Spring cleanup’s sweet side effects

This weekend, I did a big spring cleaning of the kitchen. There were two surprises. I was not aware how much I have accumulated since I moved to the Pennsylvania mountaintop ten years ago (if I had not been into cooking already, I would have certainly started here, as the local restaurant scene is dire, especially if you come straight from New York City). Not that I don’t use all those tools and equipment. Everything is put to use some time, even if only once a year, like the cherry pitter. Yet I promised myself that I will try to stick mainly to replacements.

The other surprise was a jar of canned pears from 2009, the last year we were able to enjoy the pears from our own two pear trees. Usually the other stakeholders to the pears, most likely raccoons or groundhogs, eat the pears before we can. One year when I went out with two large baskets for picking, all the pears were gone. Not a single pear on the tree. It had been loaded with fruit just a couple of days before.

Since I don’t know if and when we will have our own pears again, I wanted to use this last jar for something special. I made my favorite pear cake that my husband says must be eaten with vanilla ice-cream (he had two helpings sitting next to me on the sofa as as I write this, saying that the second was only a test to see if it still tasted as good as the first).

Spiced Chocolate Pear Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 packed cup (10 ounces) light brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup pear nectar (from the canned pears)

¼ cup finely minced crystallized ginger

2 ounces finely grated bittersweet chocolate

2 cups canned pear chunks, drained

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Butter and flour a 9-inch-diameter springform pan.

3. Mix flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt and all the spices.

4. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla extract and pear nectar.

5. Gradually work in the flour mix until dough is smooth. Add ginger and chocolate. Fold in the pear chunks.

6. Pour mix into the prepared pan and even out with a spatula. Bake 45 to 60 minutes, until toothpick comes out somewhat clean (because of the pears, there will always be some moisture clinging to the tester, but it should not be liquid).

7. Cool cake 10 minutes. Release cake from pan sides with a plastic knife. Cool completely on rack.

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