This spiced pear layer cake is absolutely divine. It has the most moist crumb with fresh spiced pear slices and maple buttercream. It also happens to be vegan AND gluten-free, although there's no way you'd ever know!
With Thanksgiving coming up, this vegan spiced pear cake should 100% be on your radar, or, better yet, on your holiday prep-list. While I'm normally team chocolate cake, this spiced pear cake is absolutely one of my favorite desserts during the fall. The crumb is extra moist from the pear and full of flavor, thanks to Chinese five spice. And, we can't forget the maple "buttercream," which is so airy and light. While you can't go wrong with pie, it's always nice to have another dessert (or two) on the Thanksgiving table!
Helpful tools for the spiced pear cake
Offset spatula: this is helpful to smooth out the icing, but you can use the back of a spoon if you don't have one.
Cake boards: these are helpful for transporting the cake, but you can always use a plate. If you're able to, I highly recommend purchasing them. They come in a set of 12 for about $6.
Piping bag: again, not totally necessary but helpful for assembling a cake. If you don't have a piping bag, you can cut the corner of a zipblock bag and use that!
Parchment rounds: these are a total luxury, but absolutely amazing. Instead of having to cut 9" circles out of your parchment paper, you can just buy pre-cut parchment rounds!
FAQ + Substitutions
I'm not gluten-free, can I use regular flour?
Absolutely! I have tried all-purpose flour and it came out well. I have not yet tried cake flour, but please leave a comment below if you do.
I'm not vegan, can I use regular milk and eggs?
Yes and yes. In fact, you could also get away with coconut milk, almond milk, or oat milk.
How do I store the cake?
The cake is best stored in the fridge and should be removed at least 1 hour before serving. Since it is a vegan icing, it will get very firm in the refrigerator. Once it comes down to room temperature, it will be light and fluffy again.
Can I make the cake ahead of time?
That is typically what I do! If you decide to make the crumb ahead of time, just make sure to wrap in seran wrap very well. You can also make the icing ahead of time. However, you will need to remove the icing an hour before assembling the cake so it comes down to room temperature and you may have to re-whip it. In general, I store the cake un-assembled to save space in the fridge.
SOME OTHER MUST-TRY RECIPES THIS FALL:
- 4 cups (531 g) GF 1:1 flour blend
- 2 cups (417 g) cane sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons (12 g) ground flaxseed
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (80 g) warm water
- 2 ½ (596 g) cups soy milk or plant-based milk of choice
- 1 ½ cups (311 g) safflower oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 pear, cubed (approx. 1 cup or 120 g)
- 1 teaspoon chinese five spice
- 2 cups (273 g) vegetable shortening
- 2 cups (220 g) powdered sugar, sifted
- ¼ cup (50 g) safflower oil
- ¼ cup (80 g) maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- (optional) dried pears, cinnamon sticks, or star anise for garnish
Make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Line and grease two 9" cake pans.
- In a small bowl, combine the flax and water. Set aside.
- Add the cubed pear and chinese five spice to a small bowl and mix with a spoon until the pear is fully coated. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl), combine the sifted dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.
- In a medium sized bowl, combine the wet ingredients and flax egg. Mix well.
- With the mixer on medium low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Scrape down as needed until there are no lumps. About 2 minutes.
- Add the pear to the bowl and fold in with a rubber spatula.
- Transfer half of the batter (approx. 4 cups or 100 g) to each of the pans.
- Bake on the middle rack for 29 to 31 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Rotate halfway.
- Let completely cool before assembling cake.
- Add shortening to bowl of standmixer and beat with paddle attachment on high until fluffy. About 5 minutes.
- On the lowest speed, slowly add the sifted powdered sugar. Scrape down as necessary.
- Raising the speed to medium, add the maple, safflower, and vanilla.
- Mix until glossy and creamy.
- Carefully remove the cooled cake from the pans by flipping them onto a cake board. If pans were well greased, they should slide right out.
- Turn the cakes over, so their bottom (flat side) is on the cake board.
- (Optional) With a serated knife, trim the tops of the cakes so they are flat, not domed.
- Using a piping bag or spoon, add a little under half of the icing on top of the first layer.
- Using an offset spatula or spoon, smoothe out the icing so it is level.
- Carefully, add the second layer on top of the icing. If the top layer feels unstable, transfer the cake to the fridge for 15-30 minutes to help the icing stiffen.
- Finally, add the remaining icing to the top of the cake and garnish with dried pears, cinnamon sticks, and / or star anise.
Make the icing
Assemble the cake
*Recipe adapted from Pure Artistry: Extraordinary Vegan and Gluten-Free Cakes
Chinese five spice is a blend of five spices (cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns). You can either purchase a pre-made blend (that's what I do) or you can create your own!
To dehydrate pears for garnish: cut the pears as thin as possible and add to a lined sheet tray. Bake anywhere from 2-3 hours at 200F until the pears are dry
Nutrition Information:Yield: 15 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 221Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 394mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 3gSugar: 11gProtein: 5g