Embrace autumn with this gorgeously spiced Ginger Layer Cake topped with wine-poached pears and cream cheese frosting. A show-stopping celebration cake perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Heyyyyy! I am finally back from holiday and back with CAKE 🙂 And not just any cake, this ginger layer cake with wine poached pears and cream cheese frosting.
It has already been called “one of the best cakes I have ever tasted” to quote one of my husband’s colleagues. I think I want that embroidered on a pillow please. Another asked him if he married me for my baking (he didn’t, just for the record).
Even though it’s a looker, it’s actually really easy to make and tastes pretty amazing, if I say so myself. I used wine-poached pears between the layers and their reduced poaching syrup to drizzle over the cream cheese frosting.
If pears are not your cup of tea, you could use apples instead (have a look at the recipe notes) although the taste won’t be quite the same. And you could leave the fruit out altogether and just layer the cake with cream cheese frosting – it will still taste awesome.
How to poach pears
The trick here is to use firm pears, peeled but with the stalk still attached. Bring the wine, sugar and spices to a boil, stirring so that the sugar is dissolved. Add the pears and weigh them down with a small plate so they stay submerged. Cook for about 20 minutes then remove from the poaching liquid and cool before slicing.
Continue to simmer the poaching liquid until it is reduced and slightly viscous, then strain into a jar. You will use some of the delicious syrup on this cake but it can also be used in cocktails to add a lovely autumnal spice note and it is delicious over ice cream too.
How to make the ginger layer cake
Full measurements and instructions can be found on the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.
This is my favourite method for making cake, the reverse creaming method. All this means is that the dry ingredients are mixed with the butter first and then the eggs and liquids are added. This can be done in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or in a food processor.
Step 1. Sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or use a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Mix (or pulse) on low speed to combine.
Step 2. Add the cubed butter and mix (or pulse) for a couple of minutes until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Step 3. Gradually add the eggs and honey while mixing on medium speed. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.
Step 4. Add the milk and zest and beat on medium speed for a minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl. Continue mixing for a couple of minutes at maximum speed until batter is smooth.
Step 5. Fold 3 tablespoons of the chopped ginger into the batter, reserving the rest for topping, and divide between the cake tins. Bake for 50 minutes, until cakes are springy to the touch, coming away from the tin edges and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
Step 6. Use a wire cake cutter to slice off the tops of the cakes (and secretly eat them, I mean share them!) and then neatly slice them in half to create four layers.
How to make the cream cheese frosting
Step 1. Only use full-fat cream cheese or mascarpone. Put in the bowl of your stand mixer together with icing sugar, double (heavy) cream, ground cinnamon and vanilla paste. Mix on low speed to combine – and avoid a powdered sugar storm – then increase the speed until the frosting holds peaks.
Step 2. Pipe or smooth the frosting over the cake, adding sliced pears and some of the poaching syrup between the layers. Repeat until you have used all the layers.
Step 3. Pipe frosting over the top of the cake and decorate with half a pear, sliced and fanned out. Drizzle with more syrup and top with the remaining chopped ginger. This cake is best eaten soon after it is assembled though it will last about a day in the fridge.
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- Earl Grey layer cake with Swiss buttercream and Earl Grey Caramel
- Chocolate layer cake with blackberry Italian buttercream
- Red velvet layer cake with vanilla and strawberry frosting
Ginger cake with wine poached pears and cream cheese frosting
For the cake
- 350 g 12.3oz | 2 3/4 cups self-raising flour
- 330 g 11.6oz | 1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 large eggs lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp honey
- 200 g 7oz | 3/4 cup + 1 heaped tbsp unsalted butter cubed
- 200 ml 7fl oz | 3/4cup + 2 tbsp whole milk
- 1 orange zest only
- 4 tbsp crystallised stem ginger finely diced
For the frosting
- 560 g 19oz | full-fat cream cheese
- 200 ml 7fl oz | 3/4cup + 2 tbsp heavy cream
- 150 g 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the poached pears
- 5 firm pears peeled
- 1 bottle Merlot wine (750ml)
- 450 g 16oz | sugar
- 4 cardamom pods
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 star anise
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- Strip orange peel
- Put the wine, sugar and spices into a deep saucepan and heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Add the pears and weigh down with a small plate.
- Simmer for 20 minutes then carefully remove to a plate and cool. Slice thinly, removing any seeds.
- Continue simmering the peaching liquid until it is reduced to a viscous syrup. Strain and transfer to a jar to cool.
- Add 100ml of water to the cavity in the bottom of your AEG Steambake oven, set the oven to ‘True Fan Cooking’ press the ‘SteamBake’ button and set the temperature to 160°C.
- Spray two 18cm (7in) cake tins with cake release and line the bottoms with baking paper.
- Sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to combine.
- Add the cubed butter and mix for a couple of minutes until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Gradually add the eggs and honey while mixing on medium speed.
- Add the milk and zest and beat on medium speed for a minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl. Continue mixing for a couple of minutes at maximum speed until batter is smooth.
- Fold 3 tbsp of the chopped ginger into the batter and divide between the cake tins.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Cool in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Put all the ingredients for the frosting into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Start mixing on lowest speed setting until combined then increase the speed to medium-high until you have firm peaks. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.
- Use a wire cake cutter to level the top of the cakes. Carefully slice each layer in two.
- Place the bottom cake layer, smooth-side down on a cake platter or stand. Pipe a layer of frosting over it and top with pear slices. Drizzle with some of the poaching syrup.
- Repeat the process with the second and third cake layers topping with the fourth, smooth side up.
- Pipe frosting over the top of the cake and decorate with half a pear, sliced and fanned out. Drizzle with more syrup and top with the remaining chopped ginger.