Saturday, October 5, 2013

Gingered Pear Upside Down Cake with Salted Brown Sugar Caramel

This is a labor intensive cake, but then again most baking is.  Accurate measurements count a lot in baking, which I can do.  Paying attention to the steps, each one, one at a time helps too.

As its fall and we had a fun little evening soiree to attend I thought what the heck...lets be decadent and indulge. First thought was chocolate, then over to fresh fruit.  Seasonal fruit is Pears and Apples this time of year and I remembered this simply divine upside down pear cake many years ago I had made.  Then after digging around for ever I realized I lost it.  This recipe is a compilation of memory and a few others in my bag of tricks.

I use molasses and brown sugar as it simply has the best flavor, there is an almost smokey depth to the molasses that can't be duplicated with processed white sugar.  Molasses comes sulphured and unsulphured, I don't notice much of a difference in flavor or color between the two so use what you find.  Working with molasses the hardest part is measuring that thick sticky liquid then getting it all into your mix.  I've found that warming the molasses in the microwave for a minute will make it flow easier.  Spraying your measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring ensures a quick release and it all going into your recipe.

Gingered Pear Upside Down Cake

  • 2 -3 firm pears 
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 sea salt


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/4 t fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup molasses 
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3 T minced candied ginger

Preheat oven to 350F.

Peel and cut pears into eighths lengthwise.  Spray the inside of a large oven proof skillet, non-stick if you have it with nonstick cooking spray.  Arrange pears in a decorative pattern in the skillet.  

Place 1/4 cup butter, sea salt and 3/4 c brown sugar in a small sauce pan.  Over low heat melt butter and stir until bubbly and sugar is dissolved.  Carefully drizzle the syrup over the pears.  Turn on heat to low and slowly bring the syrup to a boil, 2-3 minutes is all it takes.  Turn off heat.

Bring 1 c water to a boil and pour into molasses.  Stir until dissolved.  Set aside.

Sift together flour, soda, spices and salt.  Set aside.

Cream together stick of butter and 1/2 c brown sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Add 1/3 flour and 1/3 molasses, stir in.  Repeat until all flour and molasses has been incorporated. Fold in candied ginger. Carefully spoon batter over the pears so as not to disturb them.  Place in oven and bake 40-50 minutes until toothpick comes out clean from center.  Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes.  Rim a knife around the outside edge and flip the cake over onto the serving platter.  (It works best if you place the platter upside down onto the pan and invert).  Serve warm or room temperature.

Pears arranged in skillet with caramel topping simmering.
Cake inverted on serving tray...note my pears did slip out of the pattern, but it was all still tasty.

Salted Brown Sugar Caramel
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c half and half
  • 4T unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1 t vanilla

Combine brown sugar, half and half, butter and salt in a non-reactive pan.  Over low heat stir gently until the sugar is dissolved.  Increase heat to medium, stirring constantly and gently until mixture comes to a boil.  Cook for 7 minutes until thickened and a rich dark brown, stirring gently the whole time.  Add vanilla and stir until dissolved.  Remove from heat and pour into a clean jar until needed.

To serve the Gingered Pear Upside Down Cake cut off a slice and put on a serving plate.  Drizzle over a tablespoon or two of the Salted Brown Sugar Caramel over the cake allowing to run down the sides.  Add a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and you are set for quite the decadent fall treat.

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