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pear-fect weather

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.

bosc pears

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
[print recipe]
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

22 nibbles at “pear-fect weather”

  1. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    Mmm so much delicious goodness happening in this cake! Yum!

  2. Kristin says:

    Darn…it’s almost enough to make me give pears another chance.

  3. Kelli @ The Corner Kitchen says:

    Mmm….pears and gingerbread might be the most perfect holiday-time combo ever! Beautiful cake!

  4. Kate in New York says:

    Well, you hit all my favorite fall flavors in one go. Reminds me of a tarte tatin, only more up my alley with the ginger and pears. I’m a longtime reader of your blog, by the way, and I love your photographs. I always feel like I should be living my life more fully when I come here. Happy fall!

  5. Rachel @ La Pêche Fraîche says:

    Droooooling… Gingerbread is one of my favorites, and combining it with pears… Ohmagah. Gorgeous!

  6. Pey-Lih says:

    That is a GREAT combination! My goodness…I love both! Will you ever do a recipe for moon cakes, maybe? Just sayin’.

  7. Trisha G. says:

    Hi Jen! This cake looks incredible. I am going out to buy pears RIGHT NOW! Thank you so much for enriching our lives with your wonderful stories, photos, and recipes. You rock!

  8. Sophie says:

    Envious of your cold weather and of this gorgeous cake! I adore gingerbread. I would choose a fruit dessert over chocolate any day of the year. You make it look so pretty, too! Candied ginger = absolutely yes.

  9. Teresa says:

    So funny! I don’t think of myself as superstitious, but some of these things you hear from when you’re a child go down DEEP! When I tell my kids they can’t split a pear and they must eat the entire fruit, they look at me like I’m crazy. The cake looks lovely!

  10. T. says:

    Even more than how delicious this recipe looks, what I love most about this post is the pun-tastic title. It really is pear-fect.

  11. Heather says:

    Oh my goodness, yes, this has me drooling…. as does the request for a mooncake recipe. Please, pretty please????? I so enjoy your site, this is my first time commenting – the beautiful pictures made me do it!

  12. debbie says:

    This just looks so good. I love gingerbread too. What a great combo….

  13. jeri says:

    I’ve always wanted to make a gingerbread upsidedown cake, but I’ve never found a recipe that spoke to me before. I’m going to make this for Thanksgiving BREAKFAST!

  14. Mary SwiftSwan says:

    We skipper and cater a very fancy 62′ yacht on San Francisco Bay. Hope to try out a few of your recipes. Truly enjoy your layout style. You have a fun way of writing and shooting the steps helps to inspire the chef in the lucky ones who have found your site. Nice job.

  15. Currently Crushing On. | How Sweet It Is says:

    […] pear upside down gingerbread cake. so […]

  16. Ashley says:

    This is too funny! I just found the link to this recipe from Jessica’s blog over at How Sweet It Is. I just posted a (gluten-free) buttermilk pear upside-down cake yesterday! I LOVE that you used thicker slices of pears. Such a great idea that I’ll have to try next time. And the gingerbread spices…yum! Lovely!

  17. Angela says:

    This looks so good! i think i might need to make it for Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing :)

  18. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    I just posted this cake on Halloween. It is an incredible cake and your photos are much more incredible than mine. But equally delicious! Totally loved it!

  19. Angie says:

    Thank you for sharing this recipe and beautiful pics! I just gave it a try and it was delicious- perfect balance between fruit and ginger flavor. In fact, we had this for dessert after dinner, which included your roasted carrot soup.

  20. sara says:

    Such a pretty cake! I so want to make this…yum! :)

  21. Maggie says:

    The perfect ending to a great meal with friends on Friday night. Thanks for the inspiration!

  22. jenyu says:

    Pey-Lih – it’s not on my radar anytime soon. I like the flaky dough ones, not the soggy dough kind – so that will probably take some research and work ;)

    Teresa – EXACTLY!! :)

    Heather – see my reply to Pey-Lih above.

    Mary – thanks! I find the steps to be really helpful, especially for me when I go back to a recipe (that I forgot how to make)!

    Angie – fantastic!!

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