Caramel Apple and Pear Cake

Caramel apple and pear cake recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Haralson, Honeycrisp, Honeygold, Prairie Spy, Regent, Beacon, Red Baron and dozens of other varieties of apples have all been developed at the University of Minnesota. We may be known for our 10,000 lakes, but few people outside of the state realize that we are also a leader in apples. I didn’t realize this until my friend Stephen Durfee came to visit. Yes, it took a pastry chef from CA to show me what treasures were right in my own back yard. He set up a tasting with one of the “breeders” from the University and my education of apples began at a coffee shop on campus. We tried several of their latest and greatest developments and I realized for the first time the subtle and not so subtle differences of the fruit. The textures, acid, sugars and skins were all incredibly different, she talked about the characters as though we were tasting a bottle of fine wine.

I grew up in Vermont thinking that McIntosh apples were the end all, but realize now that there are apples  to satisfy my every mood; crisp, luscious, sweet, spicy, tangy, juicy, tart, even nutty. I’ve learned to combine them in my recipes to get a more complex and interesting flavor and mouth feel. Some of the apples will keep their shape when baked and others will turn to sauce. Depending on the variety you choose it may affect the amount of sugar that you use in the recipe. This cake is rather sweet and rich so I like to use tart apples, combined with the layer of pear. This delicious recipe was the inspiration for my very first post on ZoeBakes, before I owned a camera. I make it every year at this time, with different apples and a this year I added the pears.

Caramel Apple and Pear Cake:

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy) or Brandy

3 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon if freshly ground)

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (Beacon, Haralson, Granny Smith or other tart variety)

1 cup chopped nuts (optional) – my eldest son is in a non-nut eating phase and so I left them out.

1 bosc pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

sugar for sprinkling on pan

For Caramel Glaze:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons Calvados

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Parchment paper in a tube pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Prepare a tube pan with a parchment round. Grease the pan and the paper and then sprinkle with sugar. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sliced pears in a tube pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Fan the sliced pears around the bottom of the pan.

Pouring caramel apple and bear cake batter into pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl, set aside. In a stand mixer combine the oil, sugars, vanilla, Calvados and eggs. Add the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Add the apples and nuts. Pour into the prepared pan, over the pears.

Baked caramel apple and pear cake in pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Bake for about 1 hour and 25 minutes in the center of the oven, until a tester comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for about 20 minutes before removing from the pan.

Caramel apple and pear cake recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Carefully invert the cake onto a cake plate. Use one that has a slight lip to it to catch the caramel sauce.

In a small sauce pot combine all the ingredients for the caramel and bring to a gentle boil for 2-3 minutes. Allow the glaze to cool slightly, to thicken it, and pour over the top of the cake.

Caramel apple and pear cake slice with ice cream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I served it with an apple cajeta ice cream that my friend Jen made me! It was out of this world. A dollop of whipped cream or just a cup of coffee would be a great match as well.

See the version I did with Brioche dough and streusel on my other website www.artisanbreadinfive.com!

47 thoughts to “Caramel Apple and Pear Cake”

  1. Wow, that is a pretty spectacular-looking cake. I’m still learning about the many varieties of apples and pears available here in Australia–this might be a perfect vehicle for some experimentation!

  2. I ate half the damn cake “just another small piece” at a time. It’s irresistible. You’ve been warned!

  3. Zoe, I just had to say how absolutely beautiful your site is! I was looking for a corn/plum cake recipe and am just so thrilled it led me here. I look forward to being a regular reader/taster!

  4. Hi Kaye,

    You can use any kind of Brandy or I’ve even made a version with Whiskey. I just use the booze to cut the sweet in the cake. If you don’t want the alcohol you could even use black tea!

    Enjoy! Zoë

  5. I made the cake tonight. It looks great and tastes delicious. It smelled like Christmas while it was baking. I found the calvados at my local market but didn’t want to spend 20 dollars on a bottle for 2 tablespoons. I used some amaretto instead. I substituted unsweetened applesauce for half of the oil.

  6. Hi Violinpeg,

    So glad you tried it and I love the changes that you made! I bet the amaretto was lovely with the apples and pear! the texture is already fairly dense so the substitution of the applesauce wouldn’t hurt the cake. I will have to try it!

    Thanks, Zoë

  7. The cake seems relatively easy to make though I was a bit surprised at how long the list seems to be. I’ll have to give it a try.. especially for next Rosh Hashannah

  8. Hello Zoe. first of all thank you for your comment. I am happy you liked the post on the brioche. I also made the pecan-cinnamon rolls (used walnuts, as pecans are somewhat of a rarity in Greece) and they were awesome. Anyway I love your site and will become a regular. You really like to teach people whatever you find interesting yourself. I guess you wouldn’t have written such a great book if it wasn’t part of your character!

  9. Hi Zoe

    I just wanted to stop by and say Hi! – And thank you for introducing yourself to me at Blogher last weekend. This cake looks delicious. I am a big fun of rustic cakes with lots of flavour. Unfortunately I don’t have the right kind of pan, so I can’t make it. Or maybe that’s what I should use my $25 voucher from the Blogher after party to buy..?

    Sam

  10. What a gorgeous cake! I hope to try it this weekend with the suggested substitutions–applesauce for oil and black tea for Calvados (can’t buy liquor in the UAE yet). One question–I do not have a tube pan; could I substitute a round pan or a loaf pan? Thanks again for the inspiration!

  11. Hello Zoe – Apples & Pears in the same cake sounds dreamy. I wanted to ask about the 1 cup whole wheat flour – that just seemed to hit a wrong note for me. Everything else in the recipe has my name all over it, though!

    Thanks

    Foodelf

  12. Hi Foodelf,

    I’m not sure what your question is? Are you saying you want more whole wheat or to eliminate it and bake the cake with just all-purpose?

    Thanks, Zoë

  13. Hi Rebecca,

    You can substitute white whole wheat for the pastry flour. If you want to use the whole wheat pastry flour you can probably find it in your local co-op?

    Hope that helps! Zoë

  14. This looks so beautiful, Zoe!

    Also, I get whole wheat pastry flour in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods or my co-op. It can be hard to find in the bin because when it’s so fine, it actually looks white. In a pinch, you can also buy it from King Arthur’s Flour online.

  15. Thank you very much for your recipe!!! I cooked it and the result was a success!!! Everybody… my family and friends loved this cake! The pictures of the cake that I cooked are in my blog http:bienmesabe1.blogspot.com. Greetings!!!

  16. Hi Emperatriz,

    Thank you so much for trying the cake, I’m thrilled that you did and enjoyed it! I’ll stop by to take a look!

    Thanks, Zoë

  17. yum! as a gellow native vt’er i soooo miss mac apples! Saw them once at the market this coast and my jaw must have dropped when i saw the price. We used to have apple fights with them as kids!

    got your new book yesterday! have loved drooling through it! (and into the second batch of your aunts granola….needing mom to mail more syrup though!) tried a few different recipe’s but love this one!

  18. Hi Turtle,

    I have the same memories of having apple fights, wouldn’t dare do that today! 😉

    So glad you are making the granola! It is my all time favorite!

    Zoë

  19. For an all thumbs type of guy, I’m so surprised I actually pulled this off. A little trouble fanning the pears but all and all it was a huge hit at the fire department. My firefighter paramedic son ate four pieces at once. Guess that says its all. Thanks Zoe for sharing this recipe. Would love to see you and jeff here in Phoenix for a book signing. God Bless you – Kurt

  20. Hi Ellen@IamGlutenFree:

    Please, please share the gluten free conversion! The wheels are already turning in my head! Would love to make this really awesome looking cake. 🙂

  21. Hi Zoe,
    I am having trouble locating a tube pan like the one pictured in your recipe. I finally found something similar on-line but need to know what size or capacity to order . Also could one substitute an Angel Food Cake pan, or would that be too flimsy and/or leak.
    Thanks,
    Beth

    1. Hi Beth,

      You can certainly use a tube pan intended for an angel food. The one I show here is actually the one I bought in college that is quite flimsy and I would have assumed it would leak, but it doesn’t. It is a 10″ pan. Not suitable for all cakes, but this one is just fine.

      Thanks, Zoë

  22. Hello Zoe,
    I love this cake I have made it 7 times in the past year, my family and friends love it!! I am not sure if you have answered this question, but never hurts to ask again, Can I use King Arthur whole wheat flour instead of the pastry flour? I am a little nervous changing flours But I have a lot of whole wheat flour. thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Nina,

      You can use your whole wheat flour, in fact I have been in the exact same position. The cake came out great, but with a slightly different texture.

      Thanks, Zoë

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