Monday, November 08, 2010

Swedish Pear and Almond Cake

Hello, lovely Bakers. This week's cake is of my favorite variety: the sour cream bundt. I had no idea, before joining the Heavenly Cake Bakers, just how much I love a sour cream bundt. This one, with fresh pear and almond cream, is moist, delicious, and richly satisfying.

Swedish Pear and Almond Cake

October 17, 2010
Name of cake: Sour Cream Bundt! (with pears and almond cream)
Occasion: HCB, and Raiuchka is in town!
Constituents: sour cream bundt with pears and almond cream (do i hear an echo?)

A couple of weeks ago Raiuchka came down to visit for the weekend. Our plan: Raiuchka would teach me some of our favorite Russian dishes, and we would bake a cake together. Also, we would explore some of the Russian markets around town (looking for the best Black Bread), reminisce about our time in Simferopol, and try to drink vodka like we used to. (Guess which one we failed at. Here's a hint: 37 year old livers aren't as spry as they were at 20. In our defense, potato vodka is strong assed shit.)

It was hard, at least for me, to pick a favorite Russian grocery, as each one had something I liked but none had all the things I liked. The nearest store to me, luckily, has the closest thing to black bread I have found so far, plus our favorite cheese from our days in Simferopol. It is called Rossisski--translates as russian cheese, and it is similar to havarti.

raiuchka took this shot while we were having tea at one of our professor's apartment.  i stole it from her flickr feed :)

The black bread we ate in Simferopol, after standing in the proverbial bread lines--but it was more like bread crowds--had a crackly crisp crust, a dark and dense interior with a sour tang. The loaves were always round, and there was never enough. We were in Simferopol in 1994, only three years after the the collapse of communism, and all of Ukraine was in hard times. There was nothing on the shelves of what was once a government store, just the bread behind the counter that people were fighting to buy. Ukraine didn't have any money to buy fuel from Russia, so the buses barely ran and when they did, people fought to get the very last spot on the steps, often running each other over or even forcibly pushing the crowd deeper into the bus, like you would force more clothes into your dresser drawer. Many people didn't have running water or electricity, or if they had running water it never was hot. The kids my age in their early twenties didn't have much of a future, as there were no jobs. The professors at the University hadn't been paid in six months, but they showed up and did their jobs anyway, because as they would say, "what else is there to be done?" Times were very uncertain, and almost everyone was scared. They would say to us, "we have it hard, and we've had it hard in the past. But one thing about us, we endure." They would say it with pride, thumping the table, and we would top it off with another shot of room temperature vodka. Oof, warm vodka.

Swedish Pear and Almond Cake

Life was hard but we still had a great time. The people can be very gruff and indeed, run you down to get on the bus, but once you stop being a stranger and they know who you are, they will invite you into their home, share what they have, drink long and deep with you, and pretty much bend over backwards for you if need be.

Swedish Pear and Almond Cake

Anyway, back to present day life in Portland, Oregon. Actually, back to a couple of weeks ago when Raiuchka was visiting and we baked the Swedish Pear and Almond Cake. We spent all day Saturday cooking Russian, so we baked the cake on Sunday, while still in our pjs, a little hungover and yet buzzing from all that black tea.

chai c raiuchke

It is a simple and basic sour cream bundt cake, with the fun trick of adding a layer of almond cream and fresh pears to the top of the cake which will sink to the bottom by the end of the bake. That is good baking magic, and delicious to boot. I would have preferred to use at least partly almond extract instead of just vanilla for the cake, as the delicious almond flavor stayed pretty much in the cream at the top of the cake.

Swedish Pear and Almond Cake

We ate this cake while playing Durak, which is a very addictive card game. We played it A LOT during our stay in Simferopol. It can be played in teams or as individuals, and is better when there are more than two people playing. I find it fascinating that there is no winner to durak, only a loser. In our own games, there is a clear winner and it is the winner who is singled out (and everybody else are the losers). In Durak, there is a clear loser and it is the loser who is singled out (and everybody else are the non-losers).

Swedish Pear and Almond Cake

By the way, the cake was delicious, in all the ways a sour cream bundt is delicious: rich, dense, moist, soft, simple and unassuming yet full of flavor and deeply satisfying. I think in the sour cream bundt category the marble velvet is still the winner, but this is certainly a non-loser.

a couple of non losers
a couple of durischkas


  1. up the russkies! I too, love a sour cream bundt more than almost any other cake.

  2. Great post! I'm very intrigued by the idea of a card game where there is only a loser and non-losers. This sounds very un-American.
    I love this cake too.

  3. Great post! It's so hard to comprehend the difficulties people endure. I love your cake pan. I have that exact Brown Betty teapot only with an upside down glass bowl for the lid as I've broken every Brown Betty teapot lid in the house.

  4. I love your cake pan!!! Beautiful Job!!

  5. What a phenomenal time to visit that part of the wordl! Your time in Simferopol sounds like a life-changing experience. My husband's family on both sides is from Russia (Ukraine and Belarus), but the older relatives didn't talk about the old country or the past to his parents' generation at all (unlike my family) and I think it would great for us to visit where his ancestors are from.

  6. Your cake looks excellent. I am liking all these sour cream, almond cream pear cakes. They would be perfect for a crisp autumn tea party!

    HELLO to Rauichka! Nice to see a picture of you. glad you gals got to relive the bread line and good times.

  7. ECL--what a great post! I loved your bit of history in there too. And you and Rauichka are as adorable now as you were back then!!

    Love you and miss you and all of your wonderful treats and visits!


  8. Oh, that was such an awesome weekend! Kind of amazing how spending time with an old friend can make you feel like yourself again. Thanks again! *big hug*

    The potato vodka was truly terrible. But the sour cream pear bundt cake was totally delish!

    I think we were really lucky to get to go to Simferopol when we did. It was a very interesting point in history! (Even if we did have to kumbaya to "Winds of Change"... ;-)

    Joelfre, you're so sweet!

  9. Melinda, hello to you! :-)

  10. Seriously having pan envy here... love it! I need to buy and hide!

  11. ב''ה

    Beautiful china! I also spent a few years chugging potato vodka (in Israel) and I also have an old friend from Simferopol who I have not seen in years. Very touching post.

    Your cake also looks great!

  12. What a nice post. So glad you included a photo of yourselves.


  13. Katya, sour cream bundts have so much going for them, don't they?

    Marie, when we all get together for our Heavenly Cake Bake-Off, I will happily teach you how to succeed at not losing. Potato vodka optional.

    Vicki, I love my Brown Betty teapot, and would resort to using a bowl for a lid just so I could keep using it.

    Maja, thanks!

    Rachelino, yes, we were lucky to be there when we did. Although, I kind of wish we could have been there when it was still Soviet. It's the history major in me. I think you and your husband should go visit the old country!

    Melinda, are you going to be making one of these, ow that you've tried Marie-Helene's Apple Cake? You could easily substitute apple for pear, and you did mention you have more apples to go through. Nudge, nudge :)

    J-Dog, thanks my friend. I miss you tons, come for a visit!

  14. raiuchka, i am so glad you made the trip down, for reasons that extend beyond the delicious kubite. i can't believe you are bringing up winds of change again!! damn those germans!

    Monica, I would happily send you my stupid pan as soon as I can get my hands on a Heritage pan! Or even a plain old basic bundt pan.

    Mendy, thanks! Oh man, potato vodka. I don't think we normally frank potato vodka in Simferopol, but who knows what we were drinking. What a small world to both have connections to Simferopol!

    ButerYum, thanks! I think it helps to prove every now and then that not all my friends are imaginary.

  15. Lovely sharing. Hmmm your cake looks marvelous and the pan just beautiful.

  16. I'm in love with your pan!! And that first photo of the cake, looks heavenly!

  17. What a fun post! I want your bundt pan. We loved this cake too - simple and delicious!

  18. What a wonderful post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and all your lovely photos. Your sour cream bundt is beautiful and I am having serious bundt pan envy. Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment!

  19. BSA, thank you!

    faithy, thanks! i wish i liked my pan as much as you all do.

    lola, i think it is unanimous--we all love this cake!

    elaine, thanks!