Chai spiced honey cake

Photographer: Adam
makes 6-7 small cakes


This recipe is out of one of my favourite recipe books, A Neoclassic View of Plated Desserts, a whole book devoted to completely amazing and decadent desserts. I cooked my final for my chef training out of this book and over the years have been slowly meandering my way through it.

I would eat this cake anytime, actually I eat most cakes whenever I can! But in New Zealand Easter represents the transition of summer to autumn, hence the pears. This might not be so applicable to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere so maybe you might like to substitute the pears for something more seasonal – I think stone fruit would go nicely, or even strawberries (I’m drooling at the thought of it).

The original recipe calls for Poire William (a pear liqueur) in the mousse, but I dislike this so I used the cooking liquor from the fruit which in my opinion was way yummier. Although you could easily substitute it for appropriate flavoured schnapps if so desired. The mousse needs a while to set so either make it 3-4 hours beforehand or the day before. Chai is a spiced variety of black tea readily available from your local supermarket.


1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup strongly brewed chai tea
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup honey (the recipe calls for chestnut but I just used liquid honey)
150g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk, at room temp

4 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp gelatine, bloomed*
3 tbsp cooking liquor from pears (or the fruit of choice)
Pinch of salt
570g mascarpone cheese

6 large bosch pears, ripe but slightly firm (or an alternative seasonal fruit)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
125ml dry white wine

* Bloomed powdered gelatine means that it has been softened or dissolved in water. I usually find that hot water works best. For two teaspoons of gelatine I would mix three teaspoons of boiling water with it until completely dissolved


1. Preheat oven to 190ºC.
2. Sift together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients.
3. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until thoroughly combined.
4. Pour the batter into a well greased 23cm x 33cm cake tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake is set and a skewer comes out clean. Immediately invert the cake onto a rack and cool completely.

1. Place the egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip on high speed until you can pull out the beaters and draw an 8 on the surface which remains but slightly loses definition. It’ll take a while, roughly 20-30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, place the sugar in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover. Let it come to a rolling boil, once the bubbles slow remove from stove and carefully (and slowly!) pour into egg yolks mixing on a medium speed.
3. Add the bloomed gelatine to the egg mixture. Add the cooking liquor and salt and continue to whip until cool.
4. Add the mascarpone and whip on medium speed to medium peaks, being careful not to over whip. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

1. Peel and core the pears and cut them into eighths. In a large sauté pan , caramelize the sugar. Add the pears and lemon juice.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the wine. Simmer over a low heat until the pears are soft. Reserve cooking liquor for mousse.

To serve
Cut the cake into eight circles (7.6cm) and then cut a 2.5cm circle from the centre of each. Fill the hole in the cake with the mousse. Then carefully arrange pear slices on top to suit (I used 5 to 6 slices on each). Place a small quenelle** of mousse on the pears and drizzle any remaining cooking liquor over the top.
** Quenelle are neat little three-sided ovals shaped using two spoons (dessert spoons are best). I find it is best to dip the spoons in hot water and completely dry them before forming each quenelle.