Rosh HaShana (the Jewish new year) is upon us. This has got to be one of my favorite times of the year. The air starts to cool, bringing a much-needed relief from the intense summer Israel hosts here every year…
And while the leaves don’t really turn here to showcase an impressive foliage like they do in other parts of the world, as the current Jewish-calendar year draws to a close, there is no doubt that the familiar smell of autumn is in the air.
I am a sucker for smells. Scents that I can’t name consciously take my subconscious on a wild ride to the past and back to the present in milliseconds. This can happen with nearly anything, catching me off-guard… But I have experienced this phenomenon the most with seasons. Seasons have an unmistakable smell. Four important Jewish holidays occur within the span of three weeks, the first of which is Rosh HaShana. My birthday, as I’ve mentioned before, also falls around this time.
So it makes sense that this time of year, a breeze will carry with it the smell of festive family gatherings, of cool evenings in my parents’ beautiful yard, of birthdays celebrated with friends, of summer vacations weaning away and the excitement of a new year approaching.
One of the traditional foods of Rosh HaShana is an apple dipped in honey. This year, I decided to play on that theme, but use a vegan alternative (date honey) and pears instead of apples. Something about the flavors of this cake is very autumn. The cake is completely gluten-free (if using GF oats) and is adapted from these cookies. It comes out quite moist. I borrowed the combination of pears and cardamom from Tartelette, who in my opinion is the queen of using interesting spices in desserts.
Juicy Upside-Down Cardamom-Pear Cake:
Estimated Time: 30 minutes prep + 50 minutes bake
Kosher Classification: Neutral
Music That Compliments This Dish:
1 cup rolled oats (NOT instant) *make sure they are GF if this is important to you*
1-2 Tbs. brown sugar (optional)
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1+1/2 cups dry red lentils.
1+3/4 cups pitted Medjool dates
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup milk of choice
1/4 cup water
2 Tbs. oil
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
4 large pears
1/3 cup date honey
1 cup dried cranberries
Rinse the lentils and place them in a pot. Cover with about 2 cm (1 inch) of water and cook them over medium heat until they turn soft and mushy. When they’re ready, cool them down quickly by placing them in a sieve and running cold water over them. Then squeeze out the excess fluids using your hand.
While your lentils are cooking, get the other things ready: Start by preheating your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, which are 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl and place all of the wet ingredients (except pears and date honey) in the bowl of your food processor.
Then slice the pears lengthwise into 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thin slices. Line a round spring-form pan with a baking sheet and arrange the pear slices in a pretty pattern on it (keeping in mind the bottom of the arrangement is going to be the side that shows). Then drizzle the pears with the date honey.
When the lentils are finished, add them as well as the dry ingredients to the food processor bowl and blend until you’re left with a smooth batter.
Scrape out into a bowl and stir in the cranberries.
Then pour on top of the pears layer and gently smooth the top.
Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. To serve, place the serving plate upside-down on top of the pan and turn them both over (be sure to hold them together tightly to avoid dropping your cake on the floor!), then release the cake and remove the pan and baking sheet.
- Rinse the lentils and cover with about 2 cm (1 inch) of water, then cook uncovered until soft (adding water as necessary).
- When the lentils are ready, cool them in a sieve under running water and then squeeze out excess liquid.
- Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
- Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
- Process wet ingredients (except pears and date honey) and dry ingredients in a food processor until smooth and uniform.
- Slice 5 large pears lengthwise into 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) slices, and arrange them on the bottom of a spring-form pan lined with a baking sheet.
- Drizzle 1/3 cup date honey on top of pears.
- Scrape the batter out into a bowl and stir in 1 cup dried cranberries.
- Pour the batter on top of the pears and gently smooth the top.
- Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Turn out upside down onto a serving plate