News & Politics

Everyday Gourmet: Bistro Bis’s Almond Pear Cake With Crème Fraîche and Caramel

Pear season is just coming into full swing, and one of our favorite winter desserts is the Poached Pears Bordelaise at Bistro Bis.

The restaurant’s spin on the patisserie classic shows off Bartletts steeped for two weeks in a spiced Beaujolais and set next to almond frangipane cake; it’s finished with mulled-wine sorbet and a jewel of grape confit. We asked Heather Martindale, who helped create the dessert, to rethink the confection for the home kitchen, using grocery-store ingredients and staying within a two-hour limit. She came up with an almond pear cake that spares time and complicated presentation. She bakes the pears directly onto the cake, then accents it with a luxurious caramel sauce and vanilla crème fraîche.

Recipe (serves six)

Almond Pear Cake With Whipped Crème Fraîche and Creamy Caramel Sauce

Serves Six

1 cup diced almond paste, room temperature

4 eggs, with 1 tablespoon egg whites separated

1 cup sugar

Pinch salt

7 ounces butter, room temperature, plus 2 ounces more

½ cup sifted cake flour

2 cups sliced almonds

¼ cup light brown sugar

3 Bartlett pears, peeled, cut into 1-inch dice, and tossed in a squeeze of lemon juice

Vegetable oil spray as needed

Flour as needed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Place the almond paste and one tablespoon of egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until smooth. Add the sugar and salt and mix until blended, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add seven ounces of butter in three batches, then increase the speed to medium and mix until the batter is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and continue mixing until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the the mixer and, using a spatula, fold the cake flour into the batter.

In a separate bowl, mix the sliced almonds, brown sugar, and two ounces butter to make a streusel topping.

Spray a medium baking pan with vegetable oil, then lightly dust it with flour. Pour the batter into the pan, evenly sprinkle the streusel mixture on top, and arrange the pears on top of that. Bake 25 to 40 minutes on the oven’s center rack—until the top is golden-brown and springs to the touch. Allow the cake to cool completely.

Creamy Caramel Sauce 

1 cup sugar

½ cup cream, warmed

1 tablespoon butter

Pinch salt

Water as needed

Place the sugar in a two-quart heavy-bottomed pot. Mix in a few tablespoons of water until the sugar takes on a sandy texture. Place the pot on medium-high heat, and cover with a lid or bowl so the sugar doesn’t crystallize on the sides. Cook until the sugar reaches a light amber color.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the warm cream. Stir in the salt and butter. Set aside until ready to serve.

Vanilla Crème Fraîche

1 cup crème fraîche

¼ cup heavy cream

¼ vanilla bean, scraped

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Place the crème fraîche, cream, vanilla bean, and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip on level-two speed until soft peaks form. Keep cool until ready to serve.

Serve the cake warm, with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a dollop of vanilla créme fraîche.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.