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.
Vegan Dark Chocolate Pear Cake
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour*
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup maple or agave syrup
- 2/3 cup cold water
- 1/3 cup neutral vegetable oil such as grapeseed or refined avocado
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 ripe pear peeled and finely chopped
- 2 ounces dark chocolate chopped
- 1 tablespoon demerara or cane sugar optional but really nice, for topping
- Preheat your oven to 350F and lightly oil or line a 9 inch springform cake dish with parchment.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
- In another mixing bowl, whisk together the syrup, water, oil, and vinegar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine thoroughly, but it's OK if there are a few small clumps. Fold half of the pear into the cake, then pour the batter into the pan. Top with the remaining pear and the chocolate. If you like, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the top of the cake.
- Transfer the cake to the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is rounded and set. Remove it from the oven. Allow it to cool for a whole hour, then you can release it from the springform pan. I recommend allowing it to cool for another couple hours before slicing: the dark chocolate will be very melty at first, and it's better to give it some time! Enjoy.
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.