This pear cake is an elegant yet easy dessert. Red wine poached pears are nestled in a light cinnamon cake with crumb topping. This recipe will earn you all those ooh’s and ahh’s when you bring it out to your guests!

A slice of a cake that has a pear baked inside on  a white plate.

Surprise! There is a red wine poached pear hidden inside this cake!

Pear Cake with Crumb Topping

On the outside this cake looks like any other cake with a crumb topping. Imagine bringing it to your table of unassuming guests, and slicing into it revealing the hidden ruby colored fruit inside.

OOHH AND AHH they will say.

Especially after they taste it. The cake is light, moist, has a hint of cinnamon, and passed the mother in law test so you know its good.

How to Make This Surprise Pear Cake

The first step in making this cake is to poach the pears. The poaching liquid is a combination of semi sweet red wine, orange juice, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar.

I suggest using Anjou pears because they hold up nicely after being poached. Other kinds of pears like Bosc don’t hold up as well and may turn mushy.

How to Poach Pears

First combine all the poaching ingredients in a medium sized pot. It’s best to use a pot with tall sides so that the poaching liquid can surround the pears. Bring the red wine mixture to a boil first before you start peeling your pears otherwise they will turn brown before adding them.

3 peeled pears on a tray with parchment paper

When your poaching liquid is bubbling, start peeling the pears. Cut off the butt end of the pear so that it will stand still in the pot. You can leave the stem on, it adds a pretty touch to the cake!

Add the pears into the bubbling poaching liquid and bring the heat down to a simmer. Cover and let the pears poach for 10 minutes, then rotate the pears in the pot to make sure all sides get poached. Cook for another 10 minutes.

You can cook the pears standing up, or on their sides, just make sure that every side gets poached!

Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool. You can stick the pot in the fridge to let it cool down, or leave it at room temperature. This step can be done up to 2 days in advance too. The pears will absorb more of the poaching liquid the longer you leave them in!

Prepare the Cake Batter

You will need two medium sized mixing bowls. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and whisk lightly. Combine the wet ingredients into another bowl and whisk that lightly. Then add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until evenly combined.

Line or spray a loaf pan with baking spray. Take the poached pears out of the liquid and pat them dry. Line them up in the baking pan and evenly pour the batter into the pan.

3 poached pears in a loaf pan covered in cake batter

It’s easier to pour the batter in alternatively on the sides so you that the pears don’t move around in the loaf pan. You want to keep them in the middle. It’s ok if the stems or a little bit of the top of the pear stick out.

Bang or shake the pan lightly so that the batter is evenly displaced.

Prepare the Crumb Topping

In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients with the butter or butter substitute. Pinch the mixture together with your fingers until the mixture resembles sand. It’s ok to have larger chunks of butter not mixed in.

cinnamon topped pear cake in a tin sittng on cheesecloth on top of a wooden cutting board.

Sprinkle the crumb topping on top of the cake (the more the merrier in my opinion) and then bake!

How to Slice This Pear Cake

Make sure that the cake has cooled down. It won’t slice nicely if it is still hot, and you want that pretty slice of pear in each cake slice! Using a sharp knife in a back and forth motion slice the cake. Don’t just cut straight down, the slice won’t cut nicely!

The inside look of a pear baked inside a cake.

How to Store

If you are making it in the morning and serving it either that night or the next day, you can leave it on the counter. Store it in an airtight container or wrap the top of it in the loaf pan real well with tin foil.

If you are making it a couple days in advance (up to 2 days) store it in the fridge. Sometimes cakes with fruit are best stored in the fridge to retain their freshness.

I do not suggest freezing! This cake is best made fresh.

A slice of a cake that has a pear baked inside on a white plate.

If you want to make it easier and do some steps ahead, make the poached pears and leave them in the fridge until you are ready to bake the cake.

Then when you’re ready to serve put on your poker face and get excited for the surprise!

For more easy yet impressive desserts try these:

A slice of a cake that has a pear baked inside on a white plate.
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Pear Cake with Crumb Topping

This pear cake is an elegant but easy dessert. Red wine poached pears are nestled in a light cinnamon cake with crumb topping.


For the poached pears

  • 750 mL bottle semi sweet red wine, 1 bottle
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, sub 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 3-4 Anjou Pears, small

For the cake

  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1 1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 eggs, large
  • 3/4 cup sour cream, or dairy free sour cream
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup whole, rice, or soy milk

For the crumb topping

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ -½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup butter, cold, diced small


Prepare the pears:

  • In a medium pot with tall sides over medium heat, combine wine, orange juice, water, vanilla, cinnamon sticks, and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and bring to a boil. 
  • Start peeling the pears only when the poaching liquid is boiling. Peel the pears and slice off a little bit of the bottom so that they will stand up straight in the loaf pan. 
  • Place the pears inside the pot (either standing or on their side) and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, then rotate the pears and cook 10 minutes more. Place in fridge to cool down fast. You can leave the pears in the poaching liquid for up to 2 days. 
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F and prepare the cake batter. 
  • In a medium sized bowl combine the 1 ½ cup flour, ¾ cup sugar, 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon salt. Whisk to combine.
  • In another bowl combine the 2 eggs, ¾ cup sour cream, ⅓ cup oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and ½ cup milk. Whisk to combine.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until evenly combined.
  • Spray or line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Remove the cooled pears from the poaching liquid and pat dry with a paper towel. Place the pears in a row in the middle of the loaf pan standing straight up.
  • Pour the batter in from the sides alternating between the two. The pears might try to slip around but just move them back into the middle. Shake or tap the loaf pan gently to make sure the batter is evenly dispersed.

Prepare the crumb topping.

  • In a small bowl combine ½ cup flour, ¼ cup brown sugar, ⅛ cup granulated sugar,½ teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ cup chopped butter. Pinch the mixture with your fingers to create coarse crumbs kind of like the texture of wet sand. It’s ok if there are larger pieces. Sprinkle over the cake and bake for 30-35 minutes. The cake is done when the edges start to pull off from the sides and the top is golden brown.


You can make this cake dairy free by using butter and milk substitutes.
You can discard the poaching liquid or reduce it into a syrup by bringing it to a boil then reducing it to a simmer until it reduces by half, about 15 minutes. 
Serving: 1g, Calories: 619kcal, Carbohydrates: 82g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Cholesterol: 124mg, Sodium: 306mg, Potassium: 352mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 51g, Vitamin A: 516IU, Vitamin C: 15mg, Calcium: 122mg, Iron: 3mg
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