When we arrived in our new home in Cheltenham last December, the garden was hibernating: the trees were bare and the borders were straggly and uninteresting. I didn’t spend much time out there because it looked cold and muddy and our son, who had only just started to walk, was still spending more of his time on his hands and knees than on his feet.

Even though we had viewed the house over the summer, I couldn’t remember at all what it had been like. I’m the first to admit that I’m no gardener and what had been important to me was that a) it was big enough to kick a football around in and b) (after having lived in a house for eight years with a gloomy north-east facing garden) it faced south.

So it has been a complete joy since the start of the spring to watch our new garden slowly re-awakening because we really have had no idea what to expect: one morning I pulled the curtains in my son’s bedroom to find the tree at the bottom covered in a billowing snowy duvet of blossom; on other days, I’ve been greeted with slashes of orange, hot pink and pale blue or the delicate aroma wafting from the rose tree.

We were aware that we had inherited three fruit trees, neatly espaliered against the fence, but we didn’t know what they were, until I discovered miniature pears and apples shortly after the blossom dropped. I’ve been carefully monitoring them ever since.

This cake has been made from the first pears that I harvested from our tree yesterday. The variations are endless though: chopped stem ginger or crushed walnuts would be a delicious addition to the pears; I also made one a couple of weeks ago using a medium cooking apple and 150g blackberries. The recipe is based upon one that my mum copied down from Jimmy Young’s Radio 2 show about 30 years ago. Originally it was made with apples and oats but I unfortunately can’t even eat gluten-free oats these days. I have used a rice and buckwheat porridge mix instead that I found at Sainsbury’s. If you can eat gluten-free oats, feel free to make it with them instead: the original recipe didn’t use milk but I found that I had to add it to the rice and buckwheat otherwise it was too dry and made a very crumbly cake.

Gluten-free pear cake

A beautifully moist cake with a crunchy crust. Perfect for afternoon tea with a cuppa or for dessert with cream.

100g gluten-free self-raising flour
100g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
200g gluten-free rice and buckwheat porridge flakes
200g butter, cubed
200g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
200ml milk
2 medium firm pears, peeled, quartered, cored and cut into 5mm slices

You will also need a 24cm x 20cm x 4cm rectangular cake tin, lined with baking parchment

Preheat the oven to 180C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly).

Sift the flours into a bowl and mix in the rice and buckwheat porridge flakes. Place the cubed butter and caster sugar in a solid-bottomed saucepan over a low heat and stir until melted. When it has reached a consistency and colour akin to lemon curd, take the pan off the heat. Quickly stir the flour and porridge into the butter and sugar mixture. When the flour is thoroughly combined, stir in the eggs and milk.

Pour half of the mixture into the cake tin and spread evenly over the base. Now place the pear slices in a single layer. Pour the remaining cake batter over the top and smooth the surface. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack before taking out of the tin. To remove the baking parchment, place a dinner plate over the top of the cake, so that it is sandwiched between the cooling rack and the plate and carefully invert. Remove the cooling rack and peel off the baking parchment. Replace the cooling rack and carefully invert once more.

Eat cut into slabs, with cream, custard, ice cream or as nature intended.

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