As much as I like a lemon drizzle cake I am also a big fan of the syrup-drenched and most often tooth-achingly sweet semolina cakes often flavoured with rose or orange blossom water that are common in Middle Eastern baking. This cake is a more delicate take on both ideas – the Kamut pound cake has a subtle floral flavour from a couple of teaspoons of ground dried chamomile flowers that I mixed into the batter and the chamomile syrup made by reducing the poaching liquid from the pears and that is poured over the cake while still warm is a little fruity and not too sweet. A slice of the cake with some of the poached pears and a spoon or two of plain yoghurt on the side make for a wonderfully decadent breakfast or mid-afternoon break.
I have to thank the littleloaf for the idea for the chamomile syrup – Kate recently posted about a recipe for a chamomile and cantaloupe granita, the starting point for which was a honey-sweetened chamomile syrup. I am always intrigued when I come across unusual flavour combinations, even more so when I can recreate them in my own kitchen using pantry staples. Although Rome is a certainly a big city, exotic ingredients are much harder to find than in London so making the most of my pantry is often a necessity unless I want to plan a trip to certain delicatessen or markets that are a bit more out of the way.
While I initially set out to make a honey-flavoured chamomile syrup just like the one Kate had used, I found the syrup worked best for this recipe when lightly sweetened with some sugar instead – this way the flavours of both the chamomile and the pear are able to really shine – so that is what I used in the recipe below. Try both and see which one you prefer. And if chamomile just makes you think of childhood sickbeds when mum would force you to drink lukewarm chamomile tea you are not alone – sadly it is the first thing that used to come to my mind when I used to think about chamomile (and funnily enough brought back childhood horrors for my mother as well when I first told her about this cake) but this recipe certainly changed this for me!
Chamomile Kamut Pound Cake with Pears poached in Chamomile
Makes one small cake, enough to serve 6-8
For the Kamut pound cake
120g butter, at room temperature
120g Kamut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp dried chamomile flowers, finely ground
2 tbsp milk
For the poached pears
2 tsp dried chamomile flowers
2 firm pears, peeled, halved and cored
2 tbsp sugar
1. For the cake, start by pre-heating the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a small round tin (the one I used has a diameter of 15cm).
2. Combine the butter with the sugar in a bowl using a handheld mixer, increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy (this should take ca. 5 minutes).
3. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition.
4. Mix the flour with the baking powder and ground chamomile flowers and fold into the batter. Add just enough milk to ensure the batter has a dropping consistency (I used both tablespoons for this but depending on the size of your eggs, you may need less).
5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
6. For the poached pears, bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat, add the dried chamomile flowers and leave to steep for 3-4 minutes.
7. Strain and bring the chamomile tea back to a boil, add the pears and the sugar. Turn the heat down to a simmer for ca. 5-10 minutes until the pears are cooked but still retain their shape. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon and set aside. Bring the liquid back to a boil until it has reduced by half.
8. While the cake is still warm pierce it all over with a toothpick before pouring the poaching liquid over the cake and decorate with the pear halves.