It officially feels like fall, the sky is overcast, it is cold enough that my summer clothes just don't cut it anymore and pears are in season.
I have taken to using pears in baking, (in muffins and pear butter) because they have a sweet subtle flavour that melds well with other things.
This recipe combines pears and one of my favourite desserts: gingerbread. I could eat gingerbread any time of the year but my craving for it's sweet-spicy-comfort-food goodness intensifies when the weather turns cold.
The recipe called for either Anjou pears or the teeny Seckel variety. Honestly I’m not sure whether pear variety makes a difference. I could only find the Seckel pears, so I went with those in an attempt to be good and follow the recipe.
So I peeled and sliced the eensy little pears and arranged them oh-so prettily on top of the caramel in the pan.
However about as soon as I poured the batter over my pears they migrated to the sides of the dish. So much for aesthetics. I might not have packed them in tightly enough or maybe the tiny Seckel pear slices were just too small to stay put. (Tiny things tend to be mischievous little fellows) Either way I think one should be particularly gentle when spreading the batter over the pear slices. I think when (notice it’s a when and not an “if”) I make this again, I might try using Bartlett pears, because I think they will work just as well and their bigger size will stop them in their sticky caramel tracks.
Flighty pears aside, this cake tasted perfect. It was exactly what I had been craving. The moist pear and caramel topping gets crunchy round the edges of the cake and stays soft and sticky in the centre. The gingerbread itself was a bit on the mild side of gingerbread. It had more mellowness than spicy bite, but in this regard it balanced the buttery caramel flavour of the pears. It also had that characteristic hot water gingerbread texture (despite not using hot water) that lends gingerbread cakes its tender, pillowy crumb.
I think this would be best served with whipped cream, but as I didn't have any, plain or with ice cream is certainly just as good. No matter how you dress it up, is there anyone out there who could resist the call of warm gingerbread on a chilly fall day?
Pear Gingerbread Upside Down Cake
Prep: 25 min, bake: 35-40 minutes, cool 5 min
Makes one 9x9 cake or about 9 servings
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 Anjou pear or 3 Seckel pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced ( I don’t know if pear type makes a difference, I used Seckel pears which are tiny and I think that a bigger pear would stay in place better)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup molasses
- ¾ cup water (room temperature, this is not a hot water gingerbread)
- sweetened whipped cream for serving (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small sauce pan combine the 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1 tablespoon water. Cook and stir over low heat until mixture comes to boiling. Pour mixture into a 9x9x2–inch baking dish, spreading to cover the bottom. Arrange pear slices in a decorative pattern on top of the brown sugar mixture; set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and cloves; set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the ½ cup butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds, add the brown sugar and beat until combined. Beat in eggs and molasses until combined.
- Alternately add flour mixture and the water to butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat on low speed after each addition just until combined. Pour batter evenly over pear slices in pan, being careful not to disturb pear slices.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes or until center springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Using a sharp knife or narrow metal spatula, loosen edges of cake from sides of pan. Carefully invert onto a serving platter. Serve warm. If desired top each serving with sweetened whipped cream. Makes 9 servings.
Adapted from: Better Homes and gardens Holiday baking 2008