Pear, Vanilla and Smoke Cakes
The smokiness of these cakes is achieved using lapsang souchong tea, which is a fully fermented black tea smoked over pine wood fires. This smoky flavoured tea is used to infuse the cream to make the caramel and also to make the sweet smoky syrup with which you soak the sponge layer of the cake.
The smokiness is balanced by the aromatic freshness of the pear, and the nutty dark chocolate pulls these contrasting flavours together.
In terms of texture, the base is rich and fudgy, the sponge is extremely moist and then the topping is sticky and crunchy.
Makes eight individual cakes.
YOU WILL NEED
For the chocolate bases 155g dark chocolate (70pc), broken into small pieces
115g unsalted Irish butter
150g caster sugar
55g light brown muscovado sugar
80g plain organic flour
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (Valrhona is best)
½ tsp salt (ideally smoked sea salt), finely ground
3 large organic eggs
1 tsp Fairtrade vanilla extract
80g walnuts, coarsely chopped For the smoky caramel 100ml organic cream
3 tsps lapsang souchong tea (I use Solaris organic)
4 tbsps cold water
115g caster sugar
115g unsalted Irish butter For the smoky syrup 250ml boiling water
3 tsps lapsang souchong tea
80g caster sugar For the sponge layer 220g plain flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g unsalted Irish butter
130g caster sugar
2 large organic eggs
1 vanilla pod
140g organic Greek yogurt
150g ripe conference pear, finely diced For the topping 180g walnuts, toasted in the oven at 170°C for five minutes, then cut into large chunks
For the chocolate bases: Melt the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring intermittently. When it is fully melted, turn off the heat and whisk in the two kinds of sugar. Set aside to cool slightly.
Pre-heat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 13in x 7.5in brownie pan with melted butter and line with a strip of parchment.
Sieve the flour, cocoa and salt together and set aside.
Break the eggs into a jug, add the vanilla extract and beat together, then gently whisk into the chocolate mixture in two additions, ensuring the first is fully incorporated before adding the second addition.
Use a spatula to fold in the flour mixture until just incorporated – do not over-mix. Stir in the chopped walnuts.
Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and place on the middle shelf of the pre-heated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Cool in the pan.
Use a 6.5cm diameter mousse ring to cut out eight circles and set them aside.
For the smoke-infused elements
Infused cream (for the caramel): In a small pan, bring the cream just to the boil then remove from the heat. Add the lapsang souchong tea leaves, stir and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain into a jug and set aside.
Smoky syrup (for the sponges): Pour the boiling water over the lapsang souchong tea leaves and let infuse for five minutes, then strain tea into a small pan and stir in the caster sugar. Stir slowly over low heat to dissolve, then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside.
For the sponge layer
Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 and grease eight 6.25cm-diameter mousse rings, spacing them on a parchment-lined baking tray.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugar.
Break the eggs into a jug and add the seeds of the vanilla pod. Beat together with a fork then gradually add to the butter and sugar, beating constantly until incorporated.
Add a third of the flour mix and beat until incorporated, followed by a third of the yogurt; keep alternating until they are all incorporated. Then fold in the pear.
Fill the mousse rings three-quarters full. Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Slide the parchment – with the cakes in their rings – on to a wire rack to cool.
Slice off the top of each cake using the top of the ring as your guide. Carefully loosen each cake from its ring and from the parchment underneath, but leave them sitting in the rings. Pierce the cakes with a toothpick all over and then carefully spoon the smoky syrup over each cake. Leave to soak up the syrup.
For the smoky caramel: Re-heat the infused cream in a small saucepan to just below boiling.
Put the four tablespoons of water into a medium-large, heavy-bottomed pan and then add the caster sugar. Stir over low heat to dissolve the sugar, then turn up the heat to medium and leave – without stirring – to caramelise to a dark, nutty amber colour.
Stir in the cream; it will hiss and bubble up furiously, but continue stirring throughout. When it stops hissing, gradually add the butter, stirring constantly. Pour into a bowl to cool and thicken slightly.
To assemble: Lay out the chocolate bases and spread each with a little of the smoky caramel. Place the moist sponge cake on top.
Generously spoon and gently spread more smoky caramel on top of each cake and then add the toasted walnuts, drizzling them with more caramel and brushing them with a little remaining smoky syrup.