Monday 17 November 2014

All gone

We woke up on Sunday and looked out of the windows to find all the houses and trees gone. The parked cars, the pavements, gone. The church across the street gone, its moorish spires stolen by diaphanous djinns. The sky no more, sucked up into itself.

Outside our windows, the world was whipped cream. Thick, white. You could dip a finger in. Or, if like us you were walkers of a less sane mind, you could put your shoes on. At 7.40 am on a winter morning, you could put your shoes on.

You could walk through familiar streets as if for the first time; fog makes a first time of everything. It makes everything seem as secretive as half-told stories. Houses whisper, people in them sleep and dream strange dreams. Nothing stirs expect the hours.

We walked for a long time; I don't know how long. By the time we decided to head back home, the fog had begun to lift. Headlights passed. A tree appeared in autumn leaves like a girl in gold lamé returning home from her Saturday night. We could see the church now, its neon sign reminding people to be saved on Sundays. The djinns had returned its spires before the people at Sunday Mass noticed anything amiss. A man stood by the park in a clown costume drinking coffee.

When we climbed the stairs home, the world was returning, sharpening. There would be other fogs, other out-of-focus fairytales. For now, there was coffee as dark as the outside was white. And pear cake with cream. Thick, white.

Pear & Yoghurt Cake with Orange Sour Cream Icing

This is a throw-everything-in-a-bowl kind of cake, so the recipe that follows is unconventional. As in, it may seem suspiciously whimsical and simple for a cake, but hang in there. It will rise to the occasion. It's the best cake I've baked in a while, and certainly my favourite icing by far.


For the cake:
2 pears, not too soft, nor at its firmest; peeled
2 cups of plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain set yogurt (not Greek)
3/4 cup coarse brown sugar
2 heaped tbsps butter at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the icing:
600 ml sour cream (that's usually 2 small tubs)
1/2 - 3/4 cup white castor sugar (adjust to taste)
Grated zest of 1 small orange

First the icing:
Hang the sour cream in a clean cloth to strain the water out. This should take an hour.
In a bowl, add sour cream, sugar and half of your orange zest. Give it a good mix till smooth. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Keep aside.

Now the cake:
Pre-heat your oven to 170 degree C (350 degree F).
In a large, deep bowl sieve the flour and baking powder together. Throw in the sugar.
Crack two eggs in the middle. Add the butter. Pour in the oil and the vanilla essence.
Now, with your hands, or a wooden spoon, give it a mix in a nice clockwise motion.

Into this tight batter, add yogurt. Mix till it's a lovely smooth consistency.
Hold the pears above the bowl and with a knife scoop slivers of it into the cake batter. Let the juices drizzle in. Gently fold the pear into the batter.
Grease a medium (9-inch) cake tin with butter, and pour the batter in. Bake for about 40-45 minutes.

Cool completely. Then slather the icing on top, and sprinkle with remaining zest.
Refrigerate for about an hour before serving. Enjoy!


  1. Beautiful post, and gorgeous pics! You are so right - fog gives everyday scenes such a magical appearance. Your post reminds me of a beautiful day when we were returning to Bangalore from Ooty. The fog was thick, it was drizzling, the countryside was beautiful, the roads were winding. Everything was oh-so-magical. Luckily, we had an experienced driver who brought us back home safely - I am sure it would have been extremely difficult to navigate the twisty mountain roads in such climatic conditions. :)

    1. Ah, I remember the drive from Bangalore to Ooty very well indeed. And I can imagine it in the fog - nothing suits mountains better. Magical.
      Thank you for reminding me of those bendy roads - I have many lovely memories there.

  2. I am at a loss of words to describe what I loved the most, the post, the pics or the cake.. let me say all three ....magical...lovveeeee ur posts...keep them coming...
    take care

    1. Your note made me smile!
      And reminded me again why I love sharing my thoughts here.
      Thank you for that :)

  3. i am so much in awe of you, Pia! this post just took my breath away. from the rhythm of your words.. to the poetry in your images.. and finishing off with a flourish of your culinary skills.. satisfying both the soul and the flesh.. just amazing! much love.. xoxoxo

    1. Thank you, thank you.
      And it's so nice to get a note from you here, P :) I'm very touched.
      I love that you loved the post - I wanted to try and capture a bit of what I felt during the walk.
      Hugs! xx

  4. I never lived in a super cold place and now, here in India, it still feels like summer :) Those images you captured, the fog, the trees... it so so so beautiful!

    1. Thanks Kankana. It's so lovely to have you here, and to see your happy little boy on Instagram every now and then. I hope you've all settled down well. I miss the Bangalore weather, but I love the start of winter here too.

  5. It's actually very much like that here today. I have to say thought that if I saw a clown looming through the fog it would be petrifying! :D The cake sounds amazing! :) x

  6. That clown in the fog is super super creepy.

    1. Clowns are creepy at the best of times. The fog and empty park kicks it up a notch :)

  7. it looks like a lovely cake!

  8. I can imagine the taste in my mouth...
    I be been following your blog from a while now and enjoy everything you put in...the photos, reciepies that you share, everything....:)
    Can you please guide me with which fruit can I substitute pear n goes well with the same icing?

  9. Hi Pinal - it's nice to have you here.
    Apple is a good substitute for this cake, and pairs well with the sour cream icing.


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