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Spiced Cakes with Poached Pears

Fabulous, richly flavored, special occasion cakes. The individual servings result in just enough sweet to create a spectacular finish to any autumn feast.

Ingredients
poached pears:

1 bottle sparkling wine or asti spumonte (or sparkling apple juice)
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1, 2-inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced
2-3 cinnamon sticks
grated zest of 1 lemon
pinch sea salt
4 medium-sized pears, peeled, halved, cored

spice cakes: 

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
generous pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder,lus 1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup avocado or light olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/2-1 cup unsweetened almond or soymilk

 

caramel sauce:

1 cup unsweetened almond or  soymilk
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
pinch sea salt
juice of 1/4 fresh lemon

Directions 
To poach the pears, place wine, rice syrup, ginger slices, cinnamon sticks, lemon zest and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add pear halves, reduce heat to low and simmer until the pears are just tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain liquid off and set pears aside to cool. Slice each pear half, lengthwise, into thin wedges, not all the way to the top, creating a fan. 

Spoon batter into prepared cups, filling each one to just over halfway. Place cups on a baking sheet and bake until a toothpick inserted into each cake comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before inverting cakes onto dessert plates. Any pear pieces that stick to the dish can be carefully removed and replaced on the cake tops. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil 8, 1 1/4-cup custard cups or ramikens. Place a pear half in each oiled cup and press delicately to fan the slices. Prepare the cake by whisking together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Stir in oil, vanilla and rice syrup. Slowly add milk , mixing to create a smooth, spoonable batter. 

Make caramel sauce by combining milk, rice syrup and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture boils, reduce heat to low and cook until it reduces by half. Remove from heat and whisk in lemon juice.

Spoon over each cake and serve hot. 

Makes 8 servings. 

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