Caramelized Pear Gingerbread

P1000309     A friend of mine gave me a small jar of really potent ground ginger that was just purchased from a specialty shop, and I knew exactly what I was going to use it for – one of my all-time favorite desserts – Upside Down Pear Gingerbread. This recipe is published in my fifth cookbook Vegetarian Classics,and I thought I’d print it here for those of you who do not have that book of mine.
Upside-down cakes hold a special place in the world of homemade desserts.  They combine the buttery texture of a cake, the candy-like topping of caramel, and the irresistible juiciness of fresh fruit. It is just as moist the next day, so it can be an ideal dessert when you are entertaining and want to make it in advance. Last night I adorned my upside-down pear gingerbread with whipped cream spiked with brandy – so good.  Rum is also a great choice for lacing the cream, or you could use a rich vanilla ice cream.
Selecting the right pan is key to the cakes success.  You cannot use a springform pan with removable sides because the cake is leak all over the oven.  Use a 9-inch cake pan intended for layer cakes, and butter it even if it is a non-stick pan.  When you flip over the pan and unmold the cake, the sight of that glistening caramel will make it all worth it.

Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread                                                                                              serves 8

The topping:

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
2 ripe but firm pears, preferably Bosc or Anjou

The cake:

1 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup sour milk (see below)
4 tablespoons melted butter
Lightly sweetened whipped cream (spiked with rum or brandy)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter the sides of a 9-inch round cake pan (not springform).

2. To prepare the topping, melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the brown sugar and stir together until blended.  Scrape into the pan and spread evenly.

3.Peel and slice each pear into quarters, then remove and discard the cores. Slice each quarter into 3 slices. Arrange the 24 slices evenly around the pan.

4.To make the cake, in a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. In a separate bowl beat together the egg, brown sugar, molasses, sour milk, and melted butter. Scrape into the flour mixture and mix until well blended.

5. Pour the batter over the pears. Bake 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with the whipped cream.

Note – To make the sour milk, combine 1/2 cup milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar and let sit 5 minutes.