Pears + Saffron + Ginger = Heaven
And, this cake is really easy to make.
Vegetable oil cooking spray
Pinch of saffron threads
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 Comice pears, (6 to 7 ounces each)
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
Note: I couldn’t find nonfat buttermilk, so I used low fat. It worked fine.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square or round cake pan with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper, and set aside.
Pulse saffron and 1/4 cup sugar in a spice grinder until well combined. Put butter and saffron sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Spread the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. The recipe suggests using a rubber spatula, but I found a spoon to be easier to spread it.
Whisk together flour, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, ground ginger, and salt in a large bowl.
Whisk buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in another bowl.
Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking. Stir in crystallized ginger.
Peel pears; halve lengthwise, and core. Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut pears lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange pears decoratively in pan over saffron-butter mixture. Only the first layer has to be laid down decoratively. You won’t even see the pears underneath the top layer, so I just piled them in.
Spread batter over pears. Bake until set and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes.
Place a serving platter upside down over pan; flip to unmold cake. Peel off parchment.
The butter and sugar and saffron seep into the cake, making a delicious glaze on the top.