I make this cake in a loaf tin, as it used to be made at my home in Milan for our merenda -- afternoon tea. If you want to serve it as a dessert, I suggest making it in a 15cm round tin and serve it with either whipping or pouring cream, whatever you prefer. Serves four to six.
YOU WILL NEED
75g bitter chocolate (70pc cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
75g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g icing sugar, sifted
2 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 pinches ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
120g plain flour, preferably Italian 00
200g-250g firm, ripe pears, peeled and cut into 1cm pieces
Unsalted butter and dried breadcrumbs, for the tin
Icing sugar, to decorate
Heat the oven to 130°C/Gas Mark ½. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt it in the oven. Remove from the oven and keep in a warm place. Turn the oven heat up to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.
Beat the butter until really soft. I use a handheld electric mixer. Gradually add the icing sugar while beating constantly, then beat until light and pale yellow.
(If you add all the sugar at once and start beating butter and sugar together, you will find the sugar flying everywhere except in the butter.)
Add the three egg yolks, cinnamon, salt and melted chocolate.
Whisk the two egg whites until stiff but not dry and then fold into the mixture by the spoonful, alternating with spoonfuls of flour. Fold lightly but thoroughly. Lightly mix the pear pieces into the mixture.
Butter a 23cm loaf tin and sprinkle in the dried breadcrumbs.
Shake the tin so the crumbs cover all the buttered surface and then turn the tin upside down and throw away the excess crumbs.
Spoon the cake mixture into the tin. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the sides of the cake have shrunk from the tin and the cake is dry in the middle -- test by inserting a wooden cocktail stick.
Remove the tin from the oven, unmould the cake on to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Sprinkle with sifted icing sugar just before serving.