There’s an air of looming formality in autumn. Sandals and shorts disappear into the backs of our closets. Clinking glasses and winter rituals are close on the horizon. Playing in a pile of colored leaves feels invigorating but elusive. So as a small act of rebellion against the buttoned-up-ness that winter will soon bring, I decided to bring together two of fall’s most scrumptious seasonal ingredients — pears and cloves — in a deliciously relaxed form.
I chose imperfectly shaped pear-flecked mini cakes, sandwiched with oozing cream cheese filling and a juicy slice of fruit — all designed to eat without a fork or even a plate. Pears and cloves are a well-known and delicious duo, and here they’ve proven to be both a nod to autumn and a delicious deep breath before winter’s elegance arrives.
Spiced Pear Sandwich Cakes (makes about 14 sandwiches, 2.5 – 3″ diameter each)
- 3 medium pears such as Bartlett, weighing about 7 ounces each, ripe but not mushy
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1.5 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1.5 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Rinse the pears, and remove stems and cores from two of them. Cut 1.5 pears into large pieces and set in bowl of food processor. (Set remaining 1.5 pears aside for assembly; see below.) Pour the lemon juice over the pears and blend in food processor until a thick paste has formed, speckled with pear skin; you may have to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice while blending. Measure out 1/2 cup pear puree for this recipe; use the rest as you wish (I love to eat it like applesauce or spread it onto warm toast).
In a separate, large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Over the bowl, sift the flour, salt, cloves, and baking powder. Mix until ingredients stick together, gradually adding the 1/2 cup pear puree, and stopping to scrape down bowl with a spatula periodically.
Once batter is smooth and ingredients are evenly dispersed, scoop it by the rounded tablespoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each dollop. You should have about 28 dollops, each 2.5 – 3″. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until tops no longer look wet and bottoms are golden brown. Let cool to room temperature on cookie sheets.
To fill and assemble:
- 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 and 1/3 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for serving
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, to taste
- leftover 1.5 pears from above
Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and even. Sift powdered sugar, salt, and cloves over the cream cheese mixture. Beat until creamy and blended, scraping sides of bowl as needed. When ready to assemble and serve the cookies, slice pears into at least 14 pieces that are about 1/3 inch thick and will mostly fit within the diameter your little sandwiches. (Be sure to avoid the core of the whole pear. You’ll have extra pear to use as you please.)
Spread at least a heaping tablespoon of filling on each bottom of half of the little cakes, then top filling with a pear slice. Dab the bottoms of the other cookie halves with a small dollop of filling, and place each one right-side-up atop a pear slice. Sprinkle tops with powdered sugar using a sifter or shaker. Eat within a few hours, serving in paper cupcake liners if desired. Any leftovers should be refrigerated and eaten within a day.
Full of flavorful bits of pear and clove, tender little cakes become vibrant with succulence once transformed into these whoopie pie style treats. Their creamy, spiced filling is further brightened by the slice of cool, juicy fruit in each bite. What’s more: Spiced pear sandwich cakes offer a burst of autumn’s flavor along with its laid-back-ness. They’re informal, easy to eat, and even a little bit messy. Finger-licking is encouraged — along with one last spirited dive into those orange and red leaves.
Maybe next time… While cloves and pears pair particularly well, do feel free to play with your fall spices in this recipe: additional dashes of cinnamon and/or nutmeg are especially welcome in the filling, and add to the complexity of this dessert. These cakes are at their most fabulous when eaten the day they are made, but for a do-ahead version of this recipe, let the baked cakes cool, then store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to two days, or freeze for up to two weeks. The cream cheese filling can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated, or up to two weeks ahead and frozen. When ready to serve, let everything thaw, slice some pear for filling, and assemble.
P.S. If you liked this recipe, you might like Cinnamon Peach Sandwich Cakes in the late summer, and Rhubarb Rum Sandwich Cakes in the late spring. If you’re all about the pears, try Walnut Pear Torte; it’s great for fall and loved even by the walnut-averse.