I feel like this cake deserves an apology, the pictures I am about to show you of this cake are not particularly inspiring. You see, I baked it for a friend’s birthday party in early December and I was running around like a mad-woman trying desperately to finish it off before I had to be at her house. I was losing light, I was out of time, and, well, I just snapped a few pictures and hoped for the best.
See, it doesn’t look like much. But it is. It really, truly, and absolutely is. So for the sake of this particular cake I’m asking you to just look past its outside appearance. It’s what’s on the inside that counts anyways right?
The cake is a perfectly moist, dense-yet-still-fluffy, marzipan-almond-pear cake that I covered in a salted caramel Swiss-meringue buttercream. Let’s talk for a moment about how to make Swiss-meringue buttercream even more unbelievably delicious than it already is – add homemade caramel sauce, and then toss in a teaspoon or so of sea-salt.
I can see your eyes widening. I know, I know. Homemade caramel is scary. You have to boil water and sugar and remove it from the heat at exactly the right time or risk either burnt caramel (I’ve done it, it doesn’t taste good) or a caramel that is too mild in flavour and as a result simply tastes like sugar. Both are undesirable, and both are risks you have to be willing to take because let me assure you: homemade caramel is worth it.
You just have to be ok with watching it as it does its thing. Stand over your stove and watch it. When it starts to go amber, keep watching, count to 60 then pull it off the stove, and carefully, in small increments to avoid a bubbling overflow of boiling sugar, stir in your heavy cream. You want it rich amber. Sure you can also use a candy thermometer, but I actually never have. Maybe I have just been lucky, but I’m confident that you’ll be lucky as well.
But let me talk about the cake for a minute because they caused me a lot of stress. You see, this recipe comes from a cupcake recipe that my personal hero Sweetapolita made a few months ago. I spent days drooling over her marzipan-pear cupcakes with caramel buttercream which she topped with the most beautiful gold-gilded marzipan pear toppers. I thought about making the cupcakes, but when my friend asked me to make her birthday cake (in actuality I sent her an email in reply to her invitation in which I pretty much begged her to let me do it) I though it might turn into a wonderful cake.
And it did.
Fair warning however: this cake is finicky. I suspect it would have been less stress-inducing if I had made cupcakes. The dough is quite soft thanks to the brilliant addition of a lot of marzipan, and a lot of pureed pear. It makes for a delicious cake, but I have never been more nervous turning out cakes than the moment I flipped these out of the pans. Both layers nearly ripped as I transferred them onto the cooling rack, and I was only able to take them off and stack them because i used two oversized spatulas to support them from underneath.
I’m generally a pretty calm person, but when I’m moving delicate cake-layers I become a stress-ball. Seriously, I hyperventilate a little.
But in the end it was good. Actually, it was really, really good. I mean when you pair marzipan, pears, and caramel with a hefty amount of butter and sugar, how on earth could it possibly be wrong?
So make this cake. It may not look like much, but it’s flavour more than makes up for its appearance.
For the Cake – yields 1 eight inch 2 layer cake:
Very lightly adapted from Sweetapolita
1 cup + 2 teaspoons unsalted butter at room temperature cut into chunks
240 grams of marzipan
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature