Pear Spice Cake

Golden, soft, sweet, Bartlett pears with luxurious juice that dribbles down your chin is one of my favorite things about late autumn. While truly ripe pears are hard to find, you can (if you remember) buy some greenish pears and keep them in a paper bag to ripen for a few days. Or you can be impatient like me and cook not-quite-ripe pears into a still-delicious pear sauce. And then use that pear sauce to make pear spice cake. Which you can then cover with cream cheese frosting—or add cranberries to the leftover pear sauce and serve the cake with that. And/or just eat the stuff plain because it is so good. Seriously, the first business to start selling pearsauce commercially is going to make it big.

In the meantime, you can make your own. This recipe is copied directly from sophistimom’s “Bake Sale Week,” though the cranberries are a new addition, suggested by a friend. In fact, there are a number of options you can pursue with this recipe. Halfway between a cake and a quick bread, you can bake this in loaf pans, muffin pans, two square pans, or a combination (the original recipe calls for four mini loaf pans). You can top it prettily with cream cheese frosting and pretend it’s cake, or serve it plain for breakfast and pretend it’s healthy (I mean, it does have fruit in it…). While this is a pretty straightforward recipe in terms of time and proceedures, do note that cooking pear sauce takes an additional half-hour or so and plan accordingly. You can make it ahead and store it in the fridge if wish. Or, you know, just eat it.

Pear Spice Cake
Pear Sauce:
4-5 ripe pears, peeled and cut in chunks
1/4 C white sugar
1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 C unsalted butter
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C sour cream
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Scroll down for topping options.


  1. Make pear sauce. Combine pear pieces, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat for approximately 20 minutes. The pears should be soft enough to smush with a spoon, but may not all turn into mush on their own. I usually end up putting them through a food processor at the end (after cooling them slightly, of course). You can also use a potato masher or a fork. Measure out 1 1/2 C of pear sauce for the cake; cool.
  2. While the pears are cooking, start the cake. Soften butter and beat it together with white and brown sugars until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well to incorporate after each addition. Add in vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed for about four minutes. Mix in sour cream gently with a spoon or spatula.
  3. Preheat oven to 325ºF and finish processing pear sauce if you have not done so already. Prep pans of your choice with grease (non-stick spray, oil, etc.) or paper liners (if muffin pans).
  4. In a small bowl, mix (or sift) together the cake’s dry ingredients:  flour cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients slowly, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in reserved pear sauce with a spoon or spatula.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pans. Muffins should be slightly over 3/4 full; loaf or cake pans can have batter up to about three inches deep. Bake 20-25 minutes for muffins, or 30-35 minutes for larger pans; a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Serve warm, or cooled if with frosting.

Cranberry Pear Sauce:  An already-good pear sauce is made wonderful with the addition of tart cranberries. After measuring out the sauce needed for the cake, you will likely have some leftover; mix a handful of cranberries and a little extra sugar and lemon into the saucepan (i.e. add to taste) and continue cooking until cranberries soften. Process through a food processor. The cranberry skins may not disintegrate completely but this is okay. Eat plain, with spice cake, on pancakes, etc.

Cream Cheese Frosting:  Soften (do NOT melt!) 3 TBS unsalted butter and 3 TBS cream cheese. Blend together. Add 1 1/3 C powdered sugar, alternating with teaspoons of milk or cream, and mixing well between additions. Flavor with a splash of vanilla. If frosting is too thin, put it in the fridge for an hour.

Cranberry pear sauce is bright not only in color, but also in taste, and the spices in the cake add a beautiful warmth and complexity.

4 Responses to “Pear Spice Cake

  • Looks delicious as usual 🙂 Are you taking these photos yourself?

    The cranberry pear sauce looks like the best part–I bet it would be great with other foods on Thanksgiving 🙂

    • @[swensons] I took the photos! The cranberry pear sauce is seven kinds of awesome – you should make it some time; it’s so easy I could do it!

      • Good to know! As you both know, I am not so gifted at cooking… 😉 But I have been trying. If anything goes wrong, I’m blaming Alex for getting my hopes up!!

Trackbacks & Pings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *