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Gingerbread is a favorite in our house—most recently in the form of this delicious cake with its pudding-like topper of brown-sugar-butter melted golden pears.
Given a big bag of tiny golden Asian pears from a friend’s tree, I used those here. But I’ve also made this with tiny little sugar pears, no bigger than figs. Other fresh pear varieties will also work.
Trying this a few ways, for one cake, I cut the pears in round slices, removing the seeds, but leaving the pretty seed pockets. For the other, I sliced the pears as I would apples (peeled, cored, and quartered) and shingled the slices in a spiral. I like them quartered and shingled best, but either way is fine—your choice.
With three kinds of ginger (candied, fresh and powdered) plus cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and molasses in the batter, the flavor and aroma of the gingerbread is beautifully rich, but not overpowering. Serve the cake warm, with a dollop of whipped or iced vanilla cream. And if you have an abundance of pears, here are some more pear-licious options to try: Panna Cotta with Wine-Poached Pears, Wine Poached Pears (on their own) , Wine Poached Pear & Rosemary Tart with Chevre.
Pear Gingerbread Upside Down Cake
- FOR THE GINGER PEAR TOPPING:
- 8 small, ripe but firm Asian pears, peeled quartered and cut into 1/8 inch slices OR substitute pears of your favorite variety—if using large pears you will only need 3
- 1/3 cup butter cut into pats
- 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 6 small pieces candied ginger, minced to make ¼ cup
- FOR THE GINGERBREAD:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground Saigon cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- ½ of a nutmeg, finely grated
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter
- 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 Tbsp minced candied ginger
- 1 tsp baking soda mixed with 2 Tbsp boiling water
- With oven rack in center position, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan. Set aside. On cooktop, over medium heat, melt all but two of the pats of butter with the brown sugar, stirring until everything is melted. When the mixture just begins to bubble, add last two pats of butter and continue stirring until mixture boils. Remove from heat and pour caramel mixture into the bottom of the cake pan. Starting at the center of the pan, shingle pear slices to the edge of the pan, turning pan and tucking in rows of pear slices until bottom of pan is completely covered with the pear slices in a pretty spiral. If you have extra slices, arrange those over the first layer. Sprinkle with the minced candied ginger. Set pan aside. In a small bowl, whisk spices (ground ginger, clove, cinnamon and grated nutmeg) with flour and add pinch of salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment at medium speed, beat butter until fluffy. Beat in brown sugar. Beat in eggs, then molasses and fresh-grated ginger. (The fat won’t completely mix with the eggs and molasses, but that’s okay.) Add half of the flour mixture and beat until smooth and no streaks remain, scraping down sides of mixing bowl and paddle as needed. Mix 2 Tbsp boiling water with 1 tsp baking soda and mix into batter. Add remaining flour mixture and beat until no streaks remain. Turn speed up to high for 3 seconds. Turn off mixer. Stir in minced candied ginger. Spread batter over the pears in the cake pan, smoothing to level top. Place pan in oven and bake for 50 to 55 minutes at 325 until cake springs back when touched. Remove from oven. Cool for a few minutes on a rack. Slide sharp knife around edge of cake pan to loosen cake from sides of pan. Invert cake onto serving platter. Serve warm with a bowl of whipped or iced vanilla cream at table.
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