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Tarte amandine aux poires, the classic French almond-pear tart, is ubiquitous in Parisian pâtisseries. A shortbread-like crust is filled with almond cream, then topped with slices of poached pears. This cake is a nod to that tart, whose simple ingredients never cease to achieve quiet perfection.
The pears in this cake are the diminutive Seckels; firm, flavorful, and abundant this time of year. I poach them in a simple syrup of white wine and fresh cardamom pods, which add a floral undertone that mingles with the almond in the cake. Canned pears are frequently used in tarte amandine, and you can feel free to use them here, though the wine and cardamom flavors included in this recipe will be missing. Arrange the sliced pears in whatever manner suits you; the pears will look lovely however you do it.
The cake portion of this recipe is rich and buttery with a tight crumb that holds up well to the soft pear topping. Almond paste provides the base flavor, and a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest lends brightness.
Top this cake with a dusting of confectioners' sugar and freshly ground cardamom, or serve it with a spoonful of lightly sweetened whipped cream.