I had a cake a bit like this one in Rome once and loved it but could never find a recipe. So I have been working on it ever since and this is the closest I have got so far and it looks pretty special too.
Pear Helene Torte
For the Sponge
70g roasted ground hazelnuts
70g icing sugar
2 medium eggs
3 medium egg whites
45g caster sugar
55g plain flour, sieved
20g cocoa powder, sieved
25g butter, melted
For the Pears
100g caster sugar
Seeds of ½ vanilla pod
500g pears, peeled and cut into 3cm cubes
10ml Pear Schnapps
For the Chocolate Mousse
120g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
3 egg yolks
30g caster sugar
1 ½ leafs of gelatine, soaked
225ml double cream, softly whipped
For the Vanilla Mousse
45ml whole milk
45ml double cream
Seeds of ½ vanilla pod
1 egg yolk, large
30g caster sugar
2 leafs of gelatine, soaked
140ml double cream, softly whipped
For the Glaze
1 leaf of gelatine, soaked
¼ tsp cinnamon
140ml pear poaching liquid
For the Decoration
2 small pears, cut into six wedges each and poached
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Base line with parchment paper two 20cm sandwich tins and grease the sides.
To make the sponge, in the bowl beat together the whole eggs, icing sugar and hazelnuts until thick and creamy. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the caster sugar until thick but not stiff. Sift together the flour and cocoa powder. Fold a third of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture then fold in the remaining egg whites. Working in thirds, gently fold the flour and cocoa powder into the egg mixture until well combined. Mix 1 tbsp of the cake mixture into the melted butter, then carefully fold the butter mixture into the cake batter.
Divide the mixture between the two tins, smoothing the tops, and bake for 8-12 minutes until firm to the touch. Turn the sponges out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
For the poached pears, place 200ml of water with the caster sugar and vanilla bean seeds into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the cubed pears and simmer until the pears are just tender. The timing for this will depend on the ripeness of the pears; so keep testing the pears with the point of a sharp knife. Add the Schnapps and set aside to cool.
For the chocolate mousse, melt the chocolate in a bowl over gently simmering water. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Beat the egg yolk and sugar together until pale and creamy. Heat a tablespoon of the gelatine soaking water and add the gelatine. Stir until completely dissolved and then beat into the eggs. Stir a third of the whipped cream into the cooled melted chocolate. Fold in the egg yolk mixture followed by the remaining double cream. Set aside.
Drain the pears, reserving the poaching liquor. Place the first chocolate sponge onto a serving plate inside a serving ring or the ring of a spring form and brush with a little of the liquor. Pour two thirds of the chocolate mousse onto the sponge and add the pears, pressing the pears lightly into the mousse. Add the remaining mousse and smooth the top. Place the second sponge on top and again brush with a little of the poaching liquor and refrigerate.
For the vanilla mousse, place the milk, cream and vanilla seeds into a saucepan and bring to a boil. In a bowl, mix the egg yolk with the sugar then pour the hot liquid onto the eggs and stir well. Return the mixture to the saucepan and, under low to medium heat, stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the squeezed out gelatine until dissolved. Leave to cool to room temperature, then fold in the thickened cream. Pour onto the top sponge and place into the fridge to set. This will take at least 1 hour.
For the glaze, measure out 140ml of the pear liquor. Heat 3 tbsp of the liquor to just below boiling and add the squeezed out gelatine. Stir until completely dissolved and mix into the remaining pear liquor. Measure out 35ml of the liquid and stir in the cinnamon. First pour the clear pear liquid onto the set vanilla mousse. Pipe the cinnamon liquid in swirls over the clear liquid and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Decorate with the poached pears.
Try and find the most flavoursome pears you can find. It really makes a lot of difference to the overall taste.