Yesterday, December 6th was Hungarian Mikulásnap (Santa’s Day). This date was very important in our house because it was the date that Mikulás visited our home to pick up the letters we would write to him…the Christmas wish list! It was always our tradition to put the letters into freshly polished, shiny boots on the windowsill just before we went to bed. In the morning, we would find our boots filled with European chocolates (if we were good) or the dreaded virgács (thin branches that our parents could use to slap our bottoms with, if we were bad). To the best of my memory, we only received the virgács once; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I am always nostalgic this time of year, particularly in my neighbourhood of European delis that stock the same delicious chocolates we used to receive as kids.
Although chocolate treats in the form of Santa (or Mikulás) would be a lovely dessert, recently I decided to make an unusual cake that has been making the rounds on the blog-o-sphere for some time. Surprisingly, there is nothing unusual about the ingredients and the recipe is pretty much like a jelly roll or genoise sponge, but what’s really unusual is that the cake separates into a custard portion and a cake portion during baking. I suspect this recipe came about as a mistake someone made a long time ago and it baked into this amazing and delicious surprise (like so many recipes out there). The history really doesn’t matter, it is a delicious cake that is a cross between a custard and a cake and I think you should try it.
Since I’m not much of Pinterest person, I only saw this cake on the blogs I follow and the very first one was Bizzy Lizzy, my Hungarian bogging friend down under and then Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella made a pumpkin version — I knew I had to make this unusual dessert. We loved the Hungarian Custard Squares (Krémes Szelet) so I suspected that this recipe would be a winner too. I used Liz’s recipe but I halved it because there were only four of us for brunch; I topped it with baked pears (I scored the pears at $1.96 for 10 because they were not perfect specimens!) and a drizzle of coconut sugar caramel sauce. The dessert received rave reviews and as a bonus, it stores well in the fridge for a couple of days (unassembled). It’s definitely going into my dessert repertoire…now to figure out a gluten free version!
What Christmas/holiday traditions do you have?
Magical Custard Cake with Baked Pears and Coconut Caramel Sauce
Ingredients for the Magical Custard Cake:
- 60 g unsalted butter
- 240 mL low fat milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs, room temperature, separated
- 60 g icing sugar, sifted
- pinch, cream of tartar
- 57 g unbleached AP flour, sifted
- 4 walnut halves for garnish, toasted
- Pre-heat the oven to 330° F (165° C).
- Prepare a 21 cm x 11 cm(4″ x 8″) loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper.
- Melt the butter and cool to room temperature.
- Warm the milk combined with vanilla until lukewarm (should not be hot).
- Beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until stiff but not dry, set aside.
- Beat the egg yolks with the icing sugar until light and fluffy (about 5 – 7 minutes). Set the mixer speed to the lowest and slowly drizzle in the melted butter until entirely combined.
- Slowly fold in the flour alternating with the warm milk until it is fully combined.
- Fold in the beaten egg whites a spoon at a time until fully incorporated but not deflated. This is quite a runny batter, so don’t worry.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely and then refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Ingredients for the baked pears:
- 10 small pears, peeled, cored and cut into cubes
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of salt
Directions for the baked pears:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (171° C).
- Toss cubed pears with sugar, cinnamon and salt and pour into a casserole dish. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until soft. Set aside.
Ingredients for Coconut Sugar Caramel Sauce:
- 1/4 cup Grace coconut sugar (or regular granulated sugar)
- 1 tbsp water
- 1/8 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup hot cream
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
Directions for Coconut Sugar Caramel Sauce:
- Heat cream in a microwave proof container until very hot but not boiling, set aside.
- Mix sugar, water and lemon juice in a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup.
- Microwave for 15-60 seconds (note that in 2016 I doubled the recipe and it took 3 minutes 25 seconds of microwaving to get the amber colour I was looking for), until sugar bubbles up but does NOT BURN, sugar crystals should be completely dissolved and you should begin to see it turn to a light amber colour. Remove and set on a dishcloth for 30 seconds and slowly pour in the hot cream, being careful as this will bubble up.
- Stir well and then add the butter and stir until completely incorporated. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Remove cold ‘cake’ from the fridge and set on a cutting board. Cut into 4 slices and set each slice on the centre of a plate.
- Reheat the baked pear cubes until steamy (microwave for a minute or so on high).
- Spoon equal amounts of the pears onto each slice, then drizzle with the coconut caramel. Garnish with a toasted walnut half.