Pear And Pecan Tea Cakes – An Afternoon With Grandma
I’d like to dedicate this post to another great lady, Bri who passed away last night. My sincere condolences to her husband and her family.
A post I was reading the other week prompted me to take out my grandmother’s china and silverware out of their cases and bring them to life for a little while. The time of a dessert, a picture or a post. The time of a memory I might give my mother about a certain time in her past. I know I’ll never be as creative as Pia in styling and setting the mood for the pieces I inherited but the moment was right to polish those spoons and dust off those cups.
I started to take pictures of the spoons on their own and although pretty, something was missing. I made some tea and hoped that the smell and relaxing atmosphere would inspire me a little. It was allright…not bad, there was still that little "je ne sais quoi" missing. I took a step back and tried to remember the last time I had seen my grandmother use those pieces. Had I? Ever? No, not really….So I tried to imagine grandma holding that cup of tea in one hand, swirling her sugar and lemon slice, spoon in the other. That’s when it hit me! Cake! The one thing missing was one of my grandmother’s tea cakes!
I cannot remember a day without going to her house for a 4 o’clock cup of tea and a slice of cake! There was never a shortage of pretty china and silverware, although I strongly suspect she had secretively put these cups and spoons away for me. Yes, they are just things….and they fell on my lap pretty much the same way they did on hers: they were all handed down from many women before me. If they weren’t in our family, well eh, no big deal. But they are, and they are old, and they speak a little bit of my past and the women in the family every time I take them out, to me it is a big deal. I find it magical that every time I look at them, I can’t wait for 4 o’clock to come around so I can make myself a cup of tea and have some cake.
I started to think about the cake that would reflect the mood around grandma’s table at tea time. Tense! Really! It seems like we were always planning some kind of event, party, celebration, vacation..something. It was also very warm and playful. Mamie Paulette was indeed a study in contradictions. Tense, but with a great sense of humor and a joyous personality. Those little pear and pecan cakes with their little skirt of roasted pear slices are just that. They are a little tense if you don’t bake often but they do not require major scientific knowledge (we all know I would not be baking them if they did!), no intricate technique (nothing wrong with that, just short on time these days!), or special ingredients (nothing wrong here either, grandma just happened to love pears). They also tend to look like roses….like the ones on grandma’s little spoons.
The pear cakes start with a basic cake batter in which I threw chunks of pears and chopped pecans but feel free to use the same dessert with plums, apples, peaches, etc…. For the pear slices, make sure to cut them thin and choose pears of the same size if you can. Slice them first and use the end pieces and short slices, chopped, in the cakes. I used regular size muffin pans but one cup capacity ramequins or baking dished work well too. The tense part of the dessert comes when you position the pear slices around the cakes. Arm yourself with patience and have some bakery twine or rafia strings close by, wrap them around the slices, tie them up and let the cakes sit for 20 minutes. After that time, you can either remove the twine if you think you guests won’t like it, and the slices will stick to the sides of the cakes on their own, of if your friends like ribbons as much as mine do, by all means, leave them be. Well, I did use some hot sugar (I guess I can’t help myself) as I sprinkled some pecan praline on the plates before serving, but you can skip that step of course.
Pear And Pecan Tea Cakes With Pecan Praline:
Makes 8 muffin size tea cakes.
For the roasted pear slices:
1/3 cup of sugar
Preheat the oven to 300F. Peel the pears and cut them in thin slices. Reserve the small slices and meaty pieces from what is left on the stem for the cake batter. Place the pear slices on parchment line baking sheet and sprinkle them with the sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
For the tea cakes:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
remnant pear slices and pieces from the pears used in the previous step, chopped, plus more if needed to make one cup.
In a mixer, combine the sugar, oil, and egg and whisk with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the flour, baking soda and cinnamon and whisk until the batter starts to come together. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. By hand, fold in the pecans and pears. Divide the batter evenly among 8 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray and bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes back free of crumbs. Let cool.
Arrange the cooled roasted pear slices around the cake and secure with bakery twine (use butcher twine if you don’t plan on serving them tied up). Refrigerate if not ready to serve within the hour. All the elements will keep fine for 3 days in the fridge but they are easier to assemble and nicer to eat at room temperature.
For the pecan praline:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans
Place the pecans on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Place the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a heavy saucepan on high heat and cook until you get a golden caramel. Immediately pour it over the pecans and let sit until cold and hard. Chop into small pieces.
Rosa's Yummy Yums October 27, 2008 um 8:37 am
What pretty little tea cakes! I love those silver spoons…
Christy October 27, 2008 um 8:48 am
Oh gosh!! So lovely! You are right, they do look like they are wearing little flouncy skirts! Your pear slices are so perfect I thought they were cake liners! Perfect to go with your inherited treasures, I’m sure!
Sylvie October 27, 2008 um 8:54 am
Unknown October 27, 2008 um 9:11 am
Gorgeous and beautuful,tea time is always special in our family too but u are lucky to have grandma’s homemade cake slice.I always love to have somthing homemade with tea.
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 9:58 am
What lovely post, you’ve got me thinking about and remembering all the wonderful women in my family, living and deceased, in a good way though, not with sadness but with affection.
K and S October 27, 2008 um 10:07 am
delicious cakes, Mariage Freres tea and warm memories…beautiful!
Anh October 27, 2008 um 10:14 am
wow, these look so pretty!!!
Botacook October 27, 2008 um 10:32 am
Ces petits gâteaux pour le thé sont superbes!
Cannelle Et Vanille October 27, 2008 um 11:10 am
oh wow gorgeous! when I read pia’s post last week,i also wanted to take out my old china and even go antique shopping with my mom. it was a gorgeous post. i love the little tea cakes. they are perfect with the pear. and i LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the raffia around them! 🙂
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 12:00 pm
These are beautiful! I love the pear skirts! Can’t wait to try them. Maybe I’ll pull out my great Grandma’s China for tea today….
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 12:00 pm
These are beautiful! I love the pear skirts! Can’t wait to try them. Maybe I’ll pull out my great Grandma’s China for tea today….
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 12:05 pm
Love the pear skirts! At first glance I thought you lined the muffin pan with the dried pear slices.
Love old china, especially from family.
My boyfriend’s grandmother just gave me a jug her mother got for her wedding and was used to buy and serve buttermilk in 🙂
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 12:14 pm
How adorable..those little skirts. What time do I come for tea? 🙂
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 12:24 pm
yum yum yum. I would love one please. With a cup of tea.. what else could have been beter?
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 12:30 pm
As a former dinnerware designer, I think it is wonderful that you brought out your grandma’s china to enjoy. Your photos set the mood for an afernoon tea, and the cake looks absolutely delightful.
Manggy October 27, 2008 um 12:35 pm
Hee! You are one of those rare people who, in the midst of a simple photography session for silverware, would think to bake! But we love you for it– and look at what gorgeous little treasures we have as a result! As priceless as the ornate spoons that accompany it.
RecipeGirl October 27, 2008 um 1:33 pm
I just love the little skirt of roasted pear slices. That’s what I like about you most… you think of things that most of us would never think of ourselves. Lovely, as usual!
Annies October 27, 2008 um 1:49 pm
My grandparents used to serve tea at their home in the same type of small cups,with almost identical pattern on the border…I have never loved tea so much, but this photo make me remember many happy moments. Lovely presentation for muffins…
Eileen October 27, 2008 um 2:12 pm
Beautiful and special memories, Helen.
Jodie October 27, 2008 um 2:20 pm
Gorgeous! I love the pears!
LizNoVeggieGirl October 27, 2008 um 2:29 pm
Love the recollection of your grandmother (I miss mine so much, it’s very bittersweet), and lovely tea cakes as well :0)
Mallory Elise October 27, 2008 um 2:52 pm
spoons spoons spoons! I really did think those pears were brown paper cups, so eh you should start going to art and pottery classes and maybe start selling vases too. 🙂
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 3:20 pm
oh Helen these are beautiful!
Rachael Hutchings October 27, 2008 um 3:23 pm
I LOVE your recipe for Apricot and Wattleseeds Tea Cakes, so I know I’m going to love this one! I love your stories. Your way of writing enables me to picture them.
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 3:23 pm
Your creations are allways so elegant that it is a real pleasure to visit your blog. I really love your style.
Congratulations for being so talented.
Patricia Scarpin October 27, 2008 um 3:37 pm
Helen, what a lovely post! I could almost picture the little you and your grandma by the table, cups, pots… So adorable!
These cakes are absolutely beautiful and delicate. What a wonderful source of inspiration you are, my friend!
Maura October 27, 2008 um 3:39 pm
You have really outdone yourself! And with such modesty. Those little cakes are absolutely stunning.
Leonor de Sousa Bastos October 27, 2008 um 3:45 pm
This is pure delight to my eyes!!!
The pear slices look so gracious around the cake…
This must be absolutely delicious!
Homekeeping Heart October 27, 2008 um 4:16 pm
The teacakes are absolutely beautiful. Gosh, I would love to be invited to a tea where those are served.
cindy* October 27, 2008 um 4:20 pm
beautiful! what special memories…i love how the pears mimic the opening of a blossom.
anadelicias October 27, 2008 um 4:27 pm
Wonderful!!! I haven´t any words to describe this delicious!!
Inne October 27, 2008 um 4:27 pm
What a gorgeous teacup and spoon, Helen! You’re absolutely right, it wouldn’t be complete without a little cake.
My gran keeps her lovely china (with blue birds on it) nicely locked away in her china cabinet… But we do have quite a few battered bits and bobs that have made their way down to us via different family members.
Jeanine – The Baking Beauties October 27, 2008 um 4:42 pm
Absolutely beautiful, Helen!
Lori October 27, 2008 um 4:46 pm
The spoon and cup and tea cake so pretty. It’s funny how things connect us to memories, people and places. I wish it werent so because I would be able to get rid of some stuff around here. So sentimental. Beautiful dessert.
cakewardrobe October 27, 2008 um 4:48 pm
So pretty and delicate! Is there a particular brand of olive oil you like for this recipe?
La Tartine Gourmande October 27, 2008 um 4:59 pm
Just lovely! I think your grand-ma would have loved to have a piece, for sure.
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 5:29 pm
This looks simply divine! love it!
Kitchen M October 27, 2008 um 6:17 pm
I thought that the muffin was wrapped in a fancy paper or something. I can’t believe that they were pear slices! So creative and so pretty!
Irene October 27, 2008 um 6:29 pm
Oh, very beautiful! I am lucky to have my grandmother still with me. Whenever I think of her, I think of food and great smells and the way we look at each other, each in our own way with love.
Maria October 27, 2008 um 6:43 pm
I love the little skirts. What a beautiful dessert.
Clumbsy Cookie October 27, 2008 um 6:56 pm
Oh Helen I haven’t even realised they were pears outside! I thought it was one of those brown bag muffin liners. I love this idea ! Beautiful memories make create beautiful recipes.
Snooky doodle October 27, 2008 um 7:47 pm
wow you always amaze me with your writing, your fantastic photograpy and your delicious recipes. These look so so nice. I bet your grandma is really pround of you 🙂
Anita October 27, 2008 um 7:59 pm
So pretty! I was thinking of pear chips the other day, and here you’ve gone and made them! Hurray pastry ESP!
Bonbon Oiseau October 27, 2008 um 8:15 pm
oh yes please…seems like the perfect teatime, sp pretty and nostalgic but so original…i’ll see you at 4 tomorrow? and thank you for passing along my info helen..you are sweet.
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 8:19 pm
c’est toujours ravissant ici, j’adore 🙂
Emily Rose October 27, 2008 um 8:49 pm
these little cakes are so beautiful! You are so creative- the pears look like elegant little petals around the cakes. Lovely story about your grandmother too!
Anonymous October 27, 2008 um 9:09 pm
Une manière très inventive de présenter les 'tea cakes' ! J’adore !
Helene October 27, 2008 um 11:12 pm
Cakewardrobe: I use an organic extra virgin olive oil, store brand. It is strong and grassy which works well in cakes to add a little flavor touch.
La cuisine des 3 soeurs October 27, 2008 um 11:58 pm
Un billet tout plein de tendresse !
Anonymous October 28, 2008 um 12:15 am
I also love china and dishes with history. It’s so nice to remember all the good meals (and cups of tea!) shared over the years.
Is that a Limoges pattern? It looks familiar.
limonana October 28, 2008 um 12:59 am
these tea cakes would make any tea party a glorious & nostalgic occasion! such delicate beauty…
tara October 28, 2008 um 1:07 am
Beautifully created; from the sentiment, to the writing, to the lovely cake. I, like so many others, adore the tutu-ed presentation. What dainty little lovelies. Perfect.
Sara October 28, 2008 um 1:09 am
I love the way you wrapped the cakes, so pretty.
anonymous October 28, 2008 um 2:46 am
Yummy! Looks delicious.
Will have to make this some day.
Helene October 28, 2008 um 2:51 am
Dana: the cups are from Germany where my grandparents were briefly stationed after WWII.
Animals Are Intelligent Too! October 28, 2008 um 2:52 am
These are charming! I love how you’ve put the pear slices around the sides.
That Girl October 28, 2008 um 2:56 am
Just so versatile! Perfect for fall fruits.
Mumsy October 28, 2008 um 4:51 am
So sorry about Bri…
Your little tea cakes are precious. Another to add to the long list. (I always say that…)
MyKitchenInHalfCups October 28, 2008 um 4:57 am
These are priceless, the cups, the saucers, the spoons and the little cakes. Really such a delicate beautiful touch the pear slices around the cakes! So simple and so simply elegant. Pattern on the cups reminds me of some my father brought back for my mother.
Shaheen October 28, 2008 um 6:22 am
Tea cakes look so beautiful. You’re always so perfect and creative when it comes to presentation.
Just a tiny thing I noted in the recipe:
"For the roasted apple slices:
1/3 cup of sugar"
ChichaJo October 28, 2008 um 10:09 am
You make the prettiest things! 🙂 These cakes are so lovely and they sound delicious too!
I love spoons/cups/dishes/tableware with history…they are so special!
Deborah October 28, 2008 um 10:09 am
What beautiful and creative cakes!
Jen Yu October 28, 2008 um 1:57 pm
You make everything so scrumptiously beautiful. I would have liked to join you at 4 pm going to your grandma’s place. Had you come with me to my house, my grandma would have made chinese noodles in broth with slow-cooked chinese soy sauce chicken, vegetables, and other goodies. Very different 🙂 We have to get together and cook someday. xxoo
cindy October 28, 2008 um 5:30 pm
Oh ils sont trop mimi tes petits cakes !!! J’adore l’idée des pétales de poire.
Je suis fan de tes photos ! si si
Rico October 28, 2008 um 5:31 pm
Amazing your attention to detail and to not only make something very tasty and pleasing to the eye as well as being like a work of art…it is beautiful, great photography too.
Sandie October 28, 2008 um 6:14 pm
These are the most adorable tea cakes I have ever seen. Lovely. Just lovely…
Mansi October 28, 2008 um 8:59 pm
you are indeed a genius at creating beautiful and mouth-watering desserts Helen!
these look awesome, and what a cute idea to use the pear slices!:)
Y October 28, 2008 um 9:09 pm
I love those pear slices. I actually thought it was baking paper around each little cake, before reading what you wrote. My grandmother wasn’t too much into cake. When I think of her, I recall things like peanut butter on toast and chilled lemon barley water 🙂
Manger La Ville October 28, 2008 um 9:56 pm
i love the skirt of pear. I can’t wait to make this. I see you like Les Marriages Freres tea, it is one of my favorites.
Anonymous October 28, 2008 um 10:02 pm
So pretty! Everything you make is absolutely out of this world! Beautiful.
So nice of you to dedicate this post to Bri.
PheMom October 29, 2008 um 12:56 am
The most absolutely darling little cakes I’ve ever seen is what they are! I love the memories – thank you for sharing! I’m so sorry to hear about Bri – I didn’t know her really myself, but she touched so many lives. I hope we can all take the time to remember to not always wait for 'special' occasions to celebrate our loved ones. Every day we get to be together is special!
Dalybeth October 29, 2008 um 1:51 am
You make me want to do "A Year with Tartelette" instead! Maybe next year when your cookbook comes out!!! Gorgeous. I love Tea Time!
Archana Srinivas Pottery October 29, 2008 um 2:03 am
That looks really amazing:-)
Thanks for dropping by at my blog, appreciate your nice comment.
Helene October 29, 2008 um 3:11 am
Thank you all for your comments! They would have made my grandmother burst with pride!
Dalybeth: Aw…that is the sweetest thing 🙂
Cakebrain October 29, 2008 um 5:38 am
I just loved this post! Not only do your photos and baking inspire me, but it also reminds me of some of the reasons why I started blogging (to keep a legacy of memories and recipes for my children) and it triggers some of my own memories of my own grandmother!
glamah16 October 29, 2008 um 3:48 pm
How beautiful. I must attemot the roasted pears.
Missy Allets October 29, 2008 um 10:12 pm
Absolutely beautiful; pictures and words.
And I enjoyed the reminiscence a lot!
creampuff October 30, 2008 um 2:26 am
So. Very. Pretty. I want to have a tea party right now!
Anonymous October 30, 2008 um 4:07 am
WOW. I was admiring the the great presentation when I realized those were the pears around the cake. Nicely done!
Anonymous October 31, 2008 um 1:48 pm
It would make a great "goûter" with a Mariage Frères tea :o)
Leacayoungart November 3, 2008 um 5:14 am
Great food photographed perfectly. Great combo!
Anonymous November 3, 2008 um 6:13 pm
These are amazing works of art!
Anonymous December 6, 2008 um 7:00 pm
Mm, looks fab with the pears! Do you know how to do pecan praline like the kind you buy in the Southern U.S.? I got some praline candies in Savannah, GA that were amazingly creamy, but can’t seem to replicate them in the kitchen. Do you have a good recipe or tips, tartelette?
Unknown December 7, 2009 um 5:43 pm
Yum! I love the combination of pears and pecans! My mouth is watering…just looking at the recipe.