This pear bread is a moist, spice-infused tea bread that is filled with bites of tender pear and studded with crunchy walnuts. Perfect for a tea party or dessert. We may have even indulged in it at breakfast.
This spice-infused tea bread comes from the kitchen of Mrs. Cornelia Walker Bailey, historian, muse, and guardian angel of Sapelo Island, off the Georgia coast. Mrs. Bailey’s family has lived on Sapelo Island since the year 1806, and her life’s work is keeping their stories and wisdom alive and well. She works through words, telling stories, writing books, and sharing recipes for the food that has fed her ancestors for more than 200 years.
This easy pear bread recipe comes from The Foods of Georgia’s Barrier Islands: A Gourmet Food Guide to Native American, Geechee and European Influences on the Golden Isles, a book she wrote with Yvonne J. Grovner and William “Doc Bill” Thomas.–Nancie McDermott
Pear Bread FAQs
What are the best pears for cooking?
Look for crisp pears that will hold up while cooking. Your best bet is going to be one of the most popular options – the Bosc. Another choice that you’ll likely be able to find are Anjou pears. Steer clear of the softer Bartletts.
How can I tell when a crisp pear is ripe?
Pears like Bosc and Anjou are ripe when there’s some very slight give in the neck of the pear (near the stem) when you apply a bit of pressure. If these types of pears are soft, they are overripe.
Can this bread be made gluten-free?
Absolutely. Substitute your favorite gluten-free flour 1:1 for the all-purpose flour in the recipe.
Can you substitute a different type of fruit for the pears?
You could easily swap apples or Asian pears for the pears. Avoid very juicy berries or stone fruit as they will yield too much liquid.
Can you freeze pear bread?
Yes. After baking, cool the loaves completely, then wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months.
For the pear bread
- 3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for the pan(s)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, or 3/4 cup vegetable oil plus more for the pan(s)
- 3 large eggs lightly beaten
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups peeled and finely grated ripe but firm pears
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Confectioners’ sugar (optional)
For the buttermilk glaze
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (either low-fat or full-fat)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch or all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the pear bread
- Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan or two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the flour mixture, dump it in a small bowl, and toss in the chopped walnuts.
- In a medium bowl, combine the butter or oil, eggs, granulated sugar, grated pear, nuts, and vanilla, and stir to mix everything well. Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened.
- Quickly and gently scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread is handsomely browned and firm on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool the pear bread in the pan(s) on a wire rack or on a folded kitchen towel for about 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate or the wire rack to cool completely, top side up.
- Serve as is, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, or ice with the Buttermilk Glaze.
Make the buttermilk glaze (optional)
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the buttermilk, sugar, butter, cornstarch, and baking soda. Bring to a gentle boil.
- Immediately remove the pan from the heat, stir well, and cool to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla and then set the glaze aside to cool slightly.
Glaze the pear bread (optional)
- Spoon the Buttermilk Glaze over the warm cake and let it cool completely prior to slicing.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This pear bread or tea cake is so good and even better the day after it’s baked. If you can wait that long!
The pear bread works with both pan suggestions (with some tweaking in baking time) and with both fat suggestions. The textures and flavors change a bit, though.
I prefer the glaze when it’s allowed to boil for a minute or two. The sugar starts to caramelize and it’s so good.
I wasn’t going to make this pear bread, thinking pear season was pretty much over. While shopping, however, I came across some perfectly ripe yet firm Bartletts. I was glad I did.
This cake smelled wonderful while baking, sweet and warmly spicy, and tasted just as delicious. It was moist and dense with nuts, buttery, and nicely pear flavored.
The glaze, while probably not really necessary, was a tangy addition. A terrific breakfast with a cup of steaming coffee. Also delicate enough for a light snack with tea.
It kept well, both at room temperature for several days and frozen.
Originally published June 10, 2007
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This pear bread recipe is already a favorite in my household. I’ve had three requests for it already. It has great texture, a fine crumb, is nice and moist, and not overly sweet.
Adding both the butter and the oil may seem like too much—I thought the bread would turn out oily—but it was perfect. Using pears is also a pleasant change from banana or apple and the buttermilk glaze was a nice finish.
This recipe is worth keeping and passing on to the children and grandchildren.