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Spiced Pear Cake with Browned Butter Icing

We live in a happy cul-de-sac consisting of seven homes.  There are 15 children in our cul-de-sac, ranging in age from 1 to 20.  Our quiet, little corner is a haven for kids playing football, jumping bikes off ramps and playing hide-and-go-seek.  It’s definitely an ideal place to be if you’re looking for suburbia.   The neighbors are pretty darn nice.  Case in point:  Neighbor A backed into Neighbor B’s car the other day.  The bumper was smashed up pretty good, and Neighbor A felt awful… so A brought B a basket full of fresh pears to apologize.  Neighbor B brought some of those pears to me, and I made Spiced Pear Cake with Browned Butter Icing.  I told you it was a happy cul-de-sac, didn’t I?

Oh yeah, see that icing drizzle?  It’s a must… an absolute must.  And you get more bang for your buck with this recipe since it makes TWO cakes 🙂

Speaking of bucks, I was at the market the other day checking out things in the baking aisle.  Gold Medal flour was 2 for $5 in my market.  With the holiday season approaching, and knowing that I’m a total baking FREAK in November and December, I stocked up big time.  Yes, the checker looked at me funny when I bought 8 bags of flour in one order!  Gold Medal has new packaging for its flour- you may have noticed some of the colorful bags on the shelves.  For this recipe, I used their Whole Wheat Flour and their Organic All-Purpose Flour.

I opted to make this recipe in two loaf pans because I like to change things up a bit and make cakes in “tea loaf” fashion now and then.  I think it works best for this recipe.  The cake bakes up much like banana bread, but it’s too sweet to call it bread.  So it’s CAKE, my friends.

Here’s the super yummy part:  BROWNED BUTTER ICING.  Do not leave off the icing.  Seriously, don’t do it.  It’s so so so easy to make, and you will want to eat it by the spoonful before you even drizzle it onto the cake.  Not that I’m advocating that or anything, but it certainly gives you a good idea of how delicious this stuff is.


A little slice of this cake… with those spiced pears flecked throughout… and just the right amount of browned butter icing drizzled on top… is a perfectly nice dessert for fall (and for the abundance of fresh pears available right now).

So, if you happen to be in a position where you’re considering where the best place to buy a home is for families… check out the cul-de-sacs.  They’re also a good place to be if you need to pawn off food on neighbors as much as I need to.  My neighbors act as good taste-testers, and there are a plethora of little mouths to feed too.  Remember I mentioned that this recipe makes TWO cakes?  Well, that nice neighbor who gave me the pears ended up getting them back again in one of these cakes.  Yep, I gave her a cake.  That happy-neighbor-thing is just kind of sickening to hear, isn’t it?

Well, don’t get too envious of my neighbor situation… there WAS the time that Neighbor C‘s kid sling-shot a rock into the air and it hit the windshield of my parked car and they never offered to pay for the repair… (fyi- those neighbors don’t get any of my goodies, lol!)

Yield: 2 loaf cakes (12 to 16 servings)

Prep Time: 30 min

Cook Time: 60 min

Spiced Pear Cake with Browned Butter Icing


3 medium to large firm pears, peeled-cored- and chopped
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups Gold Medal® All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Gold Medal® Whole Wheat Flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
4 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter
2 cups sifted powdered sugar (more or less)
4 to 5 teaspoons boiling hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Arrange your oven rack to the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 5x8-inch loaf pans with nonstick spray.

2. In a medium bowl, toss the pears with the white and brown sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, milk, oil and applesauce. Whisk in the dry ingredients until they are just mixed in (don't over-mix). Stir in the pears and all of their sweet and spicy juices too. Divide the batter between the two pans. Bake 60 to 70 minutes, or until the loaves are baked through and test done (toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean). Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely.

5. When cake is cool, prepare the icing. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat and stir for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the butter is lightly browned (you will see little flecks of brown throughout the melted butter when it is properly browned). Remove it from the stove and pour it into a bowl. Whisk in 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Add 3 teaspoons of the water and the vanilla. Whisk in more powdered sugar a little at a time until it thick but still pourable (add a teaspoon or two of additional water, if needed). Place paper towels under the rack and drizzle the icing onto the cakes. Serve immediately, or store in a covered container until ready to serve.


Disclosure:  I’m working with Gold Medal Flour to create seasonal recipes for the next few months.  This is one of those goodies.  All opinions shared are my own.

51 Responses to “Spiced Pear Cake with Browned Butter Icing”

  1. postedOct 12, 2012 4:03 AM

    Bellissimi questi cake, grazie per la splendida ricetta!!!!

  2. postedOct 12, 2012 5:28 AM

    That cake looks delicious… so glad your neighbors had some pears sent your way:-)

  3. postedOct 12, 2012 6:16 AM

    This cake looks fabulous, Lori. Love that there are bits of pear inside instead of making it like a sauce instead. Perfect! And your neighbors? How sweet are they!

  4. postedOct 12, 2012 6:38 AM

    I want to live on your happy cul-de-sac!!!

    And I want this bread….I mean, CAKE! 😉

  5. postedOct 12, 2012 6:53 AM

    you had me at browned butter!! I wish I had a slice with my coffee this morning!

  6. postedOct 12, 2012 6:55 AM

    I saw the sneaky peek on instragram last night, and I really wanted to see the rest of it, drooling over it!

  7. postedOct 12, 2012 6:58 AM

    What a nice neighborhood! The cake looks perfect!

  8. postedOct 12, 2012 7:21 AM

    Looks GREAT! I never had anything with pears in it like this before, may have to check it out!

  9. postedOct 12, 2012 7:40 AM

    dying over that icing – brown butter is the best!

  10. postedOct 12, 2012 8:39 AM

    How funny…I send my son across the street with food all the time! Not a cul de sac, but nice neighbors, which I love.

    This bread looks amazing…that GLAZE!! To die.

  11. postedOct 12, 2012 8:57 AM

    Love the look of that cake with the glaze. Because it’s a loaf it’s perfectly acceptable to eat for breakfast, right?

  12. postedOct 12, 2012 9:14 AM

    Lori it looks delicious! I love browned butter icing…everything can benefit from it and love that you were not skimpy with it, either! And that you baked cakes in bread pans – sort of a banana bread-ish vibe meets cake meets pears from the neighborhood. What a nice n’hood you live in!

  13. postedOct 12, 2012 10:20 AM

    I’ve never baked with pears, weirdly. And love them! This sounds so great!

  14. postedOct 12, 2012 11:20 AM

    What a happy jolly neighborhood! I want to be there, too. That icing really melts my heart and I know my family will be very happy when I try this recipe. Yum!

  15. postedOct 12, 2012 1:23 PM

    I am making this for the weekend, I am so in love with browned butter and I can’t wait to try it!

  16. postedOct 12, 2012 1:29 PM

    That brown butter icing is absolutely heavenly!

  17. postedOct 12, 2012 5:10 PM

    Wow sounds like your culdesac is a great pace to live! This recipe looks so delicious and I am most excited b/c I have never baked with pears before. I really want to try this maybe for Thanksgiving. Great photos! Thanks for this post!

  18. postedOct 12, 2012 6:04 PM

    this bread looks absolutely fantastic and i love the flavors! that brown butter icing has my name all over it. i’d drizzle it allll over the bread and maybe lick the spoon too 🙂

  19. postedOct 12, 2012 6:33 PM

    I couldn’t wait. I made this cake this afternoon! The browned butter glaze was so good I wish I’d made two batches. One for the cake and one for me to eat straight out of the bowl. I baked this in a 9×13 sheet pan at 45 degrees so I could transport tomorrow it to a camp-out more easily. Not as pretty, but still turned out great!

    • postedOct 12, 2012 7:48 PM

      Awesome!! Enjoy 🙂

  20. postedOct 13, 2012 5:03 AM

    I bet the pears keep the cake really moist while the glaze adds another level of delicious flavor. Yum!

  21. postedOct 13, 2012 5:55 AM

    Oh my what a gorgeous cake! It looks absolutely amazing!!! Have a wonderful recipe!!!

  22. postedOct 13, 2012 5:56 AM

    I meant weekend! lol!! I think I need to get my first cup of coffee!

  23. postedOct 13, 2012 6:23 AM

    Hi, the recipe looks fantastic. If I wanted to make this in a regular 9×5 loaf pan, about how long would I bake it? Thank you.

    • postedOct 13, 2012 7:53 AM

      Well, you definitely couldn’t make two loaves if you use a 9×5-inch pan, since the 8×5-inch turns out two smaller loaves as it is. I’d fill the batter about 3/4 full, make cupcakes with the rest. Prob 75 minutes, but I’m just guessing.

  24. postedOct 13, 2012 6:41 AM

    Just found you via Brown Eyed Baker! I love pears, so can’t wait to try this recipe. Do you think it would work in a bundt pan?

    • postedOct 13, 2012 7:19 AM

      Yes, a small bundt pan would be okay.

  25. postedOct 13, 2012 7:18 AM

    Love the brown butter and the 2 kinds of flour addition, sounds like it would give a nice complexity. When I loved in Northern Calif we had the good culdesac situation, 23 kids all, playing all the time. When I lived in Orange County, we never even talked to our neighbors, just the wave…it was weird. Now I live in the country, nice neighbors but we are far apart. The culdesac was the best for giving away food.

  26. postedOct 13, 2012 10:28 AM
    Lisa Cornely

    This looks delicious. I had made Apple pie bread this morning and saw this post, so I had to try the brown butter icing. It is amazing. I never tried it before, its sooooo good. Thanks for a great recipe.

  27. postedOct 13, 2012 11:03 AM

    I don’t have any unsweetened applesauce, or whole wheat flour. What can I use in place of that ? I have everything else, and am anxious to try this baby out ! Thanks, Denise

    • postedOct 13, 2012 11:05 AM

      You can use all all-purpose flour and add another 1/2 cup oil instead of the applesauce.

  28. postedOct 13, 2012 11:12 PM

    I just baked this and it is DELICIOUS!!!
    It was fun working with pears…so much easier to work with than apples!
    It tastes great! Like cinnamon bread with hints of pear…the browned butter is amazzzing! I completely recommend this recipe! (Note that I’m also not a very experienced cook, but it was fun and easy enough to make!)

  29. postedOct 14, 2012 10:53 AM

    Lori, this bread looks fantastic! I’ve made an apple cake similar to this but have NEVER attempted to use pears instead! The browned butter icing is just the cherry on top – what’s cake without a little icing? And browned butter… oh my goodness… it’s my secret weapon in the kitchen! I’ve never made frosting from it though. I love this 🙂

  30. postedOct 14, 2012 5:39 PM

    This cake is simply wonderful!
    To share with girlfriends over tea and chit chat, to serve at family functions, wherever!! Thank you!!

  31. postedOct 14, 2012 11:30 PM

    I love baking with pears – this is now on my Must Try List!

  32. postedOct 15, 2012 2:38 PM

    I Just finished putting on the glaze. I can’t wait to taste this. The brown butter glaze is heavenly (I licked the spoon). I have been looking for ways to use pears. What a great recipe>

  33. postedOct 15, 2012 6:07 PM

    i am SO making this in the next few weeks! two of my fave things!

  34. postedOct 17, 2012 5:13 AM

    That cake/bread is amazing looking!!! I love all the chunks of pears in it. And I know that I will be eating spoonfuls of the glaze even before it hits the cake!!!

  35. postedOct 17, 2012 7:30 PM
    Julie Anne

    You cul-de-sac is exactly the kind of neighborhood (also a cul-de-sac) I grew up in. A pile of kids all close to the same age – and we all got along! The adults all were good friends and even held “grown-up” parties on certain holidays. It was a great neighborhood and is a happy childhood memory.

    I can’t wait to try the recipe – it looks delish! My living situation is quite different now, but I have a few elderly neighbors who enjoy my baking! I think they’ll love this recipe! Thanks!

  36. postedOct 18, 2012 12:20 PM
    Linda Hielscher

    This was so good! I love it! I need to share a recipe I have for an apple bread. It’s similar to this recipe. I absolutely loved this bread and can’t wait to make it again.

  37. postedOct 23, 2012 6:17 AM

    Made this cake last night, with the brown butter drizzle, and it was delicious. It was a great way to use up pears I already had in the fridge. Thanks again.

  38. postedOct 24, 2012 8:45 PM

    Thank you SO much for this delicious creation! I made it once, per the recipe, on Saturday, and gave one of the loaves to a friend. Then today I made it AGAIN (!) but made it a little healthier by subbing one of the cups of white flour for WW, 1 C &2 T honey instead of sugar. I did use the white and brown sugars for the pears, and stayed with powdered sugar for the icing. The healthier version was really just as tasty, and even though I grind my own flour, it didn’t make it too heavy (I did sift it as I put it in) I might try all WW next time. The only small complaint I might make is that it was a bit too moist. I think next time I will use less applesauce, maybe 3/4 cup, keeping in mind that using all WW requires a bit extra moisture. Last thing- since I did use all honey, I lowered the temp to 325 and baked it an extra 15-20 minutes and it wasn’t burned a bit! YUM!

  39. postedOct 24, 2012 8:46 PM

    In my previous comment, I failed to mention that I subbed extra applesauce for the oil, hence the note that I will use less applesauce next time. 🙂

  40. postedNov 4, 2012 1:56 PM

    Absolutely stunning cake! I made it tonight, and I can’t remember the last time when I was so pleased with my baking (OK, I remember – it was the Dutch Crumb Apple Pie). I baked it in a 11 x 3 inch loaf pan and it didn’t overflow (phew). I’m not one for thick icing, but the brown butter one was to die for – I kept sneaking bits of it even before I put it on the loaf. The cake is moist, spicy, fruity and sweet – in other words, everything I love about a cake. Thanks for posting this!

    • postedNov 4, 2012 7:19 PM

      Happy to hear of your success with the recipe!

  41. postedNov 7, 2012 3:23 PM

    Once I saw this recipe, I knew it was a keeper! And it sure did pass the test!! Originally I made it right before Hurricane Sandy hit and my plans to bring it to work was interrupted, so I threw the loaves in the freezer (unfrosted). They kept really well for another week until we could reorganize our fall fest at work. My 2 loaves did not last long at work and just about everyone asked for the recipe. I finally just put a stack out next to the bread (or at least the empty plate) until they were gone, too The frosting alone will be reproduced at a great rate!! Definitely make sure you make it thick enough so you don’t waste any extra drizzles but it is still easy to pour over the bread. And make sure you do lick any extra–it would be a true crime if any went to waste 🙂

    • postedNov 7, 2012 5:08 PM

      awesome to hear of your success with the recipe. Makes me happy!

  42. postedNov 20, 2012 8:28 AM

    LOVED this recipe! I made it last week and blogged about it today. Thank you for the wonderful deliciousness!!!

  43. postedSep 11, 2013 8:17 PM
    Connie Landwehr

    I made this yesterday….I was disappointed there was not more flavor. Wonder about putting more spices in the batter…….

  44. postedSep 5, 2014 1:10 PM

    How many cups of fresh/frozen pears already chopped up do you think go in here?

    • postedSep 21, 2014 12:12 PM

      Maybe 3 cups?

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