Mimi Williams, a Los Angeles-based vegan chef, grew up baking with her mom and came to appreciate the nurturing aspect of it. This comforting cake—fragrant with warm spices and topped with caramelized pears and coconut cream—is lick-your-plate good.
To prepare cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and coat the paper with cooking spray.
Whisk yam (or sweet potato) in a medium bowl until completely smooth. Whisk in oat milk, applesauce and vinegar. Sift all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon salt, nutmeg and pepper into another medium bowl. Whisk in spelt flour.
Beat 12 tablespoons butter, granulated sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients, one-third at a time, and mix until well incorporated, scraping down the sides as needed. Stir in walnuts and orange zest. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top.
Bake the cake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Loosen the edges and turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare pears: Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pears and cook, flipping once halfway, until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add cider, brown sugar, lemon juice and salt to the pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup coconut cream and cook for 3 minutes. Return the pears to the pan and turn to coat. Remove from heat and add vanilla; mix gently with a flexible spatula. Let cool for 10 minutes.
To prepare cream: Whisk coconut cream and confectioners' sugar in a small bowl.
Slice the cake; serve with the pears and cream.