wonton past – caramel pear cake w earl grey frosting

wonton past – caramel pear cake w earl grey frosting

I knew food could trigger memories, but I didn’t understand how deeply it could affect me until I went on a food crawl with food friends in Flushing, NY, the real source of all things Chinese in New York. Chinatown in Manhattan is a sleepy village compared to this vibrant community in Queens.

Last Saturday, Marc from Seattle visited NYC and requested a day of Chinese food. Through the gloomy, rainy, Northwest- weather that Marc seemed to have brought with him, we spent the day sampling our way through fourteen places (mostly holes-in-wall) representing different cooking techniques and regions.

Most of the foods were spicy, fragrant, and garlicky—except one place that served Hong Kong style food. I insisted that we try it for variety and proceeded to order classic wonton noodle soup. Upon the first bite of juicy, plump shrimp-pork wontons, I was again an eight year-old in Hong Kong.

Luckily, it will be only a couple of months before we visit my family. I can’t wait to revisit all of my favorite dishes and try out new restaurants. Until then, I have to get organized, plan the trip, and eat sensibly (may be just a tiny slice of this cake … HA!). The Pearl of the Orient awaits . . .


Caramel Pear Cake w Earl Grey Frosting


Caramel Pears

1/2 cup (3-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 4 pieces

2-3 Bosc pears, ripe but still firm


2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

12 tablespoons (6 ounces/1-1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup (8 ounces) packed light-brown sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup sour cream

Earl Grey Frosting

3 large egg whites, room temperature

1 cup (8 ounces) packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

3/4 cup strongly brewed Earl Grey tea (used 3 teabags)


Caramelized Pear cake layers

Earl Grey Frosting


Caramel Pears

1. Spray 2 8-inch cake pan with cooking spray and line bottom with parchment rounds, set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, stir sugar, water and salt over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and bring sugar mixture to a boil syrup without stirring, occasionally brush down sides with a wet pastry brush, until sugar turns dark amber, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add 1 tablespoon butter (caramel will bubble vigorously) and whisk until smooth. Divide caramel into prepared cake pans and swirl to coat bottom.

3. Peel, halve, and core the pears. Place flat on a work surface and cut lengthwise into 1/8″-thick slices. Layer slices over caramel in both pans, flat side down, overlapping. (Take time to decorative lay out the slice, at least one of the pans, this will be the top of the cake.)


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325℉. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter an sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, until combined, add vanilla.

3. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream (in 2 additions), until barely combine. Remove bowl and finish mixing by hand with a rubber spatula. Divide batter evenly into prepared cake pans, over top of pears. Smooth top with small off-set spatula and bake until toothpick inserted into cakes comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes , run knife around the edges of pans, invert cakes onto large baking sheet, cool completely, about one hour.

Earl Grey Frosting

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy & thick, but not peak.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cream of tartar, 1/4 cup Earl Grey tea & salt. Bring to a boil for 3-4 minutes, or until a candy thermometer reads 242°F/117°C and all sugar is dissolved. Begin beating the egg whites again on medium-low speed and slowly pour boiling sugar syrup into egg whites in  a slow steam. Increase speed to high and continue to beat for 7 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Add remaining tea by the tablespoon until fully incorporated, about 2 minutes.


1. Place the less attractive layer on a cake stand or serving platter. Using an icing spatula, spread about a cup of frosting evenly on top of the layer. Top with 2nd layer, and spread frosting on side of cake. Serve.