This gluten-free pear cake combines fresh pears with masala chai spices (cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger) all wrapped up in a pillowy cake. The cake base uses a blend of gluten-free flours (sweet rice, oat, and millet) for a tender cake studded with ripe pear chunks. Serve slices with whipped crème fraîche for a cozy and satisfying dessert.
Note from Alanna: I first shared this gluten-free pear cake in 2014 after some dear friends gifted us a bunch of gorgeous home-grown pears. I still remember bringing the final version to a music rehearsal where the bassist, who was not gluten-free, expressed his amazement that the cake was. I loved this recipe so much that I included a variation of it, made with nectarines, in my cookbook Alternative Baker. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have over the years!
I have to agree with Eddie Izzard: pears are sneaky little buggers that seem to say "No, don't ripen yet...wait til he goes out of the room...ripen now now now!" Most of the time I want to tell them to F off, too.
But I couldn't bring myself to use foul language on the beautiful pears left to us by our friends who cat-sat for us while we took a road trip to Portland. You know those fancy pears that people send to fancy people for the holidays? These pears looked like those.
So rather than telling the pears to shove it as they slowly ripened, I gave them each a little "squeezy squeezy" throughout the day until they had the slightest hint of give. Pears ripen from the inside out, so if you wait for them to give the signals of other (non-sneaky, non-buggery) fruit, you'll open them up to find them brown and rotty on the inside (and laughing at you).
Baking with Pears
Pears can be a bit high-maintenance for baking. They need to be perfectly ripe, somewhere between rock hard and mushy, so be sure to purchase them a few days to a week before you want to bake this cake.
Pears are low in acid, with a mild flavor that can taste bland when baked. For this reason, they pair (haha) nicely with more assertive flavors (whole grains, chai spices) and acidity (lemon juice), all of which we have here.
This gluten-free pear cake has a beautiful melt-in-your mouth texture bursting with chai spices and studded with fat chunks of tender pears. No one will ever guess that the cake is gluten-free – it has the rich taste and floofy texture of a cake made with whole wheat and all-purpose flours. The sugary top gives it a classic coffeecake-like crust on top that plays off the soft fruit and tender crumb.
How to Make Gluten-Free Pear Cake
This recipe makes a 10-inch single-layer cake, serving 8-10. It takes a little over an hour, start to finish, plus an hour or two to cool after baking.
Serve this gluten-free pear cake at room temperature with a dollop of crème fraîche whipped cream, or serve it warm topped with a scoop of dreamy vanilla ice cream. I can guarantee that nobody, not even Eddie Izzard, would ever tell it to f**k off.
*Bojon appétit! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make this gluten-free pear cake recipe, I’d love to know. Leave a comment and rating below, and tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet.*
Chai-Spiced Gluten-Free Pear CakePrint Recipe Pin Recipe
The spiced sugar:
- ¾ cup (165 g) organic granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 8 tablespoons (113 g) unsalted butter, plus 2 teaspoons for the pan and 2 teaspoons for dotting the top of the cake
- spiced sugar from above (see instructions)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (115 g) sweet white rice flour (or GF AP flour)
- ½ cup (50 g) oat flour (or sorghum flour)
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (50 g) millet flour (or buckwheat flour)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ⅓ cup crème fraîche (or sour cream)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ pounds ripe but firm pears (such as Bartlett; about 3 medium)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 recipe whipped creme fraiche (optional, for serving)
Make the batter
- Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Butter a 10-inch oven-proof skillet or cake pan with the 2 teaspoons of softened butter.
- In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. Set aside 2 tablespoons to top the cake; add the rest to the butter.
- Cream together the butter and spiced sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice, about 3 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the rice, oat, and millet flours, baking powder, and salt. Add half of this mixture to the butter, stir on low until just combined.
- Add the crème fraîche and vanilla, stir on low until just combined, then add the remaining flour mixture, stirring on low until just combined.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer, and give it a gentle stir with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides to make sure the batter is homogenous. It will be thick and spongy from the baking powder reacting with the acids in the crème fraîche.
Prepare the pears
- Cut the pears off of their cores. Cut some of the pear pieces into enough 1/2" cubes to equal 1 cup, and slice the rest into ½" thick (at the widest part). Drizzle the lemon juice over the wedges; this keeps them from oxidizing, and gives them a little punch.
- Gently fold the pear chunks into the batter, then spread the batter evenly into the greased skillet.
Bake the cake
- Fan out the pear slices over the top of the cake with the fatter part facing out. Press them into the batter a little bit; I like to place them at a diagonal so that some cake batter peaks through the fruit.
- Dot with the remaining 2 teaspoons butter and sprinkle the reserved 2 tablespoons of spiced sugar evenly over the top.
- Bake the cake until the top is golden and set, the sides are pulling away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. Since the cake is still cooking from residual heat, let it cool for at least an hour before cutting it into wedges.
- Serve with whipped creme fraiche if you like.
- Leftovers keep well at room temperature for up to 1 day or refrigerated for up to 4 days. Serve warm or at room temperature for the best texture.
- For dairy-free pear cake, use vegan butter in place of the dairy butter, and use vegan sour cream (or rich coconut yogurt such as Culina or Cocojune) instead of creme fraiche.
- For refined sugar-free, use an equal weight of maple sugar or coconut sugar instead of granulated sugar.
- If your pears are very ripe and sweet, you may want to reduce the sugar by 2 tablespoons.
- Be sure to use sweet white rice flour here (such as Mochiko brand) which is made from sticky rice and helps the cake hold together. If you only have regular rice flour, you may want to try adding 1/4-1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum along with the flours. If you or your guests have severe gluten allergies, be sure to use ingredients that are certified gluten-free (particularly the oat flour).
- I like baking this in my 10" round cast iron skillet, but I think it would fit in a 9" springform pan with 2" high sides, as well.
- Nutritional values are based on one of eight servings.