07 September 2010
Pear/Ginger Upside-down Cake
Every year at pear season I experiment with a pear and ginger cake recipe that I saw in a random cookbook from a craft store, and I couldn't get it to work like it looked in the picture. Somehow these people made a thick-ish batter and set pear slices on top and after baking the pears were still on the top of the cake. When I tried it the pear slices sank to the bottom and it wasn't very impressive. So then I tried a few mutations on the theme, trying to perfect a recipe (pear-fect, ha ha) to get the most flavor into the cake and make it beautiful. I've tried making a pound cake in a bundt pan so that the pears in the bottom of the pan will end up on the top when you take it out of the pan and it should be pretty, but it wasn't as satisfying as I thought it would be. And then I was talking to my dad a few days ago, telling him my plans for the hundred or so pears that I had getting ready for jamming, and I told him my dilema, the elusive cake recipe. He suggested doing it like a pineapple upside-down cake, because it's easy to find a trusty recipe. I tried it last week, and somehow this gave me the most flavor bang for my buck, and I think it looks pretty good. So, thanks Dad! This one is for you.
Pear and Ginger Upside-Down Cake
(Adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 11th edition.)
3 firm pears
1 tablespoon finely diced fresh ginger
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
Peel, cut in half, and core the pears, coat with lemon juice as needed to keep them from browning while you work. In a skillet over medium high heat, lightly cook the pear halves with about 1 teaspoon of the chopped ginger until they are a gentle golden brown on the outside. This step is important for fresh pears to soften and cook them a little, as well as infuse them with the ginger flavor, but if you can't find good fresh pears (a struggle, I know) and opt for canned pears instead, you can skip it.
Grease a 9-inch cake pan, mix together the brown sugar and tablespoon of butter, sprinkle over the bottom of the pan. Arrange the pears, cut side down, on top of the sugar, and sprinkle the remaining ginger over all.
Mix together the flour, granulated sugar and baking powder in a medium size bowl. Add milk, the 1/4 cup butter, egg, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low for about a minute. Spoon the batter over the fruit in the pan.
Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for about 5 minutes on a wire rack, then invert onto a plate and serve warm. Eat any leftovers for breakfast tomorrow.