Tuesday, November 10, 2009

pear gingerbread upside-down cake

A mother of a student of mine once made gingerbread with pears neatly pressed into the top. It was extraordinary. It was years ago, but in the last few weeks I've been obsessing on that gingerbread.

I will make that gingerbread.

Yes, I could call that mom, but that would be too easy. I've been pouring over pear gingerbread recipes, and I know I'm going to find it.
What am I looking for? A stickiness in the pears- more ginger than molasses, moist but not gooey.
Since it is Gourmet Today week, I thought I should start there. And obligingly, it offers us a pear gingerbread upside down cake.
I'm afraid of upside-down cakes. I'm a right-side-up cake kind of girl. I always lose part of the top, and I have to press it back in and try not to cry.
There was so much butter on the top of this cake that I thought it might be okay, but I lost a big chunk in the right-side-upping. Never fear, though. The pears are so gooey that they will press right back in without tears.

This is not the cake that I am looking for. I'm telling you about it anyway because it might be the cake you are looking for. Are you looking for more molasses than ginger? More sticky than cake-y? The satisfaction of baking a cake in a skillet? This one is for you. In fact, I've got a whole cake here if you'd like a piece. I'll make you a cup of tea, and you can tell me about you're favorite gingerbread recipe. I'm serious if you're nearby. I have cake for you.
Oh gingerbread, I'm not done with you yet. I've got six more pears, and lot's more recipes. Be ready, friends. I'm taking you along on this odyssey.

Pear Gingerbread Upside-down Cake
adapted from Gourmet Today

For the topping:
3 firm pears, preferably Bosc
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup molasses
1 1/4 cup boiling water
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg. lightly beaten

Make the topping:
Peel, halve, and core pears. Cut each pear into 4 wedges.
Heat butter in a well seasoned 10 or 12 inch skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Reduce heat to low, sprinkle brown sugar over butter, and cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes. Arrange pears decoratively over sugar and cook, undisturbed for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Make the cake:
Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a bowl. Whisk together the molasses and boiling water in a bowl or large measuring cup.
Beat together butter, brown sugar and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer at a medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture alternately with molasses in 3 batches, beginning and ending with flour and mixing until smooth.
Pour batter over pears in skillet, spreading it evenly but trying not to disturb pears. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in skillet on a rack for 5 minutes.
Run a thin knife around sides of skillet, invert a large plate with a lip over skillet, and, using pot holders to hod skillet and plate tightly together, invert cake onto plate. Replace any pears that stuck to skillet. Serve warm or at room temperature, with ice cream or creme fraiche.


  1. My aunt makes a marvelous pear gingerbread--I'll ask her where she got the recipe.

  2. I'm always looking for a cakey gingerbread with a warm lemon glaze to pour over individual slices. It's not that I've tried a lot to make it, it just always sounds sooo good and I never think to make it when I'm in a baking mood.

  3. Oh my gosh, I wish I lived nearby. That sure might be a cake I am looking for!

    I am thinking my family is going to be very glad I found your blog. :)

  4. Hi Alana,

    I can't come by for tea. But here is my favorite gingerbread cake. It is definitely a cake, dense and moist, not at all sticky. I've never made it with pears, but one could.

    2.5 cups all purpose flour. 1 tea cinnamon. freshly grated ginger to taste (lots). 1 tea ground cloves. 8 Tables butter, softened. 0.5 cups sugar. 1 cup molasses. 2 teas baking soda. 1 cup boiling water. 2 eggs, slightly beaten.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour the pan. Its nice if you have a ring form pan or a shapely mold or bundt. Sift the dry ingredients together. Cream the butter. Add the sugar and molasses. Combine the baking soda and boiling water, then with the butter-sugar mixture. Add the eggs and the ginger. Beat. Bake for 45 - 60 minutes, until it is done. Avoid the top of the oven to prevent burning. Let cool for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a rack. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or creme fresh. If it's not for a birthday with candles, this cake is pretty with powdered sugar on top or with the ring filled with fruit.

  5. You are a blogging, cooking machine! I have a bunch of pears looking for a cooked home (before they all go bruisey and rejectable by the short people) so I will try this one today! xx