Pear, Cardamom and Black Pepper Cake

Pear, Cardamom and Black Pepper Cake

This spice mix is a nod to my time in India and this amazing Marsala Chai we drank every morning.  Cardamom is very pungent, so use it sparingly.  I have a little mortar and pastel I bought in a market in India (also available at cooking and grocery stores), so I like to grind my own spices when I can.  You don’t need one that’s too big unless you really want to get crazy with your grinds.  Another option is to use a coffee grinder – to clean out the old coffee bits, grind up a few small chunks of stale bread; it should clean the blades and soak up the (delicious) coffee oils.  Then go to town on your spices!  Do the same process when you’re converting back to coffee.  If you don’t grind your own spices, no biggy, just purchase them in bulk at the grocery store (inexpensive and fresh – what’s not to love?!)
For this recipe, I used the cardamom seeds (which are small and brown), not the pod (larger and green).
Dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour (3/4 cup whole wheat + 3/4 cup white)
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Wet Ingredients:
2 eggs, beaten
10 prunes
1/4 cup reserved prune water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pureed pear (about 1 large and very ripe pear)

Preheat oven to 350*F and grease a 9″ round pie pan.
You’ll want to reconstitute the prunes for 10 minutes before adding them to the batter.  Here’s how: boil water (about 1/2 cup), and set the prunes in a small dish.  Once the water is boiling, pour it over the prunes and cover with a plate to allow the prunes to steam and moisten.

Meanwhile, sift and combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  The prunes should be ready, so take them from the hot liquid, slice into smaller chunks, and use 1/4 cup of the prune liquid as you mix all the other wet ingredients together in a mixing bowl.  Combine wet and dry ingredients and pour into the baking dish.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick poked into the center of the cake comes out clean.  To get the bread out of the dish to cool, plop upside down onto a cooling rack and give the dish firm taps with the end of a wooden spoon.  You’ll probably want to use a towel to gently shake the dish, releasing your bread in it’s entirety.  Let cool completely, then serve with whipped cream and coffee.