Pear Dulce de Leche Cake Recipe

Tender Pear Cake filled and frosted with a caramel-like Dulce de Leche Buttercream and bits of oat crumble.

Pear cake with dulce de leche buttercream recipe

Canadian Thanksgiving was over a month ago, but that can't seem to keep my overwhelming feelings of thanks and gratitude away.  As the holidays approach, the days grow darker, and the rainy weather keeps us huddled together inside, I can't help but reflect on lucky I am to be surrounded by love, family, and lots of baked goods.  So when our family friend and editor-in-cheif of Risen Magazine asked if I'd share my story, I didn't hesitate to agree.

In the "Expressions" section of the latest issue, you will find my full creative journey.  From ballet lessons to baby bottles, I discuss my motivations for starting my own cake business to trying to do it all as a working mom to ultimately leaning on a bit of faith that these big, life-changing decisions I've made along the way were the right ones for our little family.  Cake design has been my major creative outlet over the past decade, my way of expressing my fears, doubts, joys, and triumphs.  Worry blocks creativity, so I've been trying my best to be more patient, a little less controlling, and to embrace the imperfections in life.  

Pear cake with dulce de leche buttercream recipe

This Pear Cake is slightly adapted from my book Layered.  The shredded pears nearly melt into the cake and keep it incredibly soft and tender. Adding Dulce de Leche to homemade buttercream is so luxurious.  Similar to caramel, the dulce de leche adds a deeper, not-as-sweet creaminess to the frosting.  Making dulce de leche from a can of sweetened condensed milk is super simple, but you may also try a store-bought variety.  

For an additional layer of texture, I added an Oat Crumble in the middle.  The cake is so moist and the buttercream so silky, I really feel like this cake benefits from a bit of crunch.  The oat crumble recipe will certainly make more than you need, so sprinkle leftovers over yogurt or roasted fruit!

Tessa Huff and family

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Pear Dulce de Leche Cake Recipe

For the cake:
2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cardamom (optional)
3 medium pears, such as Bartlett
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
 ¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and cardamom (if using) and set aside.  Peal the pears and shred the pears (a box grater works great here) and place in a mesh sieve (or a few paper towels) over a bowl to drain.  If they are extra juicy, press down gently with a rubber spatula to release some of the excess liquid (or gently bundle them up and squeeze the paper towels).  Set aside.

Using an eclectic mixer, beat together the oil and sugar until combined.  Add in the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add in half of the flour mixture and mix on low until combined.  Slowly stream in the buttermilk until incorporated.  Add in the remaining flour and mix until mostly combined.  Stop the mixer and fold in the drained shredded pears

Evenly divide the batter between the two pans and bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.  Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.


For the buttercream:
2/3 cup prepared or store-bought Dulce de Leche (recipe to follow)
Small batch Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Mix the buttercream until silky smooth.  Add in the Dulce de Leche and mix until fully combined.


For the oat crumble (optional):
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and softened
½ cup rolled oats

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Place all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the mixture forms small clumps of what looks like “wet sand.”  Dump the contents on a lined baking sheet and spread out.  Bake for 8 to 12 minutes (stirring halfway) until the crumble starts to crisp and turn slightly golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack then break up into small pieces (if the pieces are left large, then the cake will be difficult to slice).


For the Dulce de Leche:
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Place an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a slow-cooker.  Fill with enough water to full submerge the can.  Turn the slow-cooker to “low” and cook for 8 hours.  Very carefully remove the can from the hot water and let it cool at room temperature.  Open the can and store the Dulce de Leche in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. 

Place a cooled cake on a cake board or serving dish.  Spread on about 1 cup of buttercream with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle on a generous amount of oat crumble and top with the second layer of cake.  Frost the cake with the buttercream and decorate as desired.

For the boarder, fill a piping bag fitted with a petal tip (Wilton #104), and pipe interlocking "V's" around the top and bottom edges of the cake. Keep the narrow end of the tip facing up as you pipe.



Butterscotch Vanilla Pear Pie

A butterscotch-filled, vanilla-specked pear pie topped with an all-butter lattice crust and flaky sea salt.

Butterscotch Pear Pie

As I put Everett down for his afternoon nap, I am still trying to make sense of the current state of our nation.  The road to clarity is currently covered in debris after last night’s election and the many shattered hearts that resulted.  I don’t talk much about politics, but I don’t want to be naïve or breeze over the situation either.  I don’t talk much about politics because I tend to get jaded pretty quickly and I don’t like to invite that kind of negativity into my day to day.  But in the aftermath of a very controversial and confusing election, I am still trying to put the pieces back together and understand how we all got to this point.

Part of me wants to flood my social media with puppies, cakes, smiling faces and positive thoughts, yadda yadda.  Another part wants to hide from the news and be thankful of our move to Canada nearly 4 years ago – even though almost all of my friends/family are American and US politics greatly effects us up here too.  Instead, I will continue on with my day's agenda of raising a respectful toddler, because what other choice do I really have? 

Butterscotch Vanilla Pear Pie
Butterscotch Vanilla Pear Pie

I come from a very diverse household made up of parents from different races, class systems and cultures.  I’ve seen and heard what it’s like to be a struggling minority subject to racism and injustice.  I’ve also seen what it’s like to be well-educated, white, and wealthy.  Both sides work their asses off, so who’s to say one is more deserving than the other?  For me, I grew up in mostly-white, upper-middle class suburbia.  I know I am very privileged, but I’ve continued to work hard and to not take any of it for granted.  I thank my parents for teaching me core family values, how to treat others with respect, how to keep an open mind, yet how to question everything.  I’ve seen the best in people and the worst.  I’ve been subject to tragedy and experienced terrorism first-hand.  In the end, the only thing we can control is our own behaviours and how we react to situations that are beyond us.

Hate is black and white, but there is also so much grey-area to consider before making snap judgments and creating opinions about one another.  I’m not talking about just what party somebody voted for yesterday, but in life in general. Instead, let’s simply lead by example.  “Role model” isn’t necessarily synonymous with President, or rather it's proven that it doesn't have to be for the time being, but that shouldn’t keep us from raising our own children with respect and teaching them right from wrong.  We have a lot of work at home to do if we want to create a better environment for future generations, but I know we can do it.

I will do my best to raise a creative yet critical thinker in Everett that is equally kind and respectful as he is strong.  I would like to tell him to always keep dreaming and that love conquers all, but sometimes it’s hard work and perseverance that’s needed for change.  But how do we keep their innocent hearts tender while trying to toughen them up for the cruel world?  I don’t really know. However, I do know that I will continue to teach him to share with ALL of the other children at the library as we did this morning, encourage him to be creative and “draw” (his new favorite activity) while I sneak in lessons about numbers and letters and discipline when he tries to take the crayons to the walls, and show forgiveness when he gets in fights with our pup, Remy.  He’s not yet 2 years old, so I know we both have a lot of learning ahead of us, but we’ve got to start somewhere. 

For me, I will continue to be an attentive mother/wife/daughter/sister and then dive into work when I am “off-duty,” be a respectful neighbour, chat it up with my checkers at Whole Foods (sometimes the only adult conversation I have all day), give our spare change to the man on the corner that always says “Hi, Tiny!” whenever Ev walks by, try to get to church on Sunday and then feel guilty when we stay home to watch football instead, live a purposeful life without fear of repercussion, and choose to edit photos instead of tackling the mound of dirty dishes/laundry because I am far from perfect, too.  And at the end of the day, I will make pie because pie is always a good idea.

Butterscotch Vanilla Pear Pie
Butterscotch Vanilla Pear Pie
Butterscotch Vanilla Pear Pie
Butterscotch Vanilla Pear Pie

Butterscotch Vanilla Pear Pie

All-Butter Crust
adapted from Hummingbird High
2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup + 2 tablespoons very cold butter, diced
½ cup cold water
¼ cup ice
1 tablespoon apple cider or white vinegar
1 egg
splash milk
turbinado sugar and flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

1.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and sugar.  Place the ice in the water and set aside.

2.  Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter or by hand, rubbing the pieces of butter between your thumb, index, and middle fingers.  Once the pieces are no longer lager than about a peanut, begin to flatten the pieces of butter in sheets between your palms.  Be careful not to over-work the butter or let it get too warm.

3.  Working with only a couple tablespoons at a time, add in about 6 to 8 tablespoons of the water along with the vinegar.  Stir together using a wooden spoon or even just a clean hand in the bowl.  The dough should appear fairly shaggy and not sticky.  Once you can squeeze a few pieces together and they hold, the dough is done being mixed.  Do not over-mix.

4.  Divide the dough into half and shape each piece into a disk.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, or overnight (preferably).

5. Once ready, bring one disc out of the refrigerator and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.  Liberally flour the work surface and begin to roll out the dough, working from the center out – rotating the dough after each roll.  Roll the dough until about ¼ inch thick and about 12 to 13 inches in diameter. 

6.  Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and transfer to a 8 or 9 inch pie tin.  Fit the dough into the bottom of the tin and up the sides, allowing for about an inch of overhang.  Trim with kitchen sheers and place back in the refrigerator.

7.  Meanwhile, make the pear filling (recipe to follow).
8.  For the lattice top, repeat step 5 Using a ruler and pastry wheel or sharp paring knife, cut dough into 1 to 2-inch wide strips. The centre strips should be slightly longer than the diameter of the pie pan. You’ll need about 6 to 10 strips to create the lattice top, depending on desired width and spacing in between.  Place the strips on a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator.

9.  Fill the chilled pie crust by layering in the pear slices fairly tightly, leaving the juices behind.  Top with about ¾ cup butterscotch sauce (recipe to follow).

10.  Weave the strips together to create a lattice pattern over the top of the butterscotch, trying not to get too much butterscotch on the top of the pie.  Fold the bottom layer of dough up and over the top of the lattice.  Pinch to seal.  Crimp the edges together using the tines of a fork and dock the crust to the pan.

12.  Return the pie back to refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

13.  Just before heading into the over, create an egg wash by whisking together a whole egg and a splash of milk.  Brush the egg wash over the entire top of the crust and sprinkle with turbinado sugar and salt flakes.

14.  Place pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.  If the top begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil.

15.  Allow the baked pie to completely cool before slicing and serving.

For a step-by-step lattice tutorial, check out my post on Food Network!

Pear Filling
1 medium apple, thinly sliced
5 to 6 medium pears, thinly sliced pears (about 4 to 5 cups of fruit total)
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

Peel and core the fruit. Add the lemon juice to a large bowl. Thinly slice the fruit into about 1/8-inch pieces and place them in the bowl. Toss with the lemon juice and granulated sugar. Add in the flour, cornstarch, vanilla bean seeds and a pinch of salt. Gently stir to coat. Set aside.


Butterscotch Sauce
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (save ½ for pie filling)
1 tablespoon scotch (optional)
½ teaspoon salt

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Stir in the sugars and continuously stir with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes, or until sugar melts and no longer looks like wet sand.

Remove the pan from the heat.  While whisking, carefully pour in the cream.  Lower the heat to low, and return the pan back to the stove.  Simmer and whisk continuously for 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and pour the butterscotch into a heat-safe container.  After it cools for about 10 minutes, stir in the vanilla, scotch, and salt.  Continue to cool until thickened.  Butterscotch may be made in advanced and stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  Gently re-heat so that it is fluid but not hot before use.