12eggs, at room temperature160 gm eachbrown sugar and caster sugarScraped seedsof 2 vanilla beans300 gmplain flour, triple-sieved¼ tspbaking powder120 gmbutter, melted and cooled700 gmcrème fraîche100 mlpouring cream30 gmpure icing sugar, sieved, plus extra for dustingCaramel pears750 gmcaster sugarJuiceand thinly peeled rind of 1½ lemons and 1½ oranges2 eachcinnamon quills and star anise1vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped10small ripe corella pears, peeled, halved, cores removed with a melon baller120 mldessert wine90 mlpouring cream30 gmbutter, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 180C. Whisk eggs, sugars and half the vanilla seeds on high speed in an electric mixer until mixture is tripled in volume and holds a trail (10-12 minutes). Transfer to a large bowl, sift over flour and baking powder in two batches, gently fold to combine, then fold in butter. Divide among 4 buttered and floured 20cm-diameter cake tins lined with baking paper on the bases and bake, swapping tins halfway through cooking (see note), until cakes are dark golden and centres spring back when gently pressed (15-20 minutes). Cool slightly in tins, then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, for caramel pears, combine sugar, rinds, juices, spices, vanilla bean and seeds and 1 litre water in a large saucepan, stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Add pears, cover closely with a round of baking paper, weight with a plate and bring to the simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook until just tender (20-25 minutes). Remove pears from liquid (set aside), then strain cooking liquid into a large deep-sided frying pan and simmer over medium-high heat until mixture turns caramel (25-35 minutes). Add dessert wine, cream and butter (be careful as hot caramel may spit), then stir until combined. Add pears to pan and cook, spooning caramel over pears until glazed (2-3 minutes), then set aside.
Whisk crème fraîche, cream, icing sugar and remaining vanilla seeds in a bowl until firm peaks form (2-3 minutes). Refrigerate until required.
To serve, place one cake on a serving plate, spread with a third of the crème fraîche mixture. Repeat with remaining cakes and crème fraîche mixture, finishing with a cake. Dust with icing sugar and serve with caramel pears and syrup.
Note A freshly baked sponge cake is a thing of beauty, but we
all need to get ahead sometimes. If you prefer to make the cake a
day in advance, brush each layer generously with eau de vie de
poire - it'll moisten the cake and add another element of pear to
the dish. You can also poach the pears several days in advance and
caramelise them on the day of serving. If you don't have four 20cm
cake tins, or your oven isn't large enough to cook all the cakes at
once, make and cook half a batch of the cake mixture at a
This recipe is from the August 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet