This dish features layers of spicy gingerbread, vanilla pastry cream, caramelized pears, and a bit of Poire William liqueur. As with most trifle desserts, this is even better on the second day, so plan ahead and take advantage. It also feeds a crowd, making this gingerbread trifle a great party dish.
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Position rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper, then spray parchment.
Whisk together flour, crystallized ginger, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; set aside.
Whisk together the oil, molasses, and brown sugar until combined. Whisk in egg. Begin to gently stir together wet and dry ingredients; the mixture will be thick. Gently stir in boiling water just until combined and smooth.
Scrape batter into pan and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick just tests clean. Cool pan on rack for 10 minutes, then unmold cake, peel off parchment, and cool completely. Cake is ready to use or wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Melt the butter in a wide saucepan. Add pears and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 to 5 minutes or until pears begin to soften and take on a bit of color. Gently flip pears over using tongs. Sprinkle brown sugar over pears and cover for a minute or two. Gently move the pears around the pan with the melted butter and sugar using a heatproof silicone spatula to avoid breaking the fruit. Continue cooking for a few minutes over medium-high heat until pears are just fork-tender (cover if pears are still very firm, otherwise leave uncovered). Add liqueur and cook one minute more, swirling pan to combine all ingredients. Cool. Slice pears into ¼-inch wedges.
Have pastry cream ready to use. Slice cake in half horizontally. Place one round of cake on the bottom of your trifle dish, trimming to fit if necessary. Drizzle some of the liquid from the cooked pears over the cake, then spread a layer of pastry cream. Arrange a layer of pears, placing them in a ring against the sides of the bowl so that you can see them as a distinct layer. Place a few pieces of pear in the center of the ring. Repeat cake, syrup, pastry cream and pear layers, reserving a few slices of pear.
Whip the cream with the sugar until soft peaks form and spoon on top of layered trifle. Refrigerate overnight. Right before serving place extra pear slices on top along with a sprinkling of the optional crystallized ginger, if using.