Slice ½ pear for decoration and cut the rest in small cubes. Cover with lemon juice to prevent from oxidising.
Roast the almonds, cool and grind finely. Slightly roast the flaked almonds for decoration to enhance the taste.
In a large bowl, mix the coconut sugar with the egg yolks and lemon zest. Use a hand mixer at low velocity to start, then increase to high and keep whisking until the volume almost doubles and the consistency becomes that of soft cream.
Add the milk and melted butter (cooled) and mix with a spoon.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and cacao powder together in a large bowl and incorporate one spoon at the time into the creamy mix.
Add the crushed almonds and the almond essence.
Separately, add a little salt to the egg whites and beat with the handheld mixer until stiff.
Add gradually to the creamy mix and incorporate slowly, using a spoon.
Add the cut pears and mix carefully not to crush the pears.
Preheat the oven to 170° C Fan/180° C regular oven/350° F/ Gas mark 4. Place paper parchment on a round baking tin (mine has 24 cm in diameter; it is OK to use a smaller one, but I would not recommend a larger one – your cake will be too flat.)
Empty the composition into the tray and spread it evenly without pressing down too much.
Sprinkle a layer of roasted almond flakes, then decorate with the pear slices. The pears' weight might sink them during baking, but I noticed that a thin layer of almond flakes underneath prevents this from happening.
Bake for 40 minutes and do the toothpick test to check that your chocolate, pear and almond cake is ready. If the toothpick comes out wet, you might need to bake for additional 5-10 minutes.
Transfer to a rack and wait until cool to sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Serve with coffee or a glass of Prosecco if the occasion is right.
You can store the pear and almond chocolate cake in the fridge for 2-3 days (cover with cling film) or in the freezer for up to three months. Preferably cut it in slices before freezing for easier defrosting.
Keyword Italian Dessert, pear and almond chocolate cake, valentine's dessert