Recipe: pear upside down gingerbread cake
Pears have been around for a few months, but I’ve only really taken notice of them in the past few weeks. I’ve always had a mild fear of pears. I know that sounds silly, but hear me out. The Chinese say it’s bad luck to split a pear between two people. One person eating a pear is fine. Three or more people sharing a pear is fine too. Two people should not split a pear. Because splitting a pear in Chinese is fen li and that is the same sound as the phrase for separation. But I figured, if I put the pears in a cake and shared it around with lots of people – I’d be in the clear.
the topping: pears, butter, light brown sugar
the cake: flour, brown sugar, molasses, butter, water, candied ginger, egg, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves
It’s the perfect time around here for a pear upside down gingerbread cake, don’t you think? Gingerbread stirs that festive holiday mood and pears are in season. Also – it’s 11°F outside, so turning on the oven is a wonderful, awesome, very good thing to do.
peel, core, and slice the pears into eighths
sprinkle brown sugar over the melted butter and let cook
arrange the pear slices over the butter-sugar mixture
First, you begin at the stove with a cast iron skillet or other non-stick ovenproof frying pan. These recipes always call for a 10-inch skillet and I only have a 12-inch cast iron skillet. So I sliced up four pears instead of the 2.5 from the recipe to make up for the added volume. Besides, I really like a higher fruit to cake ratio. Start with melting the butter then add the brown sugar. Mine did not melt much at all, it just kind of sat there. But when I added the pear slices, it started turning into this beautiful caramel colored melty syrup. Even if it doesn’t start melting, never fear – it will definitely melt in the oven. But you have to make the batter before you can pop this into the oven.
whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices together
beat the sugar, butter, and egg together
whisk the molasses into the boiling hot water
This recipe is quick and pretty straightforward, although I take issue with beating the butter, brown sugar, and egg together at once. You really ought to cream the butter and sugar together first and then add the egg otherwise you will get little lumps of butter that don’t mix as well because the egg is all slippery. My one addition to the recipe is a quarter cup of diced candied ginger, because candied ginger is crazy amazing in gingerbread.
add the candied ginger
alternate adding a third of the flour
… and a third of the molasses
pour the batter over the fruit
If you do use a 12-inch skillet, everything fits just fine. Just be sure to have something underneath your pan to catch any extra sugar that bubbles over the sides so it doesn’t burn on the floor of your oven. With a larger pan, your cake will probably bake faster because it has more surface area to cover and thus is thinner. Mine baked in 35 minutes instead of the 40-50 minutes given for a 10-inch skillet.
baked and cooling
inverted without disaster
the fruit makes for pretty cross sections too
The cake is an incredibly moist and sticky beast. I love the spices and rich, deep flavors of the cake. It’s almost too rich for my tastes, but the fruit makes for a lovely balance. A dollop of unsweetened whipped cream is the perfect accompaniment for me. Jeremy prefers a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. My neighbors graciously took half of the cake off my hands. It’s dangerous having something like that sitting around the house, although I think it would make an ideal dessert at any holiday table.
serve with whipped cream and a hot cup of coffee
or opt for vanilla ice cream
Pear Upside Down Gingerbread Cake
slightly modified from Gourmet
2 1/2 to 4 firm pears, they recommend Bosc pears
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup molasses
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/4 cup candied ginger, small dice
Preheat oven to 350°F. The original recipe calls for a 10-inch well-seasoned cast iron skillet. If you have one of those, use 2 1/2 pears. I have a 12-inch cast iron skillet, so I increased the fruit to 4 pears which worked perfectly for the volume. Plus, I prefer a higher fruit to cake ratio.
Make the topping: Peel, core, and section each pear into 8 wedges (let the core be the axis of symmetry). Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat until it stops foaming. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter and let it cook for 3 minutes without touching it. I left mine on medium heat, but I was supposed to reduce it to low. Seemed to work just fine. The sugar didn’t melt too much. Arrange the pears over the brown sugar-butter mixture in a nice pattern (remember, this is going to be the top of the cake). Let the pears cook for 2 minutes then remove from heat.
Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves, and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk the molasses and boiling water together in a separate bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 1/2 cup of light brown sugar and 1/2 cup of butter together until creamed (about 2 minutes). Beat in the egg until incorporated. Alternate adding a third of the flour mixture and a third of the molasses mixture, beating on low speed until smooth. Pour the batter over the pears in the skillet, carefully spreading the batter out. If you are using a 12-inch skillet, it will barely cover everything – don’t worry, it will expand. I recommend placing a sheet of foil on a rack underneath the rack where you place your skillet because sugar bubbled over the edge of my pan and burned on the oven. Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick in the center comes out clean (for the 12-inch skillet, mine baked in 35 minutes because it’s more shallow). Cool the cake in the skillet for 5 minutes and loosen the edges with a knife before carefully inverting the cake onto a serving plate (wear oven mitts, please). To invert the cake, I recommend finding a plate that fits the skillet well, placing it upside down over the skillet and holding the two tightly together, flipping the entire ensemble upside down. Fill any missing pieces on the cake with whatever stuck to the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 8.
more goodness from the use real butter archives
|peach upside down cake||chocolate gingerbread cookies||chocolate gingerbread pancakes||pailin’s ginger lemon cookies|