to cool.
4. Place the eggs, brown sugar and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat using the paddle attachment until thick and pale, about 4 minutes.
5. In the meantime, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a medium bowl.
6. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the chocolate mixture. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the rest of the chocolate. Finally, add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
7. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing it over so that it's even on top. Lay the sliced pears, overlapping, on top of the batter and scatter over the cocoa crumble.
8. Bake in the preheated oven for one hour (cover loosely with foil if it looks like the crumble is burning) or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin before transferring onto a serving plate with the help of the overhanging baking paper. Slice and serve with whipped cream.
If you like this recipe, try Katrina Meynink's chocolate and red wine puddings with poached pear and cocoa crumb.