I really, really, really love this cake.
It started as a vanilla cake with pears and dark chocolate chunks, and sometimes I still make it that way. But the next few times I tried it—and I made it often during the holiday season—I went with a chocolate-on-chocolate version instead. This double vegan dark chocolate pear cake is now my go-to, the one I made for Chanukah and on Christmas Day. I’m happy to make it this year’s Valentine’s Day offering to myself.
I had high hopes the first time I made the cake, but even so, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out. Chocolate and fruit is a hit-or-miss combination for me: I love chocolate and raspberries together, but I’ve never really loved chocolate and orange. Most of the time, I like for chocolate cake to be simple and relatively unadorned: maybe a swirl of good frosting (this one is an all time favorite), but that’s about it.
This cake, though, was love at first bite. The pears give it moisture and delicate sweetness, somehow managing to stay in balance with the rich chocolate flavor. I fold half of the pear into the cake batter itself (if you fold all of them in, they tend to sink too much) and top the cake with the rest, along with a very generous layer of dark chocolate chunks and a dusting of sugar. The cake is refined-sugar-free without that dusting, so it’s optional if you’d prefer to skip it. But I have to admit that I love the crispy, slightly caramelized topping it creates, which you can probably spot in the photos.
I based the cake itself off of a Peter Berley recipe from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, one that has served me very well in the past. It makes for a runny batter, and it’s important to let the cake bake until the top is truly set before taking it out of the oven. If you take it out too early, it’ll collapse, especially with the weight of chocolate and fruit. I usually give it a full 45 minutes, though I’d recommend you start checking at the 40 minute mark. When the top feels set (gently tap it with your finger to see) and is rounded, the cake is ready. If you need to give it up to 50-55 minutes, that’s OK. Here’s the recipe.
The cake is such a wintertime treat: chocolatey but not overly rich, sweet but not cloying, and the dark chocolate chunks make it feel fancy and festive in spite of the fact that it’s really pretty easy to make. You can definitely try the cake with a gluten-free, all purpose flour blend; I haven’t tried that yet, but I strongly suspect it’ll work. Just opt for a brand or homemade blend that you really trust and have had good experience with making 1-to-1 substitutions in the past.
As I mentioned on Sunday, my work this month is to stay open, soft, and loving, which includes sending a lot of love to you all for February 14th, and in general. Have a happy Valentine’s Day, if you feel like celebrating it, and I’ll be back at the end of this week with an enthusiastic review of Hannah Kaminsky‘s latest vegan cookbook masterpiece.