If you're thinking about what kind of sweet wine to drink with an aromatic, spicy fruit cake like this, consider a late-harvest or even botrytis-affected riesling. The beauty of the riesling variety is that it has high natural acidity; even if the grapes are picked very ripe, late in the season, when they resemble little shrivelled bags of golden syrup, they will still have enough of that riesling acid to stop the resulting wine from being too cloying in the mouth. Riesling grapes also retain their aromatic quality long into autumn, so even wines from berries covered in botrytis - the "noble rot" that desiccates the fruit and contributes its own distinctive apricot and honey-like character - can still be deliciously perfumed and refreshing. Depending on personal taste, look for labels that mention "late-harvest" or "auslese" (these are sweet but not overly so) or try a wine labelled "botrytis-affected", "noble" or "beerenauslese" (much more sweet and luscious). Serve the cake with a small glass of the wine and perhaps a cup of fragrant black tea.
An aromatic, spicy fruit cake calls for a late-harvest riesling with fresh acidity to balance the sweetness.
- 225 gm softened butter
- 250 gm dark brown sugar
- 3 beurre Bosc pears, cut into 8 wedges, core removed
- 450 gm (3 cups) plain flour, sieved
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tbsp ground ginger
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp finely grated nutmeg
- 370 gm (1 cup) treacle
- 3 eggs
- 250 ml (1 cup) buttermilk
- 80 ml (1/3 cup) pouring cream
- To serve: clotted cream (optional, see note)
- 1Preheat oven to 160C. Melt 100gm butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, scatter in half the sugar and stir until dissolved (3-5 minutes). Add pears and turn occasionally until golden and just cooked through (10-12 minutes). Remove pears with a slotted spoon, arrange in base of a 22cm-diameter cake tin lined with baking paper, set aside. Reserve remaining liquid in frying pan.
- 2Sift flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a bowl and set aside. Beat remaining butter and remaining sugar in an electric mixer until pale and creamy (3-5 minutes). Add treacle, then eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition to combine. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture, in thirds, alternating with buttermilk, finishing with flour, until just combined. Pour over pears, bake until golden and an inserted skewer withdraws clean (1 hour 10 minutes-1 hour 20 minutes). Cool in tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, turn onto serving plate and cool to room temperature.
- 3Meanwhile, heat reserved pan juices over medium heat, whisk in pouring cream until combined. Serve with ginger and pear cake and clotted cream, if desired. Cake will keep, stored in an airtight container at room temperature, for 2 days.
Note This recipe is adapted from Stephanie Alexander's ginger cake in The Cook's Companion. Clotted cream is available from select delicatessens. If unavailable, substitute double cream. Drink suggestion by Max Allen