I love Hobart. I love its hills. I love its water. I love the local support for MONA's winter festival Dark Mofo, which has residents wrapping their outside lights in red cellophane and businesses decorating shop windows in red, even the CWA store, who excelled this year with their display which featured the word Mofo and a cross fashioned from scarlet beads. Winter is not Tasmania's starriest produce season. That would be summer, when apricots are weighing down backyard trees, cherries are fat and plentiful, and plums are practically rolling down the roads with all the street planting. But the colder months have their charms - one of them being staying inside where it's warm and eating cake. This one is dark and wintery and wonderful with the heat of ginger, sweet, silky pears and a chewy crumb courtesy of rye flour. It's not in the CWA playbook but I think they'd approve.
Pear cake with rye and ginger
Adapted from a recipe by Helen Goh in Good Weekend
I made my own stem ginger - from this recipe - but it is readily available to buy in good delis and Asian supermarkets. Alternatively, Goh advises you can substitute crystallised ginger for the stem ginger and golden syrup for the ginger syrup (what the stem ginger is preserved in).
160g unsalted butter, cubed
220g soft light brown sugar
100g ginger syrup (from a jar of stem ginger)
200ml full-fat milk
60ml vegetable oil (or any neutral oil)
2 large eggs
100g stem ginger, roughly chopped
150g dark rye flour
2 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
3 ripe medium pears (about 450g) peeled and cored; half chopped into 1/2cm pieces, the rest thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 190 deg C (170 deg C fan-forced). Grease and line a 23cm cake tin.
Combine butter, brown sugar, treacle and ginger syrup in a saucepan on low heat. Stir gently til butter has melted and the sugar is dissolved, then remove from heat. Whisk in milk and oil, then the eggs. Fold in chopped stem ginger.
In a large bowl, sift together flours, bicarb, spices and salt. Pour in the saucepan of wet ingredients, mix to combine and then fold in chopped pears.
Pour batter into prepared tin and gently lay sliced pears on top. Place tin on an oven tray and bake on middle shelf of oven for 60-80 minutes or even longer (cooking time varies according to the juiciness of the pears) - until a skewer/toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cake cool on wire rack for a few minutes before turning out of tin and serving.