White Chocolate Cardamom Cake with Poached Pears

A fragrant + decadent repeat recipe that I’ll keep whipping up for extra-special guests.

Jump to Recipe
Season: Fall, Winter
Dosha: Pitta, Vata

This weekend, I went diving deeply into my recipe archives to pull out something special; a cake to surprise and delight some special house guests.

This White Chocolate Cardamom Cake w/Whole Pears was just the thing.

I originally posted the recipe on this site in January of 2014. Freshly retired from professional endurance racing, we had recently moved the Bay Area to Portland and were in limbo about the next chapter. I was learning to make a stand for myself, learning to slow down…for the first time.

Laughing out loud, tears came to my eyes as I remembered that period of life; glorious and freeing, petrifying and terse all at the same time.

I loved reading that slightly younger me was exploring the unknown by baking herself a cake because the Slightly-Older me was looking for a cake to bake for such a purpose.

Despite the uncertainty I wrote about in this post, I know now that a cake (like this Cardamom Cake w/Whole Pears + White Chocolate) is sometimes just what I need to feel grounded and well-cared for. Buttery, rich, deep with flavor and with a scent that’s undeniable comfort.

The post (and the Cardamom Cake) reminded me that life is both linear and completely non-linear. The places we’ve been are leading to the places we’re going – for certain. But it certainly doesn’t mean that our paths may not backtrack, that we won’t find ourselves in the same woods over and over again.

But, it is true that at some point we find our way out of them. Sometimes, with a Cardamom Cake w/Whole Pears + White Chocolate in our hands. And also that though things may change around us, our little hearts often remain the same.

My heart – clearly – still in love with making a cake as fragrant + decadent as this one.

The idea for this recipe came originally from this book of Yvette Van Boven’s and was printed with permission from Yvette’s team of colleagues at Abrams Books (thank you!) It was one of just a handful of books I had with me as we were in our transition and all of our belongings were in storage, every other page marked with a cheery purple “to-cook” flag, occasionally receiving a dusting of flour from flurries of kitchen passion. I’ve made a few adaptations to this version, that suit the Older Me.

I so enjoyed the words of Younger Me, I’ve left an excerpt of the original post below.

I’ve learned a lot about breaking the mold this winter. My own mold, especially.

Prior to October, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the last time I allowed a whole day to slip away while I was reading on the couch in my jammies. Or a morning that had unfolded without color-coded lists being carefully organized; a night without a pre-hatched plan for dinner; when the laundry wasn’t folded straight from the dryer and I’d had a great nights rest more than two nights in a row. I couldn’t have told you the last time when – annoyingly enough – something (these things + more) didn’t come easily to me. And, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to tell you that I had woken before the sun, forgoing a swim or trail run (my strict morning routine,) to bake a rich, fragrant, delicious cake, filling the house with sweet warmth instead of adrenaline.

This cake wasn’t an accident or an obligation; it just felt like the thing to do. When you’ve jam-packed your life and comprised your identity with tasks and obligations, you must let something go before you can bring anything else in. Like substituting cake for sweat on a winter’s morning.

I hope that this cake feels like “just the right thing to do,” for you – too. Especially with the holidays upon us. And I hope that this cake; its scent, and everything it stands for – a deep comfort from within – fill your kitchen with what you need this time of year. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

  • Wine-O: A favorite red or rosé wine is best for this recipe.
  • On pears: I used firm Bosc pears here, but you could use small, very firm Bartletts or red Bartletts as well. I like to poach the pears in red or rosé wine instead of white wine…but you could also use what you have on hand.
  • For the poaching spices: I stick to cinnamon, clove, star anise, and black cardamom. If you don’t have one of these you could add in other mulling spices, or increase or decrease quantities as you wish.
  • A bit about butter: I know there seems to be a lot of butter here (especially in comparison to other recipes) but remember that this is a cake perfect for a special occasion. Slice it thinly, share it around. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that you don’t skimp – and in fact, I really like to use cultured butter (but unsalted butter will do just fine.)
  • Equipment: I used a 9×5″ loaf pan for this recipe, remember to slice thinly for perfectly satisfying slices.
  • Storage: This cake will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator, but is best enjoyed the day of baking!


Flavor Notes

Flavors are FUN, yes, but they also are the mechanisms by which our bodies nourish themselves. Flavors basically tell our bodies what the food is giving us – on a nutritional and energetic level. Our bodies then prepare enzymes to break those components down, assimilate them, and turn them into fuel for our vibrant lives. We can’t eat just one flavor and get all of the things we need, so learning to track the flavors in our foods helps us to be sure that we’re really getting all of the things we need in our meals. This particular recipe has four of six flavors. The more flavors we can enjoy in any meal or food, the happier and more balanced our bodies will be. If you’re wanting to learn more about how the flavors we eat fuel our bodies – energetically and nutritively, check out this little blog post.

  • SWEET: pears, wine, cardamom, cultured butter, white chocolate, vanilla
  • SALTY: sea salt
  • SOUR: N/A
  • ASTRINGENT: cinnamon
  • PUNGENT: cloves, star anise, cardamom

White Chocolate Cardamom Cake with Poached Pears

A fragrant + decadent repeat recipe that I'll keep whipping up for extra-special guests.

makes one 9x5" cake // about 10 thin slices


Active Time: 2 hours


Serves: slices


for the poached pears:

  • 3 medium firm pears (whole, with stems left on)
  • 1 (750ml) bottle natural red
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 pods star anise
  • 8 pods black cardamom
  • 2 sticks cinnamon

for the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups cultured butter (softened)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 generous Tbsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp fine grain sea salt

for the white chocolate drizzle:

  • 3 oz white chocolate (chopped)
  • 1 whole bean vanilla (split, scraped + pod discarded)


  • 1Poach the pears

    *For best results, poach pears the night before you make the cake to allow them to cool completely*

    In a large saucepan, combine the pears, wine, sugar, cloves, star anise, cardamom pods, cinnamon and poach for 30 minutes over low heat – until the pears are easily pierced with the tip of a knife.

    Take the pears out of the cooking liquid and allow to cool completely. Add 2 1/2 cups water to the poaching liquid and boil to reduce the liquid by half. Allow to cool completely and set aside.

  • 2Prepare equipment

    Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees.

    Generously grease a 9×5″ loaf pan with butter, and line with a sling of parchment paper. Set aside.

  • 3Make the cake

    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer,) blend together the butter and sugar until light and creamy – this will take roughly 7 minutes and the mixture will literally look like a cloud of butter! Next, beat in the eggs one by one. Don’t add a new egg until the previous one is incorporated completely.

    Sift the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt over the batter and mix to just combine.

    Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Press the cooled pears in, stem end up. Bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    Allow the cake to cool in the pan, then use the parchment sling to transfer the cake to a cooling rack to cool completely.

  • 4Melt chocolate + serve

    In a small, heatproof bowl, add the scraped vanilla bean seeds to the white chocolate. Very carefully, melt the white chocolate. To do this, set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (making sure that the bowl does NOT touch the water!) Stir the chocolate in the bowl until its melted completely, then, using a spoon, drizzle the chocolate over the cake.

    Allow the chocolate to set completely, then serve in slices with the reserved poaching liquid, slightly warmed like syrup.

Get more from this recipe!