Vegan Pear, Lemon and Ginger Cake

Vegan Pear Cake 021
Photo by Matt Russell, Styling by Kitty Coles

Pears were always my mother‘s favourite fruit and she was also crazy about ginger. After she developed dementia, food remained one of the few things that still evoked clear memories for her (music was another). For many months of the pandemic, I couldn‘t visit her. But after her care home allowed visits again, I drove her home to my garden and we sat and ate this cake together and she smiled.

At her funeral, we ate pears in memory of her. All of her six grandchildren remembered how she would take ripe pears and peel them for them, using an ordinary knife (she eschewed peelers).

I‘m not vegan and nor was my mother but I find it so useful to have some reliable recipes for dairy and egg-free cakes for when vegan friends come round.

One of my top moments on the photoshoot for THE SECRET OF COOKING was when we left some of this cake overnight for the people who lived in the shoot house and the next day they left this note.

This is the kind of soft cake you might eat as easily with a fork for pudding as with fingers for afternoon tea. I adapted this from a Meera Sodha apple cake. I make it in a square tin and decorate it with very thin slices of whole pear because I always feel that the pregnant shape of a pear is one of the most beautiful things in nature.

Serves 8

3 medium pears (total weight about 300g, but don’t worry if it’s a bit over or under)

2cm piece of ginger, grated 40g soft brown sugar

1 lemon

For the cake

200g self-raising flour

11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

160g soft brown sugar

100ml light oil or olive oil

100ml non-dairy milk, such as oat or coconut 30g crystallised ginger, chopped (optional) Demerara sugar

Peel 2 of the pears, core them and cut them into the tiniest dice you can manage. Put them into a bowl with the ginger, brown sugar, the zest of the lemon and half its juice.

Line a square (24cm by 24cm) cake tin with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan. Take the remaining pear, peel it, and cut off 4 thin slices, core and all, which show the full swollen-bellied outline of the pear. Keep going until you have 4 very nice-looking slices. Eat the remaining scraps of pear.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all the cake ingredients (except for the demerara) along with the remaining juice of 1⁄2 a lemon. Fold in the pears from the bowl. Scrape the mixture into the tin, decorate with the pear slices, sprinkle with a little demerara and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cake is risen and a skewer comes out clean. Let it cool in the tin for at least half an hour before eating.