Katherine Sabbath puts her creative twist on a caramel layer cake, sandwiching it with rosewater butter cream and topping it with pears.
For the spiced caramel layer cake
250g butter, cubed
200g good quality white chocolate, chopped
200g (1 cup, firmly packed) dark brown sugar
250ml (1 cup) hot water
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 eggs, at room temperature
150g (1 cup) self-raising flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom
225g (1½ cups) almond meal
For the spiced poached pears
375ml (1 1/2 cups) dry red wine
60g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
1 whole star anise
1 x 7cm cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
3 just-ripe, medium-sized Packham's triumph pears, peeled
For the rosewater cream filling
500g cream cheese, softened
250g mascarpone, softened
100g butter, softened
250g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp rosewater
3-4 drops natural pink food colouring extract (I use Queen brand)
250ml thickened cream, whipped
Icing and decorations
1 cup crushed pistachios
Food-grade dried rose petals (these can be found in most specialty food and tea stores – I used Pariya brand)
3 spiced poached pears, sliced (or you could leave them whole, if you prefer)
1. Pre-heat your oven to 160C, fan-forced. Brush a round and deep 18-centimetre spring-form cake pan with melted butter or spray with cooking oil, then line base and side with non-stick baking paper.
2. Place butter, chocolate, sugar, water, golden syrup and vanilla bean paste in a heavy-based saucepan. Stir ingredients over medium-low heat with a rubber spatula for five minutes or until chocolate melts completely and your mixture is smooth. Set aside for 20 minutes to cool.
3. Next, add the eggs, one at a time and ensuring you beat well after each addition. Sift flour and spices over your white chocolate mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until well combined. Next, fold in almond meal until well combined.
4. Pour cake mixture into pan and bake in pre-heated oven for 50-60 mins or until a wooden skewer comes out almost clean. Stand cake in pan for 30 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool. Once completely cooled (TIP: You can speed up the process by resting your cake in the fridge, covered in cling wrap, for 15-20 minutes), use a long thin knife to carefully slice cake into three even layers. Cover cake layers in cling wrap and set aside until cake assembly.
5. To make poached pears, combine the red wine, sugar, star anise, cinnamon and vanilla bean in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir mixture for approximately two minutes until sugar dissolves. Add the pears and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, turning occasionally, for 40 minutes, or until pears are tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pears to a heatproof bowl. Increase heat to high and bring the syrup to the boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until syrup thickens slightly. Pour syrup over the pears and set aside for 10 minutes to cool. Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge for one hour to chill completely.
6. To make the rosewater cream filling, use an electric mixer to whip cream cheese, mascarpone, butter, icing sugar, rosewater and food colouring until pale and fluffy. Gently fold in whipped cream until combined and set filling aside until needed. TIP: If your filling appears to be too soft to pipe neatly into your cake layers, leave to rest in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up the mixture to a more workable consistency.
7. Now it's time to assemble your delicious spiced layered cake! I chose to pipe my rosewater cream filling onto each layer of cake using a pastry bag and piping nozzle, but it's equally as delicious with the cream filling simply spread straight on top using a butter knife or offset spatula. In between filling and carefully stacking each layer, be sure to give a generous sprinkling of crushed pistachios between each to provide a delicious hidden crunch. Once the layers are assembled, adorn your cake with more crushed pistachios, a scattering of rose petals and slices of your freshly poached pears.
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