Recipe

Pear and juniper berry cake

This cake is a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds

  • 1 hr preparation
  • 1 hr cooking
  • Serves 16
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Ingredients

Cake
  • 375 grams walnuts
  • 6 eggs
  • 585 grams caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (250ml) buttermilk
  • 250 grams butter (melted)
  • 2 and 2/3 cups self-raising flour
Juniper berry poached pears
  • 3 cups (750ml) dry white wine
  • 3 cups (750ml) water
  • 2 cups (440g) caster sugar
  • 2 medium (50g) beetroots
  • 2 tablespoons crushed juniper berries
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 small corella pears (200g) peeled
  • 5 medium beurre bosc pears (1.15kg), peeled
Treacle buttercream
  • 350 grams butter (chopped, softened)
  • 250 grams cream cheese (chopped, softened)
  • 1 1/2 cups (240g) pure icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons treacle

Method

  • 1
    Make juniper berry poached pears.
  • 2
    Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Grease two 20cm round cake pans; line bases and sides with baking paper.
  • 3
    Spread walnuts on an oven tray in a single layer. Roast for 7 minutes or until browned lightly and fragrant; cool. Process nuts into fine crumbs.
  • 4
    Whisk 3 eggs, 11/3 cups of the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer for 8 minutes or until thick and pale. Using a balloon whisk, fold in 1⅓ cups of the sifted flour until combined. Fold in half the ground walnuts, ½ cup the buttermilk and half the butter. Divide mixture evenly between cake pans.
  • 5
    Bake cakes for 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into centre comes out clean. Leave cakes in pans for 10 minutes before turning, top-side up (see notes), onto wire racks to cool.
  • 6
    Wash and dry cake pans; grease and line pans as in step 2. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with remaining eggs, sugar, vanilla, flour, ground walnuts, buttermilk and butter to make another two cakes.
  • 7
    Make treacle buttercream.
  • 8
    Place one cake on a plate or board. Reserve ⅔ cup of the buttercream for the top of cake; divide the remaining buttercream into three portions. Spread one portion of buttercream on cake; repeat layering, finishing with a cake layer. Spread top with reserved buttercream. Decorate cake with pears; drizzle with syrup.
Juniper berry poached pears
  • 9
    Place wine, the water, sugar, beetroot, juniper berries, peppercorns and bay leaves in a large heavy-based saucepan; stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, without stirring; add pears to pan. Place a piece of baking paper over pears; place a small plate on top to keep pears submerged in the poaching liquid. Simmer gently for 20 minutes or until small pears are tender; remove small pears with a slotted spoon. Cook larger pears for a further 5 minutes or until tender (cooking time will depend on the ripeness of the pears). Cool pears in liquid. Strain 1 cup of poaching liquid into a small saucepan; bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 1/3 cup. Cool.
Treacle buttercream
  • 10
    Beat butter in a bowl with electric mixer until smooth. Add cream cheese, sifted icing sugar and treacle; beat until light and fluffy.

Notes

Test Kitchen notes
Pears can be poached up to 2 days ahead. Cakes and buttercream are best made on day of serving.To turn out cakes, top-side up, first invert the cake onto a wire rack. Place another wire rack on top then, sandwiching the cake between the two racks, flip it over.