If October was a month for pumpkins, then November has been all about pears and gingerbread. Partly, that’s because they fit the season and because I love them; but I must admit to some frantic pear-based baking last week once I realized that the basket of local pears I’d proudly brought home the week before was on the brink of ripe-meets-rotten. Instead of tossing them, I fumbled through peeling the furthest-gone pears to make this cake, which is my favourite decadent recipe for fall.
Let’s describe this cake in opposition to my other go-to autumn pear dessert, the pear ginger cake. Similarities: They both contain pears and they are both cakes. Otherwise, they’re completely different beasts – this so-called gingerbread cake doesn’t even have ginger. The pear ginger cake is weekday breakfast-appropriate sweet, tempered by almonds and ginger; it comes together speedily; it slices neatly from the pan. But this upside-down gingerbread cake with pears… Well. It’s a messier beast, both in terms of sticky fingers and dirty dishes. But what can you expect from pears nestled into a thick caramel sauce and topped with a thin layer of spiced cake? That decadence doesn’t know neatness; it’s too busy being gooey autumn goodness. And sometimes that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
Notes: I’ve had this recipe written out since at least late 2008, but have embarrassingly been unable to track down the source to give credit where credit is due. As of today, the mystery remains unsolved.
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups water
3 pears, peeled, cored and halved
8 tbsp butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup corn syrup
4 tbsp butter, melted
1. Poach pears: In a small saucepan over low heat, combine cinnamon stick, sugar, lemon juice & water. When the sugar has dissolved, bring the mixture to a boil. Add the pears and cook for 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the sugar mixture and set them aside to cool. Discard the sugar mixture.
2. Make the caramel: Add butter and brown sugar into the emptied saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. When smooth and combined, remove it from heat and pour it into a greased 10-inch cake pan. (Alternatively, the pan can be lined with parchment paper). Set aside.
3. Make the batter: In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together egg, corn syrup and melted butter. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and beat well until combined.
4. Assemble the cake: Arrange the pears in the caramel syrup. Pour the batter overtop, and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer comes out just barely moist. Let it cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before inverting or slicing.