I started the Zoë Bakes blog in 2007 as a way to stay connected to pastry while I was raising my boys and working on the Breadin5 bread books. I quickly found my community of online peers and Aran Goyoaga and her blog, Cannelle et Vanille, was at the center of it. Her recipes and photography stood out and became the bar the rest of us tried to reach. All these years later I am still striving to create the beauty she seems to produce with such immense grace and ease as if pastry is an innate talent. She grew up in a baking family and so, perhaps she was born with a touch of magic in her hand.
Her newest book, Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple, is a love story about the foods she feeds her own family. Nothing too pastry chef-y or fancy, just the comfort foods that make everyone happy. You can get lost in the immense beauty of her images and stories, each one inspiring in its own way. You probably have figured out my fascination for all things meringue, so when I came upon the Meringue Cake with Roasted Apples recipe in Aran’s Holiday Baking chapter, I knew exactly where I would start in her book.
The only turn I took from her recipe, which she has graciously allowed me to share with you, is that I used pears instead of apples. You see, I have a neighbor who grows pears and doesn’t seem to know that the tree is heavy with fruit. Every day I walk by with my poodles and dozens of perfectly ripe pears have fallen off their branches and are keeping the wildlife fat and happy. This is a bit of a confession, but I have stolen dozens of pears from that tree. Only the ones that hang over the sidewalk or have already hit the ground, but taken without their permission nonetheless. I have attempted to ask permission on several occasions, but the doorbell goes unnoticed. Anyhoo, I used those stolen pears to make this exquisite cake. This recipe is gluten-free, as are all the recipes in the book, but no one knew that who enjoyed this meringue cake and you will love these recipes no matter your predilection for gluten.
One last note before you make this cake, the recipe below is the original amount, but I doubled the apple (pear) topping because it was so delicious I wanted more of it.
- 7 tbsp (100g) unsalted butter or dairy-free butter plus more for greasing
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp (225g) sugar divided
- 5 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup (95g) superfine brown rice flour
- 1/3 cup (40g) tapioca starch
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (55g) whole milk or oat milk
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/3 cup (40g) raw sliced almonds
Caramelized Apples (or Pears!)
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Position a rack in the lower half of the oven.
- Grease the inside of a 9-inch springform pan or tube pan with butter. Alternatively, use a 9-inch cake pan: line the bottom and sides with parchment paper, leaving some overhang to help lift the cake out of the pan.
- To make the cake, combine the butter and 1/2 cup (100g) of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar over medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg yolks one at a time until all are incorporated. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl and paddle if needed.
- In a small bowl, stir together the brown rice flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Finish by adding the milk. Once the batter comes together, increase the speed to high and give it a good whip for 15 seconds or so to ensure everything is well incorporated.
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan and set aside. Wash the mixer bowl, making sure there is no residue of batter in it.
- Put the egg whites into the clean mixer bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip them on medium speed until they begin to foam and increase in volume. Add the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125g) sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue whipping until all the sugar is incorporated.
- Increase the speed to high and whip into glossy, stiff peaks. Spread the meringue over the cake batter, creating swirl patterns with the spatula. Sprinkle the almonds on top.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. The meringue will puff up and almonds should be golden brown. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake and remove it from the pan to cool completely. The top will have deflated slightly and cracked in spots.
- Meanwhile, make the caramelized pears. Peel, halve and core the pear. Cut each half into slices that are about 1/4 inch thick.
- Heat a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the bottom of the pan and cook until it melts and turns a light amber. Carefully stir in the butter, vinegar, vanilla, and spices, as the caramel may splatter.
- Add the apple slices and toss to coat with the caramel. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, turning the pears occasionally. Try not to mush them too much. They should be slightly soft and caramel colored. If the caramel thickens too much, add 1 tablespoon of water or orange juice. Let the apples cool for a few minutes before topping the cake. Store the cake, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
If you like this cake, be sure to check out my Pear-Cardamom Cake with Cardamom Glaze, another pear cake variation from my show, and my Poached Pear Ginger Cake! You can find all my dessert recipes that call for pears here!