Olive oil & sauternes cake with roast pears

Olive oil & sauternes cake with roast pears

I first cooked an olive oil cake out of the Chez Panisse pastry book and have loved making them ever since. Mind you, anything I cook out of any of the many Chez Panisse cookbooks always ends up my favourite. What else would you expect from one of the world’s great restaurants? We have paired this one with pears, and a wonderful match it is. You could, however, just serve


  • Roast pears
  • 4 beurre bosc pears, halved or quartered lengthways, core removed, stem intact
  • 80 ml (21/2 fl oz/1/3 cup) sauternes dessert wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar

  • Cake
  • 115 g (4 oz/1/2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 185 ml (6 fl oz/3/4 cup) olive oil
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) sauternes dessert wine
  • 80 ml (21/2 fl oz/1/3 cup) milk
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 185 g (61/2 oz/11/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 21/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • Sauternes syrup
  • 115 g (4 oz/1/2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) sauternes dessert wine
  • Thick (double/heavy) cream


Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Place the pears in a roasting tin, drizzle with the wine and oil and sprinkle with the sugar. Roast for 45 minutes, turning occasionally, until tender and starting to caramelize. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, to make the cake, lightly grease an 11 x 22 cm (41/4 x 8 1/2 inch) loaf (bar) tin, and line the base and sides with baking paper. Beat the sugar and eggs together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add the oil, wine, milk and lemon zest and beat until well combined. Add the combined, sifted flour and baking powder and slowly beat until just combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

Bake alongside the pears for 40 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, to make the syrup, place the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small pan and stir constantly, over very low heat, without letting it boil, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Increase the heat and allow the syrup to simmer, brushing the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush if necessary, until the syrup turns a golden colour.

It is important to keep an eye on the syrup at all times, as once it starts to colour, it will continue to darken very quickly. Turn off the heat, add the wine and stir to combine. Some of the syrup may solidify at this point. If this is the case, return it to a very low heat until it dissolves again. Set aside to cool.

Serve the cake with the pears, drizzle with the syrup and add a dollop of cream.

NOTES: First published in Neil’s cookbook Good Food. Photography by Earl Carter.

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