Al Di La’s Chocolate and Pear Cake

There are people in this world who can read the same book over and over again. That’s hard for me because I view my time on this earth much like Dorothy views the red sand in the Wicked Witch’s hourglass, constantly sifting downward until there’s nothing left. I almost never read the same book twice (though I did recently re-read Cooking For Mr. Latte but that’s only because I’d just finished reading We Need To Talk About Kevin and, after that, I needed something that made the world not seem like a festering black hole of misery and despair; though I do recommend that book, I do).

Anyway, I’m saying all this because I have a similar attitude about desserts. Almond Cake notwithstanding, why make the same dessert again and again when there are so many desserts out there for you to try? In case you haven’t noticed, I make a different dessert for almost every dinner party. Well, did. See everything’s changed now because I just discovered the recipe for Al Di La’s Chocolate and Pear Cake on Smitten Kitchen and it may be my new favorite go-to fall dessert. I’ve already made it twice.

What’s so good about it? Well having eaten the cake at Al Di La back when I lived in Park Slope (you can even see a picture of a slice of that cake that I ate with Diana in 2006!) it’s just a surprising combination. Chocolate and pears? Well, yes. They go wonderfully together. Once you accept that, the cake itself is a cinch.


That’s a springform pan buttered and coated with breadcrumbs. Yes, breadcrumbs. That’s a thing I’ve been doing a lot lately, like that time I made Gina DePalma’s ricotta cheesecake. Now you do two things: you brown a stick of butter.



And you whip some eggs until they’re thick:


You add sugar to the eggs, they deflate a bit, then you add a flour mixture and the brown butter back and forth–alternating–until you have a cake batter. A brown butter cake batter that tastes delicious.


To that you add cubed pears and chopped up chocolate in big chunks. Check it out:


I love that image because that’s what this cake is all about: that strange, surprising, and very fall-like combination of chocolate and pears.

Into the oven that goes and about 40 to 50 minutes later it comes out looking like this:


Let it cool for about 10 minutes, unlatch the sides and then let it cool completely before transferring it to a cake stand that’s also a punchbowl. Dust with lots of powdered sugar before serving.


I just served it like that though, of course, you could add a dollop of whipped cream or some ice cream. It’s a perfect fall dessert and despite my conviction that our time on this earth is fleeting, it’s one I’ll be making again and again until the red sand in my own personal hourglass is gone.

Recipe: Al Di La’s Chocolate and Pear Cake

Summary: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.


  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (unseasoned please!)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 pears, peeled, diced (I used Bosc)
  • 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks (I used a bar of Ghiardelli 70% bittersweet)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and then coat with the breadcrumbs, hitting any excess out into the sink.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  3. Using your KitchenAid mixer, whip the eggs with the whisk attachment until very pale and thick. (You can use handheld beaters here too.)
  4. While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Add the stick to a pot, turn the heat up to medium and let it melt; then turn the heat higher and let it get toasty brown. Take it as far as you can go without burning it; when it’s just there, take it off the heat. (Keep in mind it’ll continue to brown after you remove it from the heat, so take it two steps from the edge.)
  5. Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more. When the eggs start to lose volume, turn the mixer down to low and add the flour mixture and brown butter back and forth, starting and ending with the flour (I went: flour, butter, flour, the rest of the butter, flour). Use a rubber spatula to do one final mix and then pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  6. Combine the pear and chocolate in a bowl so they’re nicely mixed and then sprinkle over the cake batter. Bake the cake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool and then remove the sides. Dust with lots of powdered sugar and serve plain or with whipped cream or ice cream, if you like.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

29 thoughts on “Al Di La’s Chocolate and Pear Cake”

  1. Simultaneously laughing/gagging at the thought of someone using seasoned breadcrumbs in this recipe. And pinning this right now to make soon – I need more browned butter in my life!

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      Elbow grease and a whisk could work…but we’re talking serious elbow grease. Those eggs need to be thick.

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      I wouldn’t, I think the texture would be too crunchy. Using normal plain breadcrumbs, they blend seamlessly into the cake. (In a pinch, you can do what Deb did and just use flour.)

    1. just have a look at the indian medicine too; in ayurveda ghee is very important, but they take care not to heat it over 212F while preparing (the clarified butter)..

  2. LOVE Al Di La. I have very fond memories of eating there when I lived in Brooklyn. Will have to give this cake a try.

  3. Hola desde España no entiendo del todo la receta pues leo algo de inglés, pero no lo escribo. Me gusta tu pastel de pera y virutas de chocolate, sería posible que me mandarás la receta en español? Y también decirme la temperatura del horno pues no se sí son en grados españoles o Fahrenheit? Saludos y un abrazo. Gracias

  4. This looks amazing, but what I really want to comment on is ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’. Back in 2011, when my daughter was a couple of months old, I found out that the movie theater nearby had special matinees where you could bring your small child along (called ‘crybaby matinees’ or something similarly infant-oriented). I was excited and all set to go, until I realized that the movie to be shown was, in fact, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin.’ To this day, I don’t know if it was a deliberate choice or merely bad planning on the part of the theater.

  5. 看起来好像很好吃,有时间得试试看。或者把梨子改成苹果会不会更好味道呢,有哪位试过吗?

      1. Thanks Adam! Cake came out delicious but I also seemed to have some trouble with the height. Seemed a little low. I had eggs at room temp, sifted ingredients and used an oven thermometer. Any ideas? Maybe I need to replace my baking powder? Whisked eggs too long or not enough? Position in oven? Type of cake tin?

        1. We are eating this now. We could all eat more but we won’t, only 3 of us here. Love the flavor combo,very delicious indeed! Thank you.

  6. what could be strange by team pears and chocolate? very common in france, switzerland and so on; exotic in america?

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