Brown Butter–Polenta Cake with Wine-Poached Pears

Tony Esnault

Patina - Los Angeles

Rich and nutty brown butter flavors this rustic cake from Tony Esnault.


  • Poached Pears:
  • 3 cups (about one 750-milliliter bottle) white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sprigs tarragon
  • 5 Bartlett pears, peeled and cored
  • Brown Butter–Polenta Cake:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 7 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon


To make the poached pears, bring the white wine, water, and sugar to a boil in a medium pot. Add the tarragon and peeled pears. Cover, leaving a small vent, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the pears very slowly, until slightly tender but still firm, about 30 minutes. Let the pears cool in the liquid. Refrigerate them in the liquid until ready to serve.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8 x 13-inch cake pan. Melt the butter in a pan over low heat. Continue cooking the butter until it turns golden in color and brown flecks form on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes total. Scrape the brown butter into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Sift the powdered sugar and cake flour together into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the almond flour and polenta. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt to stiff peaks. Adding about 1 1/2 cups at a time, gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites to form a cake batter. Mix a quarter of the batter with the reserved brown butter; stir in the lemon zest. Fold the brown butter mixture into the rest of the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and use a spatula to spread it out evenly. Bake until golden brown and a knife comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

To serve, slice the pears and cut the cake into individual servings. Top each piece of cake with pear slices.


One 8 x 13-inch cake