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Pear Panna Cotta Cake

Pear Panna Cotta Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

When I was growing up my paternal grandmother made a dessert she called “Swedish Cream” on Christmas day. It was rich beyond imagining (at least when I was a child) and its arrival meant the festivities were coming to a close, because we’d all slip into a Christmas Swedish Cream dream state and the adults dozing off usually followed.

Much, much later in life, while at culinary school, I realized it was a sour cream panna cotta that she’d been making all those years. My Pear Panna Cotta Cake is inspired by my Granny’s dessert, but I went a little pastry chef with it. I combined Swedish Cream with a poached pear puree and then topped it with a layer of the poaching liquid delicately set into a Jelly with gelatin and put it on a base of almond joconde sponge cake. The dessert is multiple layers and it takes a wee bit of time, but it is actually super easy to make. You can also stop with one or two layers if that’s all time allows. To decorate the sides I sliced pears on a mandoline and dried them in the oven, which couldn’t be easier and they look so stunning. In her memory I will carry on my Granny’s tradition of ending the holiday meal with a smooth, rich, delicate Pear Panna Cotta Cake. 

You can watch me make the Pear Panna Cotta Cake in my instagram video

Pear Panna Cotta Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The Almond Sponge Cake (Joconde) recipe makes a very thin layer of cake, which just acts as a base for the panna cotta, so you can easily slice and serve it. Watch my Diva Cake Instagram Video to see me make the cake – in the video I am making a larger batch. With this smaller amount of ingredients it may be easier to mix with a hand held mixer.

Pear Panna Cotta Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François
Pear Panna Cotta Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The cake should be set enough to cut into clean slices, best done with a thin knife dipped into hot water. 

Pear Panna Cotta Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The slice should wobble and not stand up perfectly straight, which means it won’t have a rubbery texture. 

Pear Panna Cotta Cake on a clear cake stand

Pear Panna Cotta Cake

For this spin on my granny's dessert I combined Swedish Cream with a poached pear puree and then topped it with a layer of poached pear jelly and put it on a base of almond joconde sponge cake. It takes a bit of time but is really quite easy to make!
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Ingredients

Almond Sponge Cake (Joconde)

  • 40 g almond meal
  • 10 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg room temperature
  • 30 g sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 10 g sugar

Poached Pear Panna Cotta

  • 1/4 cup (60g) cold water
  • 1 3/4 cups (400g) heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups (600g) pear puree poach the pears as instructed here, then puree without the liquid. The color will vary depending on how long you poached the pears.
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar

Sour Cream Panna Cotta

  • 3 g gelatin
  • 20 g cold water
  • 135 g heavy whipping cream
  • 50 g sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean seeds scraped
  • 200 g sour cream  or creme fraiche

Poached Pear Jelly

  • 1 1/2 cups (350ml) Pear Poaching Liquid strained
  • 10 g gelatin
  • 50 g cold water

Instructions

Joconde

  • Preheat oven to 350°F and line a buttered 8-inch round cake pan with buttered parchment.
  • Sift together the almond meal and flour, set aside.
  • Whip the egg and 30g sugar with a hand held mixer on high speed until they are at the ribbon stage. Gently fold in the almond and flour mixture. Whip the egg white and 10g sugar until stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the almond batter.
  • Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for about 10 minutes or until set and just golden on top. Allow to cool while you make the filling.

Poached Pear Panna Cotta

  • Bloom the gelatin in the water.
  • In a pan bring 1/2 the puree and sugar to a simmer. Add the gelatin and stir until it is melted. Stir in remaining puree. Strain the mixture. Chill over an ice bath until it just starts to thicken. 
  • Once the pear puree is room temperature, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold it into the slightly thickened pear mixture. Pour it over the cake layer and tap the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Refrigerate for at least an hour before adding the next layer.

Sour Cream Panna Cotta

  • Bloom the gelatin in the water.
  • In a pan, bring the cream, sugar and vanilla seeds to a simmer. Turn off the heat and add the bloomed gelatin. Gently whisk until the gelatin is melted. Stir in the sour cream and strain into a bowl, set over an ice bath. Allow to chill until it just starts to thicken, then pour over the set pear layer of the cake. 

Poached Pear Jelly

  • Bloom the gelatin in the water.
  • Heat 1/2 the poaching liquid in a pan to a simmer. Add bloomed gelatin and stir until dissolved. Strain mixture and add remaining poaching liquid.

Sliced Pear Garnish

  • Use a Mandoline to get a paper thin slice of pear. Set on a Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat and put in a 150°F oven until they are dry, this can take several hours, depending on how thick the slices are. If it is humid, they will not stay crisp.
  • The cake should be set enough to cut into clean slices, best done with a thin knife dipped into hot water. The slice should wobble and not stand up perfectly straight, which means it won’t have a rubbery texture. 

Notes

The Poached Pear Panna Cotta was inspired by The Pastry Chef’s Little Black Book by Michael Zebrowski and Michael Mignano.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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5 thoughts to “Pear Panna Cotta Cake”

  1. I have made this recipe once and it was fabulous! Both stunning and delicious. I want to make it again but one of my guests has a nut allergy. Do you have an recommendations for a different type of sponge for the base, rather than joconde?

  2. I made this cake a few months ago and it was awesome and beautiful (all except the dried pears, which I didn’t make because I don’t have a mandolin and didn’t think I could cut the slices thin enough).

    I just made a different version of it using mangoes – with a mango mousse base on top of the jaconde, a mango puree layer above that, and topped with a double recipe of the panna cotta (because it was simply too good on the first try and we wanted MORE!). I then decorated it on top of the white panna cotta. It was delicious and as much fun to make as to eat!

    I am learning how to experiment as a result of trying lots of your recipes and tips in your fantastic Zoe Bakes book!!!! Thanks so much for making it fun to try these wonderful adventures!!

    1. Veronique, your mango version sounds absolutely amazing! We are so glad you’re enjoying experimenting with recipes. It truly is so much fun. Cheers!

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