pear cranberry crumb cake with almonds

the calendar says spring but the weather says fall.  we seem to be having cooler mornings as if it were heading into fall.  why just last night, they issued a frost warning for our area.  if only our last frost date hadn’t been a month ago, i might not have minded it so much.  we have been working hard in the garden and beds have been filled with plants that cannot withstand such temperatures.  that said, it should not surprise anyone that i am baked a cake laced with pears and cranberries rather than the typical sour cherries or strawberries found this time of year.  

how can you not love a crumb topped cake?  especially if it is hiding a layer of spiced fruits!  if you take it a step further and add chunks of almonds to the crumb topping and a little almond paste to the cake-you have a heavenly excuse to put down the garden tools and take a cake break!

when cranberries come into season, i always tuck a few bags into the freezer.  it is a nice surprise when i am digging around in search of inspiration for a cake.  keeping a can of almond paste in the closet is a good idea too.  when i purchase a new can, i open both ends, take out the neat cylinder of paste and cut it into 4 equal pieces.  since the can contains 8 ounces of paste, i end up with 4 two ounce pieces.  by wrapping each in plastic and storing them in a container in the freezer, i always have some available.  and that means i always have another tasty inspiration for cake.

pear cranberry crumb cake with almonds
1 (8″) square cake serving 12-16

crumb topping
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes
1/4 cup chopped almonds

fruit filling
1 large, ripe pear-i used a d’anjou
1/2 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

almond cake
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 ounces almond paste-at room temp
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/4 cup baking powder
1 cup milk

preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour an 8″ square baking pan and set it aside.  make the crumb topping by combining the flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon.  using your fingers, rub the butter cubes into the dry ingredients until it begins to form crumbs.  take care not to go to far with this step or the crumb layer will be gummy; they should still be somewhat free flowing and a mixture of loose dry ingredients and small to medium clumps with the oats still obvious.  add the almonds and toss it together gently.  set this aside.

peel the pear and cut it into cubes.  combine it with the remaining ingredients and set it aside while you prepare the cake layer.

to make the cake, cream the butter with the almond paste, sugar and salt until it is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  add the eggs slowly and scrape the bowl as you go.  place the flour and baking powder into a sifter or a mesh strainer and sift it over the batter.  fold it a couple times and then sprinkle the milk over the top.  fold this together until no streaks remain and then scrape it out of the bowl and into the prepared pan.  spread the batter out in an even layer.  top the cake evenly with the fruit and the sprinkle the crumbs over the fruit so that it is covered but peeks out in spots.  bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about an hour and 15 minutes.  cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes.  to remove the cake from the pan, place a baking sheet over the top of the cake and invert it.  the pan should slide right off.  place your serving plate over the bottom of the cake and invert it again.  now go out to the garden and eat cake!

if you need me, i will be out in the garden with cake…

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