My Recipe Box

Caramelized Pear Upside-Down Cake


Serves eight.

  • To learn more, read:
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 95

This cake is delicious warm or at room temperature.

  • Softened unsalted butter for the pan
For the topping
  • 2 medium firm-ripe Bosc pears (about 1 lb.)
  • 1 recipe Basic Caramel
  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
For the cake
  • 6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 4 oz. (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x2-inch round cake pan (don't use a springform pan, as the caramel might leak out during baking). Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment and butter the top of the paper.

Make the topping

Peel, core, and cut the pears lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the pear slices on the bottom of the pan in a circle around the edge, overlapping them slightly, with the pointed ends towards the center. If necessary, cut a little off the pointed ends to make the slices fit better. Or if the pear slices don't reach all the way to the middle, arrange a few of the shorter slices in the center to cover the bottom of the pan.

Make the Basic Caramel according to the directions. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the 4 Tbs. of butter one piece at a time, until they are completely melted. Carefully pour the hot caramel evenly over the pears (it should spread over the pears and onto the bottom of the pan).

Make the cake batter

Sift the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, and salt into a medium bowl. Stir to combine. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.Turn the mixer to medium and slowly add the brown sugar. Increase the speed to high and continue to mix until lightened in texture and color, 2 to 3 minutes total. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Reduce the speed to low and alternate adding the flour mixture and milk mixture in five additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix each addition just enough to incorporate, as overmixing will lead to a tougher cake. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one last time and mix briefly to blend well.

Bake the cake

Spoon the batter in large dollops over the pears and smooth it into an even layer with an offset spatula. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Turn a cake plate upside down on top of the cake pan and, using pot holders, carefully invert the cake pan onto the plate.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 510, Fat (kcal): 20, Fat Calories (g): 180, Saturated Fat (g): 12, Protein (g): 5, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 5, Carbohydrates (mg): 80, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 1, Sodium (g): 200, Cholesterol (g): 100, Fiber (g): 2,

Photo: Scott Phillips

I made this cake for my birthday, and it was fantastic! Beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. I followed the recipe exactly and used firm pears. We all loved it.

Excellent recipe, it turned out perfect. Will make again.

This was my first time making caramel and the instructions worked perfectly. The cake is not heavy but you have to follow the recipe with regard to combining the ingredients. Have made it twice & it was a huge hit. Making it again for Christmas. Cheers

This cake was pretty to look at and I love caramel but the overall result was heavy and dense and cloyingly sweet. I might try the caramelized pear topping on a different cake recipe, one that's lighter and not so sweet.

This cake was done at 36 minutes! I was a bit concerned when all the pear liquid exuded towards the top when I added the cake batter, but it turned out perfectly. A great dessert for a cold winter night.

Impressive, yummy dessert that was a hit at my dinner party. Took longer to bake than the recipe called for. Vanilla ice cream was a great compliment.

Love the flavors of the recipe. I have made it several times. The cake does come out a bit 'wet' though, which is not a problem for the flavor but doesn't look as good when cutting through it.

A+ this is a fantastic recipe! However listing all of the ingredients in order would be so beneficial. I always measure by cups not ounces, so I found the flour measurement not helpful while bustling in the kitchen. Thank you to the cooks on the other posts with the heads up for the caramel sauce...mine turned out perfect! I would like to try and make this a diabetic friendly recipe by using Splenda blends. Any one ever tried to do this? The cake turned out picture perfect!!!

Great recipe- easy, fun, and not too expensive. However, two important notes: DO NOT use over-ripe pears, as I did, or you will have a cake that is half soggy mush and half normal, and also, DO NOT let the caramel get too dark- I'm talking about the just past amber, starting to smoke stage- that's too far. I did this and, though the cake was still delicious, the slight bitterness from the caramel was not a plus. Also, this tends to be very heavy and sweet in flavor. I might add some lemon zest to the batter or serve it with tangerine whipped cream next time, and less ripe pears would help. Beautiful appearance, texture, and flavor anyway- enjoy!

Very tasty and easy to prepare. It was a real hit, and a nice change from the apple desserts that tend to dominate in the fall. I'll make it again - and again.

Easy to make and very delicious. It's always a good sign when your cake turns out just like the picture in the magazine. Would definitely make again.

The Caramelized Pear Upside-Down Cake is just wonderful! It looks as pretty as it is good. My husband just loved it warm with Vanilla ice cream. The Caramel isn't hard to make and is so good with the pears and spice cake. This is great for a dinner party! You might want to make 2!

Just a lovely sweet thing. Soft tender cake, with just the right spicing. The juice of the pears mixed with the caramelized sugar makes a wonderful combination. A huge improvement over the tough and chewy pineapple upside down cakes from the '50's that I remember.

This is a deceptively simple dessert. The cake is very moist with the subtle spicy flavors of cinnamon and ginger. It took a little longer than 8 minutes for my sugar to caramelize but came together nicely. Next time I may give it a little extra kick with the addition of some ginger syrup to the caramel.

Fabulous! This cake is simple to make if you follow the directions--I made it while baking shortbread and sharing a small kitchen with someone else! I didn't have a 2" deep round pan, so I baked it in a deep square casserole dish, and used the extra pear slices around the perimeter of the cake. I served the cake warm with vanilla ice cream. I loved the delicate spicing, the super moist cake, and the combination of caramel with the perfume-y pears. My father isn't big on desserts, so he only wanted a taste--and in a nearly unprecedented move, he went back for more! This cake is a winner!

I've made this recipe several times, and it has come out perfectly every time. Simple to make (just as the recipe directs you), and the flavor combination is just pefect - even my wife who doesn't like caramel loved it. As one previous reviewer said, be sure to have pears prepared ahead of time, and concentrate on caramel - it burns quickly. As for comment about speeding through the flour/milk additions, follow this link to learn the reason behind this method:

Sorry, but the taste, was not as expected....

This is an excellent cake. Even though it takes a little more time to make, it is well worth the effort. I wouldn't change a thing.

Absolutely delicious. A dessert you would be happy with in a 5 star restaurant. Very easy to make once you have the carmel sauce figured out (it turns color and then burns quicker than you think!). Prepare the pears in the pan first before starting the sauce so that you can watch the sauce. Don't try to multi-task that part. I'm not sure whether the 5 stage addition of milk and flour is really necessary. I think next time I might try doing it more quickly, but with a stand mixer this wouldn't be an issue at all. I served it with vanilla ice cream and thin ginger cookies from Trader Joe's. It really was incredible and my 4 year old loved it, too.

Fantastic cake! I made this one for Thanksgiving and everyone raved about it. The recipe was easy and it tasted great. Also, it looks beautiful on the serving dish.

This was delicious!!! I actually made it using organic ingredients, including soy milk, and egg beaters. It was so good I had to send it to work with husband to share at a staff meeting so we wouldn't eat the whole thing!

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