Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

This cake is so simple and yet so good: Medlar Cream Cake

If you’re looking for a simple cake to serve guests, try this medlar cream cake.

What’s a medlar? The fruit of the medlar tree, Mespilus germanica, tastes like lightly spiced apple butter scooped soft right out of the russeted skin.

The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in California has a small but significant collection of these rare trees, which have been cultivated for over 3,000 years in Central and Northern Europe. They are one of the few fruits that ripen in cold winter conditions—a welcome Medlar treat for seasonal eaters during an otherwise fruit-scarce time.

Medlars, like Haichya persimmons, serviceberries, and some pears, must be bletted, meaning they must be chilled and overripened to render their otherwise astringent fruit soft and palatable. The first frost triggers or accelerates the bletting process by breaking down cell walls to release sugars and begin a mild fermentation. In modern times, pears and other fruits requiring bletting often have it done artificially for better control through refrigeration.

Below is the OAEC recipe for medlar cream cake, which you can find in The Occidental Arts and Ecology Cookbook.

This cake is so simple and yet so good— crunchy crust forms while the medlar pastry cream filling bakes into the center of the cake. Don’t worry if you have never seen or heard of a medlar! They are extremely rare and never sold at markets, but you might just have a neighbor that grows this long-forgotten fruit. You can make this cake without the medlar and still will have your guests oohing and aahing. For a gathering of 30 to 40, make two 12-inch cakes.

Serves 16

Makes one 12-inch round cake

Medlar Pastry Cream

13⁄4 cups whole milk

1⁄3 cup sugar, divided

3 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons butter

3⁄4 cup medlar fruit, de-seeded through a sieve, or substitute dark apple or pear butter


2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

21⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup medlar pastry cream or regular pastry cream

To prepare the medlar: Gather about a quart of bletted fruit. Medlar fruit is ripe when completely soft and squishy. We let the medlar blet or ripen on the tree, but you can harvest while firm and ripen in a cool room or fridge. The consistency is like pudding with a cluster of seeds. To get just the flesh with no seeds, push all the interior contents through a medium-sized sieve until you have 3⁄4 cup.

Place the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with half of the sugar. Heat on medium just until it starts steaming. While the milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks in a metal bowl with the other half of the sugar and the cornstarch. When the milk is hot, remove from the heat and whisk a little at a time into the yolk mixture, until you have added all the milk. Pour back into the saucepan. Turn the heat back to low and stir constantly with a spatula. Watch for the pastry cream to thicken to the point that your stirring spatula will leave an opening to the bottom of the pot and the mixture is thick like a pudding—this will happen fast! Remove from the heat immediately. Stir in the butter until smooth. If you are using the medlar fruit, then add this now by folding into the pastry cream. Set aside in the refrigerator. This can be made up to 2 days in advance, stored in the fridge.

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Before beginning, it is very important to be sure that all your ingredients are soft and warm. Ideally, even the temperature in your kitchen should be warm to ensure a soft batter! Prepare a 12-inch cake pan with a parchment circle for the bottom and a thin layer of butter for the sides.

Cream the soft butter with the sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment for a few minutes until the mixture is free of lumps and soft and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl down after all the eggs have been added. Add the vanilla extract and mix to incorporate. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a separate bowl with a sieve. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture without overmixing.

Spoon the cake batter into a large tipless pastry bag. Pipe half of the batter in a tight spiral into the bottom of the pan. Pipe an extra ring around the inside edge of the pan, building up the sides slightly to create a well in the center that will prevent the filling from seeping out to the edge. Spread the medlar pastry cream evenly in this well using a small spatula or knife. Pipe the remaining cake batter in a spiral on top, sandwiching the pastry cream in the center. Use your spatula to move the cake batter over the top, covering the filling as much as possible. It’s okay if a bit of the filling shows through; when it heats in the oven it will spread out more.

Bake for 1 to 11⁄2 hours. Check the cake at 1 hour; if it needs more time, let it continue baking for up to another half hour. It should spring back lightly in the center when it is done. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before unmolding. Dust the top with powdered sugar, then slice and enjoy.



Books to Curl up with this Winter!

William Wordsworth was right when he said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Nevertheless, the cold, dark days of winter can still get the best of even Nature’s most tenderhearted admirer. What’s one to do? We here at Chelsea Green have concocted the perfect cabin fever remedy with our suggested winter reading […] Read More

3 Steps to Start Your Plants Off Right

How you handle your seeds and your practices around seeding is your first chance to get your plants off to a good start and help them achieve their full potential. Ben and Penny Hewitt, authors of The Nourishing Homestead, have developed a three-step process which starts with inoculating the seeds, then sowing them in high-quality […] Read More

Pass the Walnut Syrup?

Everyone knows and loves maple syrup, and in some states (like Chelsea Green’s home state of Vermont), it’s big business. However, it’s a widespread myth that maples are the only trees that can be tapped to produce sap, according to Michael Farrell, sugarmaker and director of Cornell University’s Uihlein Forest. Sap can also be collected […] Read More

Recipe: Winter Root Veggie Potpie

If you have a winter CSA share, then you’re probably poking around for some new ways to use up those winter root veggies. Straight from his cookbook Black Trumpet, Chef Evan Mallett suggests this Winter Root Veggie Potpie. And, we couldn’t agree more. This recipe is just a small selection of the more than 250 […] Read More

Grow a Year-Round Indoor Salad Garden, even in winter

Just because the temperatures have started to drop doesn’t mean you have to live without fresh greens until Spring. As the weather gets colder and seasonal produce only means root vegetables, we begin to dream about fresh greens and colorful salads. Without a greenhouse or expensive equipment, it’s hard to imagine a reality in which […] Read More