Spiced Pear Upside-Down Cake

November 25, 2013

There’s something so fancy about an upside-down cake, though they seem to be slightly out-of-trend at the moment…that may be due to the unfortunate popularity of the pineapple upside down cake in the 60s, which I think is really disgusting. However, when you use fresh pears, honey, and spices instead of canned ring pineapple and maraschino cherries, it takes this cake from kitcshy to chic (can food be chic?). This would be an instantly stunning dessert to serve at your Thanksgiving table, or even post-Christmas dinner! We served it with coffee and ice cream for a dessert night with friends. It’s definitely best still slightly warm, topped with a heaping dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

The original recipe is from Bon Appetit,  and I’ll admit that I tried three times to make the caramel for the pears using their seemingly simple instructions, but all three times something completely different but equally terrible happened. This is a fairly atypical event in my kitchen…I’m good at following instructions, and can usually figure out a technique in one or two tries. Unfortunately, the complexity of making caramel eluded me. Instead, I used a mixture of butter, honey and spice. And it turned out beautifully. I don’t think I would have used the caramel even if I could have figured it out. However, that experience gave me an intense desire to master the art of caramel-making, so that’s a post for another time! Do any of you have any good caramel-making tips?

Spiced Pear Upside-Down Cake     { serves 8-10 }

Honey Glaze:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

8 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 6 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2-3 medium Bartlett pears, peeled and sliced into 1/8″ thick slices
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a cake pan (I used an 8″ round), place a parchment round in the center, and butter the top of that as well. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Once butter is melted, add honey and spices. Whisk to combine, and spread evenly over the parchment in the cake pan. Layer pear slices in a circular pattern over the honey glaze, slightly overlapping each one. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine sugar, butter and vanilla. Mix until lighter in color and smooth in consistency – about 2-3 minutes. Add yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and milk in 3 separate additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir just until combined.

In a different bowl, beat egg whites on medium low until soft peaks begin to form. In two additions, gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter, mixing just until blended. Pour cake batter over the pears, and smooth the top. Bake for 45 min to an hour. Once the cake is finished cooking, allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. To release the cake, run a knife around the edge. Invert the cake onto a serving plate and remove parchment. Serve while still warm. Enjoy!

* Original recipe from Bon Appetit *

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