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

Pear Panna Cotta Cake

Almond Sponge Cake (Joconde) – this 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. 

1 egg, room temperature

30g sugar

1 egg whites

10g sugar

40g almond meal

10g all-purpose flour

To make the sponge: watch my Diva Cake Instagram Video to see me make the cake – in the video I am making a larger batch. With this small amount if ingredients it may be easier to mix with a hand held mixer. 

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

Poached Pear Panna Cotta – inspired by The Pastry Chef’s Little Black Book by Michael Zebrowski and Michael Mignano

12g gelatin – find more info about powdered vs sheet gelatin

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

  1. Bloom the gelatin in the water (see instagram video if this is unfamiliar
  2. 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. 
  3. Whip cream and fold it into the slightly thickened pear mixture. Pour it over the cake layer and refrigerate for at least an hour before adding next layer.

Sour Cream Panna Cotta

3g gelatin 

20g cold water

135g heavy whipping cream

50g sugar

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

200g sour cream 

  1. Bloom the gelatin in the water (see instagram video if this is unfamiliar)
  2. 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 it is chill until it just starts to thicken, then pour over the set pear layer of the cake. 

Poached Pear Jelly

1 1/2 cups (350ml)Pear Poaching Liquid, strained

10g gelatin

50g cold water

  1. Bloom the gelatin in the water (see instagram video if this is unfamiliar)
  2. 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. 

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.