Spiced Mulled Wine Pear Cake

With whole poached pears rising up like regal statues, this Spiced Mulled Wine Pear Cake is a conversation starter. It may seem like an artistic feat, but with some simple engineering, the look is easy to accomplish. A blend of pear juice and homemade mulled wine enhances the pears’ flavor and dyes them that gorgeous hue. Buttermilk and sour cream in the batter tone down the spice and zingy citrus and give the cake a super tender texture.

Spiced Mulled Wine Pear Cake
Makes 1 (10-inch) cake
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (224 grams) canola oil
  • 3 large eggs (150 grams)
  • ½ cup (120 grams) sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons (6 grams) orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons (8 grams) vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons (4.5 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon (1 gram) ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground star anise
  • 1 cup (240 grams) whole buttermilk
  • Mulled Wine-Poached Pears (recipe follows)
  • Mulled Wine Glaze (recipe follows)
  • 5 (12-inch) metal or wooden skewers
  1. Position oven rack in bottom third of oven, and preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Wrap a 10-inch removable-bottom tube pan with foil, shiny side out. Spray pan with baking spray with flour.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, eggs, sour cream, zest, and vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and star anise. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, whisking until combined after each addition. Spoon batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with an offset spatula.
  3. Drain Mulled Wine-Poached Pears, reserving 2 tablespoons (30 grams) poaching liquid for Mulled Wine Glaze. Spray skewers with oil. Insert skewers horizontally through pears ½ inch below stem. Place pears in batter, not letting them touch bottom of pan; let skewers rest on sides of pan. (Skewers will suspend the pears in the batter.)
  4. Bake until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean, 1 hour and 35 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes, covering with foil after 1 hour of baking to prevent excess browning. Let cool for 10 minutes. Gently twist skewers, and remove from pears. Let cake cool completely in pan.
  5. Lift cake out of pan using center tube. Using 2 spatulas, lift cake off bottom of pan. Top with Mulled Wine Glaze. Serve immediately.

Mulled Wine-Poached Pears
Makes 5 poached pears
  • 5 medium Bosc or Anjou pears (1,010 grams)
  • 1 cup (240 grams) pear juice*
  • ½ cup (110 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup (170 grams) clover honey
  • ½ cup (120 grams) brandy
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle full-bodied red wine, such as Merlot
  • 7 (1-inch-wide) strips orange zest (28 grams)
  • ½ cup (120 grams) strained fresh orange juice
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 whole allspice
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 4 whole cloves
  1. Peel pears, leaving stems intact. Using a melon baller, core pears from bottom.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat pear juice, brown sugar, honey, and brandy over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture starts to boil. Add wine, orange zest and juice, vanilla bean and reserved seeds, cinnamon sticks, allspice, star anise, and cloves; return to a boil. Add pears; reduce heat to medium-low.
  3. Shape a small sheet of foil into a circle. Place on top of pears to keep them fully submerged in poaching liquid. Simmer until pears are fork-tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Transfer pears to a bowl. Pour poaching liquid over pears, and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 week.
*We used R.W. Knudsen Organic Pear Juice.

Slightly underripe pears are best for poaching. The longer the pears soak in the poaching liquid, the more intense the flavor will be. We recommend refrigerating them in the poaching liquid overnight.

Mulled Wine Glaze
Makes about ½ cup
  • 1⅓ cups (160 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) reserved poaching liquid from Mulled Wine-Poached Pears (recipe precedes)
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and reserved poaching liquid until smooth. Use immediately.


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