David's Fresh Ginger Cake with Caramel-Roasted Pears

From 6 Bittersweets
Adapted from David Leibovitz via The Traveler's Lunchbox
Serves 8

XIAOLU'S NOTES: After completely failing with a box grater, I finely chopped my ginger by hand. When looking closely, I was able to see (but not taste) small ginger fibers in the baked cake. If you mind the sight even of fibers, I recommend using the freshest ginger you can find and chopping it in the food processor.

4 ounces (120g) fresh ginger, peeled
1 cup (250ml) mild molasses
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 cup (250ml) vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups (350g) flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup (250ml) water
2 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, cubed or slivered (optional)
Roasted Pears (Recipe below)
Lightly-sweetened whipped cream mixed with equal parts plain yogurt, to serve

Position the oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. Line a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan (or a 9 x 3-inch cake pan) with a circle of parchment paper.

Slice and chop the ginger very finely with a knife (or process in a food processor until very finely chopped). In a large bowl mix together with the molasses, sugar, oil and ginger. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then stir the hot water into the molasses mixture. Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Top with crystallized ginger, if using.

Bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking. Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper.

If you're making the pears, increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C.

Roasted Pears
6-8 medium ripe yet firm pears, peeled, halved and cored (a melon baller works well)
1/2 cup (100g) sugar, brown or white
1/2 cup (160ml) water
3 Tbsp (50g) butter OR trans-fat-free margarine
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthwise OR 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
generous pinch sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C. Nestle the pear halves in a baking dish just big enough to fit them in a single layer. Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to distribute. Pour this mixture over the pears and roast in the oven, basting them with the liquid every 10 minutes or so, for about 25-30 minutes, or until the liquid is bubbling very thickly and the pears are tender when pierced with a knife. (Don't forget to remove the vanilla bean, rinse it lightly and add it to your extract jar or vanilla sugar jar, if you make these) Let cool slightly before serving.