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RECIPES: 5 sweet recipes starring fall’s favorite flavors

Celebrate the season with tantalizing baked goods by Kelly Brant | September 21, 2022 at 7:18 a.m.
Chocolate-Cardamom Cake With Roasted Pears (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Can you smell it?

Apples, pears, cinnamon, bourbon, caramel, cardamom, wood smoke and dried leaves — these are the scents of autumn, which begins officially Thursday at 8:03 p.m., giving you just enough time to prepare one of these delectable confections to celebrate the occasion.

This brownie-like cake is studded with pears and scented with cardamom, giving it warmth and sweetness. It is excellent served slightly warm for dessert, but also makes a great partner for a cup of coffee as a sweet breakfast.

If you prefer a thicker cake — this one stands just under an inch tall when baked as instructed in a 9-inch pan — use a 7- or 8-inch baking pan and adjust the baking time accordingly.

Chocolate-Cardamom Cake With Roasted Pears

  • For the pears:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 ripe but firm pears such as Bartlett or Bosc, peeled, halved and cored (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • For the cake:
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Melt the 1 tablespoon butter in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange pears, cut side down, in skillet and cook undisturbed, until pears are just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and roast for 10 minutes; flip pears and continue roasting until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Pears are ready when they can be easily pieced with a fork. Remove skillet from oven, reduce oven to 325 degrees. Transfer pears, cut side down, to a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.

Grease a 9-inch springform pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, cardamom, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk the granulated sugar and eggs until pale yellow, about 1 minute. Whisk in the melted butter and vanilla until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture until few streaks remain. Fold in the chopped chocolate until just combined, being careful not to over-mix.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.

Place a pear half, cut side down, on a cutting board. Cut the pear half crosswise into ¼-inch slices; leave pear half intact on the cutting board. If using Bosc pears, discard the narrowest of the slices from the pointed end. Slide an offset spatula (or the wide blade of a chef's knife) under the pear half and press pear to fan slices toward the narrower end. Slide the fanned pear onto the cake batter, letting it rest on top with the narrow end facing the center and the wide end almost touching the edge of the pan. Do not press the pear into the batter. Repeat with the remaining pear halves. (If your pear halves don't fan perfectly — don't worry, ours didn't either.)

Bake cake until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, 45 to 55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove sides of pan from cake and let cool completely, about 1 ½ hours. Dust lightly with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Makes about 8 servings.

Recipe adapted from "Modern Bistro: Home Cooking Inspired by French Classics" from America's Test Kitchen

  photo  Easiest Ever Apple Tart (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  A mosaic of sliced apples macerated in spiced brown sugar and lemon juice makes this tart look fancy, but really the hardest part about making this dessert is waiting for it to cool enough to slice before enjoying.

Easiest Ever Apple Tart

  • Filling:
  • 3 to 4 large apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I used HoneyCrisp)
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch
  • Crust:
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 10 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  • Melted apricot preserves, apple jelly or pea hull jelly

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla and salt together.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add melted butter and stir until dough forms. Press mixture into a 10- or 11-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing until dough is smooth.

Arrange apple slices in groups, curved side facing up, over the crust, filling in any gaps with the smaller slices. Whisk the cornstarch into the juices remaining in the bowl. Pour mixture over apples. Sprinkle apples with granulated sugar and dot with cubed butter. Bake until crust is golden and apples are tender, about 1 hour.

Brush with melted preserves or jelly and let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Makes about 8 servings.

Recipe inspired by

  photo  Pear (Pecan) Cake (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  If you knew my Granny Tommie, you knew (and loved) her pear cake. If you didn't know her, you need to know her pear cake. In the middle of her property in Enola stood two giant Bartlett pear trees, the source of all her delectable pear desserts. She also baked an excellent pear pie, but her pear cake — rich and moist from obscene amounts of sugar and oil, studded with buttery tender slivers of pear scented with just the right amount of cinnamon and chopped pecans — was legendary. I'm not a fan of pecans cooked inside things, so I skip the nuts but usually leave the rest of her recipe as she made it. If I'm feeling a little contrary I might add a smidge of cardamom to the cinnamon or toss the sliced pears with lemon juice and once or twice I've doubled the vanilla extract. One time I added crystallized ginger and although it was divine, I was informed that was not her recipe.

The baked cake can be frozen, well wrapped, for several months.

Pear (Pecan) Cake

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups thinly sliced peeled and cored pears
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, plus a few halves for topping (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan or 4 mini loaf pans.

In a large bowl, blend the sugar, eggs and oil until smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.

Add the flour, one cup a time, to the sugar-egg-oil mixture.

Toss the pears with the vanilla and cinnamon and fold them, along with the pecans (if using) into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s). If baking mini loaves, press the pecan halves gently into the batter. Bake until a tester inserted near the center comes out almost clean, 30 to 35 minutes for mini loaves or about 1 hour for a 10-inch Bundt pan.

To freeze, cool cake(s) completely, then wrap in plastic or foil and place in a freezer zip-close bag, removing as much as possible.

Makes 1 (10-inch) Bundt cake.

  photo  Brown Butter-Bourbon Snickerdoodles (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  Brown Butter-Bourbon Snickerdoodles

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt (slightly less if using salted butter)
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar, divided use
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue cooking, stirring or swirling, until the butter foams and then darkens to an amber color. Immediately pour the butter, and any solids, into the bowl of a stand mixer or a medium mixing bowl. Let cool for about 20 minutes.

While the butter cools, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

Add 1 cup of the granulated sugar and the brown sugar to the bowl with the browned butter and, using the paddle attachment, a hand mixer or by hand using a dough whisk, mix until combined — about 1 minute with a mixer or 2 to 3 minutes by hand. Add the eggs, bourbon and vanilla and mix until pale and ribbony, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add the flour mixture, a spoonful or two at a time, until just combined. The dough will be soft.

In a shallow dish, combine the remaining ½ cup granulated sugar and the ground cinnamon.

Divide and shape dough into 2-tablespoon balls. Roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar. Place balls 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. (You will likely have quite a bit of cinnamon-sugar left over. To avoid waste, strain out any cookie dough bits and store the sugar in the freezer for your next batch of cookies.)

Bake, rotating baking sheets from upper shelf to lower shelf and from lower shelf to upper shelf halfway through, for about 8 minutes for chewy cookies or up to 11 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool slightly on baking sheets and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 2 to 2 ½ dozen.

Note: Any whiskey can be substituted for the bourbon. To add a whisper of smoke use a smoky whiskey such as High West Campfire or Rock Town Hickory Smoked — if you can get your hands on a bottle.

Recipe adapted from "Cookies: The New Classics" by Jesse Szewczyk

  photo  Cinnamon Bun Slices (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  For those who crave a bite of something sweet but find having a whole cake or two dozen cookies around to be too much temptation, this six-serving cake from "Small Batch Bakes: Baking Cakes, Cookies, Bars and Buns for One to Six People" by Edd Kimber (Kyle Books, October 2022) could be the answer. This tender cinnamon-filled cake is excellent with a cup of coffee for dessert, an afternoon pick-me-up or breakfast.

Cinnamon Bun Slices

  • 5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Fine salt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup PLUS 1 teaspoon heavy cream (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla paste, divided use
  • ¾ cup PLUS 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang on the long sides.

In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons butter, the brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Beat or mash until mixture forms a soft paste. Set aside.

Melt the remaining butter.

In a medium bowl, combine the granulated sugar, egg, cream and ¼ teaspoon of the vanilla paste and whisk until combined. Add the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt and whisk just until a smooth batter forms. Pour in the melted butter and whisk gently, just until fully combined.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Spoon little dollops of the cinnamon-butter over the batter and then use a skewer or chopstick to gently swirl them in. Bake for 25 minutes or until cake springs back to a light touch and it is just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Let cake cool for 15 minutes before transferring cake to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cool, heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, milk and remaining ¼ teaspoon vanilla paste. Drizzle icing over cooled cake and then return the cake to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes or until glaze is set.

Makes about 6 servings.

Note: I didn't have any heavy cream so I used half-and-half thickened with 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Print Headline: Autumn’s arrival


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