A Tea Cake for Women Who Read and Eat

This past weekend I hosted our book club and was inspired to try out a new tea cake recipe. Out of curiosity, I had picked up almond flour (meal) recently, and came upon a recipe that called for this unusual ingredient. I love the texture and nutty flavor of cake made with almond flour. It lends it a touch of daintiness that is reminiscent of macarons which are also made from almond flour. The other thing I like about this recipe is the uncommon pairing of black sesame and pear. Black sesame is a not too rare ingredient in Asian deserts, particularly as a paste filling in rice cakes, but I love how the sesame paste is enveloped in a tangy buttermilk batter and sweetened with chunks of ripe Bosc pear. An elegant recipe for an elegant group of literary ladies, but also a hit among the 1-4 years old set.

Ridgewood Mom and I started a book club and dubbed it, “Women Who Read and Eat.” We are a group of women with different backgrounds and occupations, some with kids, but what binds us together is our yearning to read books and find others willing to share their opinions over food and some form of beverage. Inevitably our discussions circles back on our current, past, future lives, the food in front of us and the meals and ideas we will some day consume.

This was our third book, Love in the Time of Cholera by Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The previous two were Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Francine Prose’s My New American Life. We had a lively discussion about  love, infatuation, marriage, magical realism, physical illness, and enemas (which were mentioned throughout the book), all while four toddlers/preschoolers were chasing around my living room.

My recipe is closely based on a similar recipe from Bon Appetit. I doubled the amount of pear (hence calling my version Pear and Black Sesame Tea Cake), and used a natural brown sugar called Turbinado sugar (also called Demerara sugar) to give the top of the cake a sparkling crown and a nice crunchy texture.

Pear and Black Sesame Tea Cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour or almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup black sesame seeds
1 1/3 cups
2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1. Preheat oven to 325°. Butter six 4x2x2-inch paper loaf pans. Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, next 4 ingredients, and 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds in a medium bowl. 2. Grind remaining 1/2 cup sesame seeds in a spice mill to form a thick paste, about 2 minutes.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter and 1 1/3 cups sugar in a large bowl until well combined, 2–3 minutes. Add sesame paste and beat, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until blended, 1–2 minutes. Add egg and egg yolk. Beat until pale and fluffy, 3–4 minutes.
4. On low speed, beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
5. Toss pear with remaining 2 Tbsp. flour in a small bowl; fold into batter.
6. Spoon batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar.
7. Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, about 1 hour 40 minutes for large loaf and 45–55 minutes for small loaves. Let cool in pans on a wire rack.

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