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Ozark Pear Cake & Feeling Home

Ozark Pear Cake

Yesterday, I packed a change of clothes, the 16 year-old pup and we headed down to Charleston for the weekend. I almost said, "home to Charleston" but home has become this "in between" where my heart resides. Charleston will forever be home. This is where I fell in love. With him. With the South. With this incredibly puzzling time of history. With a city living at a sound of a very peculiar beat. Where unbelievable friendships formed and tested time, growth and loss.


Yet, there is not much of what people would consider a home remaining for us in Charleston. Our house there is now empty and Bill moved in with his parents for the time being. But we have a home. We have multiples. They are not made of wood or stone. They have been build with our hearts, our stories, our tears and worries, our joys and laughters. While I could become completely nostalgic and sad of times passed, I just take a moment to appreciate the fact that we have made a home of wherever we are together, regardless of wherever is.

Ozark Pear Cake

Everytime I make the drive down to Charleston, my heart stops in its track at the first sign of marsh land and tall grass. There is a definite look to that part of the world. It lures you, grabs you and never lets go of you. I do miss sunsets and sunrises over the marsh. At the same time, I have fallen completely in love with the luscious foliage of Birmingham, the drives up and down the hills of the city, the genuine kindness of the people there. I was dragging feet getting out of the house yesterday morning to get down here. I felt home. I was going to the other home.

 Home is truly where the heart is and I am incredibly lucky to be able to call both places home.

Ozark Pear Cake

There is something that will always make me feel anchored to a new place and that is baking. The simple act of putting a cake in the oven and being rewarded with the scents of vanilla, pears and cake batter is enough to make anyone feel good anywhere. I could be in my grandparents' home and making an apple tart with my grandmother or with my mother next door making madeleines. I could be here or there and I would feel the same. Grounded.

If making a simple cake is any reflection of the life I lead, well, I made this cake at home in Alabama and took it home to Charleston to be shared this morning around the breakfast table at my in-laws. I am happy and comfortable in my own skin wherever I am. And right now this wherever is "in between". And I will always make a good simple cake to remind me of that (Recipe after the jump).  

Ozark Pear Cake

Ozark Pear Cake, very slightly adapted from Vintage Cakes:

Note: A simple and humble pear cake baked in a cast iron pan in this case. What I call an "honest" cake. No surprise it would come from a book titled "Vintage Cakes". The cover lured me in but the recipe made me stay there for a couple of weeks and read, chose and bake a lot from it. Love the book!


4 Forelle pears, peeled and cored

1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour or Jeanne’s all purposegluten free flour mix

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room

1 cup (7 ounces), plus one teaspoon sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup chopped pistachios

Caramel sauce (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350ΒΊF and place a rack in the middle of
the oven. Butter the inside of a 8 to 9-inch cast iron skillet.

Finely chop two of the pears and thinly slice the two other.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt in a

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the
butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add the egg and
vanilla and blend on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape
down the bowl if needed.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture all at
once. Mix until just blended. The batter will be stiff. Turn the mixer off.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chopped pears, and stir
just until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared skillet and spread it in
an even layer. Arrange the pear slices on top of the batter and sprinkle with
the pistachios.

Bake until the cake is golden in color and the center
springs back when lightly touched, about 40 minutes. Serve with caramel sauce
if desired.

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Katy Noelle March 9, 2013 um 4:28 pm

What a beautiful post!!! I can relate but I hardly know what to say about it. Except, it's a funny thing how, after five years of living in this 'new BEAUTIFUL home up here on the hill that we could hardly leave because we love it so much', now that I'm baking and cooking again, we feel like it truly IS home! I don't know what to say about it all, still, though.

and, thank you! I have pears that are ready and I couldn't make up my mind what to do with them. =]

ami@naivecookcooks March 9, 2013 um 6:25 pm

Lovely post as always!

Susan Lindquist March 9, 2013 um 7:38 pm

We do attach ourselves to 'place' and home is wherever we take comfort – where you lay your head to rest, make and share food, have friends who care for you and make an effort to be in your life, where you find special spots that nourish your soul … I'm glad you're finding 'homes' where you need them!

I'm also glad you are finding more recipe inspiration for good food … great bird's eye shots per usual! I so love photos shot from straight up!

Ruthy @ omeletta March 9, 2013 um 8:07 pm

What a beautiful post and also some incredible photos, as usual. I completely relate to the feeling of coming home to a place where you no longer live- I feel the same way about Baltimore, though I haven't lived there for quite a while and grew up in the Midwest. It's comforting to come back to a place where you have so many fond memories, isn't it? And the pear cake looks divine. I love cast-iron cooking. Something extra homey about that as well, isn't there? πŸ™‚

Zainab March 9, 2013 um 8:33 pm

Lovely photos as usual!
It's nice to see that you're back!

Helene March 9, 2013 um 9:06 pm

Zainab: thank you! I am not sure what you mean by "being back" though, I never went away or stopped blogging even through the move πŸ™‚

Averie @ Averie Cooks March 9, 2013 um 9:15 pm

I have the Vintage Cakes book and have eyed this cake in the book b/c it's a quickie, made in cast iron and an honest cake as you say. It's gorgeous and I should make it!

And welcome home. For many years we lived in Myrtle Beach and although San Diego is home now, I can imagine the sense of home I'd feel if I was ever back there. It's a homey place πŸ™‚

Vickie March 10, 2013 um 9:50 am

oooh, that looks so delicious – I love pears in cakes

Anonymous March 10, 2013 um 12:50 pm

Wow Helene, what lovely post… I, too, am in the middle of a huge move right now, and it was so comforting to read how you've dealt with the transition in such a peaceful, 'grounding' manner.. I am inspired… Lovely photos as usual, your plating is exquisite and it looks like a recipe not to be missed! Congratulations on your new home!

Anonymous March 10, 2013 um 12:52 pm

Wow Helene, what a lovely post! I, too, am going through a huge move right now and it was so comforting to read how you've gone through the whole transition in such a peaceful and 'grounding' manner.. Thank you for the inspiration as always.. Your pictures are lovely, the plating/styling exquisite and the recipe, not one to be missed! Congratulations on the new home!

Tesei March 10, 2013 um 8:08 pm

This looks lovely and simple. Your caramel sauce too, doesn't have that very dark amber colour so I'm guessing it's not as sweet as the usual, do you have the recipe for this? Can or have you posted it yet? Thank you so much for sharing!

Mari @ Oh, Sweet & Savory March 11, 2013 um 2:18 pm

What a beautiful, moving post. It had happiness and nostalgia written all over it. Wonderful recipe, too! Thank you for sharing!

Smita Srivastava March 11, 2013 um 3:22 pm

How lovely !!! I'm a great fan of ur gorgeous photographs !!! The rustic look & feel is truly heavenly !!

Seanna Lea March 11, 2013 um 6:53 pm

This looks lovely. I will have to try upsizing it, because the only cast iron skillet is a 12-inch monster!

Paulina March 11, 2013 um 7:19 pm

Gorgeous photos πŸ™‚ I love your blog and how you present the food <3

sandra March 11, 2013 um 9:04 pm

I love this pear cake – in a skillet. I am always looking for things to make in my newly acquired skillet and I love pear cake!

Karine March 12, 2013 um 2:23 am

I baked the cake right after reading the post. This is how much you got me inspired. It came out great. Now it will be a favorite. I also bought the ebook of vintage cakes that night. I have to confess that I am not a pear fan, but this cake highlights their sweetness and the ginger gives the taste the right kick. So so good. Thank you!

Rachelle March 12, 2013 um 3:06 pm

This looks like pure comfort food! Might even make this for Sunday brunch. We can have dessert for breakfast, right?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings of home.

-Rachelle πŸ™‚

Tartlet Sweets March 13, 2013 um 4:16 am

I have never been to Charleston but have always wanted to go. I hear such wonderful things about it. This cake looks so beautiful and delicious. I love a good, honest, comforting cake like this!

katiedid March 13, 2013 um 6:55 pm

I just was introduced to your blog by another blog friend and just love your style! I am a food lover so will be looking forward to all of the yummy food photos, and I love the photos as well! A feast for the eyes. Thank you!

Rocky Mountain Woman March 14, 2013 um 5:07 pm

Anything made in a cast iron pan is homey in my book. I love this recipe!

Maria_NJ March 18, 2013 um 7:29 pm

Helene it is in the oven right now, my kitchen smells wonderful, just dusted the top with a little cinnamon sugar, didn't have nuts…it looks A Mazin Zing…

angela March 18, 2013 um 10:05 pm

Hi Helen, I made this cake, but for some reason the center would not cook, it stayed wet, I kept it in the oven for a little longer, but had to pull it out because the sides were looking quite brown.

Any suggestions ?

Rani March 18, 2013 um 11:45 pm

I made this the other day and it was delicious! i was a bit skeptical about how dry the batter was but after mixing through the pears it wasn't a problem. A beautiful, comforting cake.

Helene March 19, 2013 um 12:50 pm

Angela: it could happen if the pears were ripe or contained more moisture at the time of baking and thus released more liquid while baking. Happens once in a while unfortunately. Also, it could come from your oven if there is a cold spot, it could slow down the baking process in the center but not on the side.

Kelly | Eat Yourself Skinny March 20, 2013 um 4:37 pm

Absolutely beautiful πŸ™‚ You are such an inspiration!

Marila March 21, 2013 um 4:54 pm

Thanks for sharing. I will definitly try it, hope could be printed…
I am planning to go to Charleston in September….

Sara April 29, 2013 um 11:20 pm

I just visited Charleston and Savannah for the first time 2 weeks ago, so your post resonated with me. The area does have this glorious romantic charm to it and now I may need to make this delicious cake to remind me of it.

Life Images by Jill May 12, 2013 um 6:37 am

pears are ready here now in Western Australia, so I will have to try this cake. It looks delicious. If I don't have a cast iron skillet, can I use another sort of tin?
Thanks Helene for another beautiful post.

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