Honey and pear skillet cake is a beauty with rustic charm

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Pear Honey Polenta Cake

Active time:15 minutes

Total time:45 minutes


Active time:15 minutes

Total time:45 minutes


This cake gives you a huge payout for very little effort. It’s a beauty – a golden cake, encrusted with caramelized pear slices, served with rustic charm straight from the pan it’s baked in.

It tastes heavenly – tender yet textured with cornmeal (polenta), sprinkled with sweet pear pieces and honey, vanilla and lemon. And it’s better for you than a typical cake because it’s made with whole grains, healthy oil, and a modest amount of sweetener. All this, and it’s as easy to make as a batch of muffins: Whisk together the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls, then mix them together, add the chopped pear and pour the batter into the oiled skillet. Arrange the pear slices on top, sprinkle with sugar and bake. That’s it.

Before doing so, one factor that deserves special attention is to use perfectly ripe pears. You want the pears to yield to pressure when you press down with your thumb on the neck near the stem. I rarely find them like this at the market, so I buy them firm and put them in a paper bag on my kitchen counter for a few days to soften them.

Once the pears have reached the right tenderness, they will keep for several more days in the refrigerator. So it’s best to plan a few days ahead to ensure the pears you use are sweet and juicy at best. That leaves you plenty of time to put it on the menu this weekend, or for the upcoming Jewish New Year, when the delight on the faces of those you share it with will surely multiply the rewards of cooking it.

Pear Honey Polenta Cake

Storage: Cover loosely and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

REMARK: This cake cooks faster if made in a cast iron skillet, so if you make it in an ovenproof nonstick skillet, it may take 45 minutes.

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  • 1 cup (125 grams) whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) medium ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the pan
  • 1/2 cup (170 grams) sweet honey, such as clover or orange blossom
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 medium-firm ripe pears (14 ounces/397 grams total), such as Bosc, Bartlett, or Anjou
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sugar, such as demerara or turbinado

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Brush a 10-inch cast iron skillet or other oven-safe nonstick skillet with oil (see NOTE).

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt until blended.

In another medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, honey and eggs until well incorporated. Whisk in vanilla and lemon zest, then add flour mixture in three additions, stirring to incorporate after each.

Peel, halve, and core one of the pears, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces and stir into the batter. Transfer the batter to the skillet. Halve, core and thinly slice the other pear. (You can leave the skin on if the skin is thin and tender, or you can peel the pear before slicing.) Arrange the pear slices on top of the dough, then sprinkle with sugar. Depending on the size of the pears, you may have a few slices left; enjoy them as a cook’s treat.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, checking after 30 minutes (see NOTE), or until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let the cake rest in the pan for 10 minutes or until completely cooled, then cut into wedges and serve.

Per serving (1 piece), based on 10

Calories: 263; Total fat: 13 g; Saturated fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 43mg; Sodium: 130mg; Carbohydrates: 36g; Dietary fiber: 3g; Sugar: 19g; Protein: 4g

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

From cookbook author and registered dietitian nutritionist Ellie Krieger.

Tested by Ann Maloney; questions by e-mail to [email protected].

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