Prep time
Cook time
Total time
  • Cake
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ⅔ cup vegetable oil (I use grape seed)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ½ cup strong espresso, hot
  • Caramel Poached Pears
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 2 vanilla pods, split and seeds scraped (add seeds too)
  • rind (in large strips) of 1 orange
  • 8 small firm pears, peeled (for example, corella, beurre bosc, winter nelis)
  • ⅓ cup cream, liquid
  • 30g/1oz unsalted butter, cubed
  • pinch sea salt
  • Mascarpone frosting
  • 100g/3.5oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • juice 1 lemon
  • 300g/10.6oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup cream, liquid
  • To assemble
  • 3 Tbsp toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  1. For the cake
  2. Preheat oven to 180C/350F on bake. Grease and line 2 x 20cm (8in) round cake tins.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor or standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and 1 cup caster sugar. Pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the remaining ingredients for the cake and process until all the ingredients are combined into a smooth batter.
  4. Divide between the two baking tins and place in a pre-heated oven to bake for 25-30 min or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cakes.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 min in the tins before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. For the caramel poached pears
  7. Take a large saucepan, big enough to fit pears and poaching liquid. Cut a piece of baking paper out the size of the saucepan and cut a small (1cm/1/2in) circle in the centre. Set aside.
  8. Place 2 cups caster sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, star anise, vanilla pods and seeds and orange rind in saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high and simmer until sugar has melted.
  9. Remove from heat and add pears and cover with baking paper circle. Bring back to a simmer over medium-high heat then reduce the heat to medium to maintain a steady simmer for 40-50 min or until the pears are cooked. They should be soft enough to yield when a knife is inserted but still firm enough to hold their shape well.
  10. Gently remove pears with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool completely. Remove spices and orange rind and discard, keep the poaching liquid in the saucepan.
  11. Increase heat to medium high and reduce poaching liquid for 20-25 min until it is bubbling and caramel like.
  12. Place ⅓ cup cream in a small saucepan and heat until bubbling around the edges, alternatively heat in the microwave. You want the cream to be warm and not cold as when we add this to the caramel it will cease if too cold.
  13. Add cream and 30g/1oz cubed butter to caramel and mix until smooth. Remove and set aside to cool completely.
  14. For the mascarpone frosting
  15. Place cream cheese, icing sugar and lemon juice in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Alternatively you can do this by hand with a wooden spoon. Beat until mixture is smooth. Add mascarpone and mix until incorporated. Pour in 1 cup cream and beat until mixture is smooth.
  16. To assemble
  17. If you need to, cut the domes off the top of the cakes so that they have flat tops. Cut each cake in half horizontally.
  18. Place one layer on a plate and spread over ¼ of the mascarpone mixture. Top with the next layer of cake and another ¼ mascarpone mixture, then repeat this process with remaining layers and mascarpone.
  19. Arrange cooled pears on top of cake and drizzle over cooled caramel. Sprinkle over pecans
  20. The cake is best served on the day of assembly. Cakes can be made in advance and stored unfrosted, in an airtight container for 1-2 days.
Recipe by OPSD Il gustoso food blog at https://www.opsd.it/torta-speziata-cioccolato-pere/