Saturday, 25 March 2017

Pear and chocolate cake (Gennaro Contaldo's torta di pere)

Italian cake

Our weekend mornings are not a rushed affair. Even if the kids get up early (argghhh, on a Saturday!!!), at least we are not in a hurry to get out of the house and do the school run. Most weekends we have pancakes for breakfast. For some reason nobody ever gets bored with pancakes, but a slice of cake for breakfast with a big cup of tea is another lovely treat for a leisurely hour with a newspaper.

Recently I was asked to mention a Be a Star, Bake a cake fundraiser on my blog, with a selection of delicious recipes to try.

Bowel Cancer UK is encouraging the nation to join celebrity chefs to bake their favourite cake for their families, friends and colleagues to raise money for the charity for Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

Celebrity chefs - Rick Stein, Tom Kitchin, Brian Turner, Eric Lanlard, Tom Aikens, the Hairy Bikers, Gennaro Contaldo, Deliciously Ella, Mark Greenway - whipped up their favourite bakes in order to inspire the Brits to bake their favourite cake for Be a Star, Bake a Cake.

"This year Bowel Cancer UK, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, is oping more people than ever will hold a bake sale during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in April and raise as much money as possible to help fund vital research and lifesaving work to stop bowel cancer.
More than 44 people die from bowel cancer every day in the UK, it's the nation's second biggest cancer killer. However, it shouldn't be. It's treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early"

Steph Mills, Community Fundraising Manager at Bowel Cancer UK says: "Whether you're a whiz in the kitchen or if baking sends you into a tiz, our celebrity chef supporters have a recipe for you. Test your souffle skills with a delicious Chocolate Orange Souffle by the Hairy Bikers, make your chocolate brownies less devilish with Deliciously Ella's sweet potato borwnies or if you're after indulgence, Tom Aikens' chocolate cake will satisfy your sweet tooth. Then hold a cake stall, coffee morning or afternoon tea and invite your friends and colleagues to make a donation and sample the delicious treats".
Your bake will make a real difference - sign up here - Be a Star, Bake a Cake.

All the recipes looked delightful. I have tried the recipe for mini carrot cakes with cream cheese topping (recipe by Tom Kitchin), and they were delicious.
I have also bookmarked Gennaro Contaldo's pear and chocolate cake (torta di pere). I baked it yesterday, having adapted the original recipe. It was a great success.

Gennaro Contaldo says: "Fresh fruit is often added to cakes in Italy and I remember my grandma making a similar cake to this one using apples. It's a great way of adding more fruit to your diet especially for children. Pear and dark chocolate go really well together and this makes a lovely cake for afternoon tea.

In Russia we have a similar cake called sharlotka, usually made with fresh apples.

best cakes with fruit
Gennaro Contaldo's pear & chocolate cake: image by Dan Jones

Pear & chocolate cake by Gennaro Contaldo (recipe taken from Gennaro's Italian Bakery (Pavillion) and reproduced here with kind permission from Be a Star, Bake a Cake)
Ingredients (makes 6-8 servings)
3 eggs
150g caster sugar
85g unsalted butter, softened
300g self-raising flour, sifted
seeds of 1 vanilla pod
3 pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
75g dark chocolate, roughly broken into small chunks
zest of 1 small unwaxed lemon
a little sifted icing sugar
1 round cake tin 20cm in diameter with a loose bottom if you have one, greased with a little butter and lined with greaseproof paper.

For decoration
100g caster (superfine) sugar
1tbsp unsalted butter
2 pears, sliced very thinly
a little sifted icing sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the softened butter and continue to whisk until well amalgamated. Fold in the flour, vanilla, lemon zest, pears and chocolate.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes - insert a wooden skewer, if it comes clean, the cake is ready. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Then loosen, place on a serving plate and decorate with sifted icing sugar if desired.
To decorate, heat the sugar in a wide saute pan over a medium heat. Do not stir, just gently agitate the pan from time to time until the sugar starts to melt; this will take about 5 minutes.
Continue to cook, gently stirring with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes, until a dark caramel forms. Stir the butter through and add the thinly sliced pears, turning to coat in the caramel.
Cook for 3-4 minutes, until golden. Arrange on top of the cake. Decorate with sifted icing sugar, if liked.

That's Gennaro's full recipe, and this is how I made it.

Italian cakes

First of all, I used only two pears inside the cake, three might have made a soggy cake. It took almost an hour for the cake to be cooked, it was still raw inside after 45 minutes. I added orange zest instead of the lemon, as I think chocolate goes better with orange. I also used milk chocolate rather than dark, as I didn't have dark cooking chocolate.
For the decoration, I used a simple chocolate icing made of 50g of milk chocolate, 2tbsp chocolate syrup and 1tsp of butter. Melt it in a bowl above hot water, then drizzle on top of the cake.
It takes less time than making caramel sauce and pear decorations. Of course, the pear decoration adds more of a glamour, but I also wonder if caramel would make the cake sweeter than it is.

It is a delicious cake, which we all enjoyed.

Italian dessert, Italian cake

Italian cake


  1. that looks so gorgeous... I love pear in cake, it makes such a change to apple and works so well with chocolate. Lovely!

  2. Thank you, Dom! Pear and chocolate are a great combination.

  3. That looks gorgeous - I love the tweaks that you made. I haven't cooked anything for a week as I've been in Norway so I'll have to get in the kitchen this afternoon !

    1. Thank you, Cheryl! My tweaks are to make life easier. :) Welcome back home!