Cake Decorating 101: Caramel Upside Down Pear Cake
Let the oven do the decorating for this beautiful upside down cake.
Photos by Molly Dunn
If you've been following our series on cake decorating over the last two months,then you're probably looking for a little breather. That's why, this week, we're letting the oven do the work and introducing you to upside down cake with pears.
If you're going to tackle this it better be soon because the fruit will be out of season in September. You'll need nearly three pounds of Bosc pears to make this caramel upside down pear cake in a skillet.
After searching for the perfect recipe for an upside down pear cake, I came across several recipes where brown sugar and butter were combined in a cast-iron skillet to caramelize the cake, making a super sweet, comforting upside down cake. I followed Epicurious's recipe for a caramel upside down pear cake. .
Start by preparing nearly two and a half pounds of Bosc pears. You want juicy ones to decorate the top of the cake, so get the ripest ones you can find. Peel, quarter and core all of the pears, then squeeze a little bit of orange juice on top to keep them from browning; you're going to use orange peel in the cake, so use the juice for this purpose.
Make sure to finely mince the crystallized ginger.
Next, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the dry ingredients. Blend 1-1/3 cups of All-Purpose flour with 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger, 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger and salt. The crystallized ginger is quite sticky, but make sure you chop the ginger pieces finely so you don't have a giant clump of ginger in the cake batter.
Pour orange juice over the pears to keep them from browning.
Set the dry mixture aside and prepare the wet ingredients, starting with the cup of grated peeled Bosc pears. You will need two medium-sized pears; these pears don't need to be as ripe as the other ones. Speed up the process by using the grater attachment with a food processor. If you want another fruit flavor in the batter, try grating an apple, such as a gala, empire or honeycrisp.
Beat 3 large eggs with 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon each of vanilla extract and grated orange peel and the cup of grated pears. Blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and set the batter aside.
Make a flower design with the pear slices.
Now that you have the cake batter prepared, it is time to prepare the cast iron skillet. Place a ten-inch skillet over low heat to melt 6 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter melts, sprinkle 3/4 cup of packed golden brown sugar. Stir the mixture together so the butter and sugar completely blend.
Place the pear slices in a flower design around the perimeter of the skillet, then stick smaller slices in the middle of the skillet to finish covering the top of the cake and coincidentally to finish decorating your cake.
Pour the batter on top of the pear slices once you have finished decorating the soon-to-be top of the cake.
Pour the cake batter on top and stick the skillet in the oven for 30-40 minutes. If you don't have a deep skillet, don't pour all of the batter into it, otherwise, your cake will overflow in the oven. Not that that ever happens...
What may seem like the cake is burning is actually the caramelization of the brown sugar and butter. Browned butter plus brown sugar equals awesomeness.
Stick a toothpick into the center of the cake to check for doneness. Then, let it cool on a rack for nearly 20 minutes before inverting it onto a cake plate. Once you flip the cake out of the pan, your beautiful flower arrangement of pears is revealed. And the only thing left to do is serve a warm slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Check out the previous installments of the Cake Decorating 101 series:
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.