Bosc Pear Upside-down Gingerbread Cake

Bosc pears are in season!  Compared to the squat, bright green d’Anjou or yellow Bartlett, these cinnamon brown-gold beauties, elegant and shapely, are the royalty of the pear family.

These fruits make the most delicious and visually stunning desserts; I love them poached in a simple sugar syrup served with vanilla ice cream and warm chocolate sauce– the French dessert poires belle Hélène.  For a more dramatic dessert, I’ll poach them in red wine sweetened with sugar and spiced with cinnamon; the ruby-colored fruits are almost too beautiful to eat (but I do, with a bit of mascarpone or whipped cream).

Tonight, I decided to bake an upside-down pear gingerbread– a fall twist on the traditional pineapple cake, which I made for my mommy dinner last fall.  I knew it would go well with tonight’s menu: thick pan-fried pork chops in a pan-drippings gravy accompanied by a roasted medley of parsnips, blue fingerlings, Brussels sprouts, carrots and slices of cauliflower.  I hadn’t planned on the gravy, but Kurt hinted, “How are you making those?”

This recipe is from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, Complete Seasonal Cookbook.  I bought the book as part of my family’s overall desire to “eat locally.”  It’s an uncomplicated dessert to make and doesn’t require any frosting!  I simply plate the cake onto its serving platter and let it sit til dessert time.  The only change I made to the original recipe is to increase the amount of the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

Bosc Pear Upside-down Gingerbread Cake (adapted from W-S)

for the pear base:

  • 1/4 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 Bosc pears
  • 1/2 c brown sugar

for the gingerbread:

  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 c AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c dark molasses
  • 1/3 c boiling water

to make the pear base

Peel the pears (be careful, they are slippery once peeled), then cut them in half length-wise.  Using a melon baller (yes, I still have mine from the 80s), remove the core.

The pears should not be over-ripe!

The pears should not be over-ripe!

Slice the pears thinly and set aside.

Ready for their butter-sugar bath!

Ready for their butter-sugar bath!

Ready for their butter-sugar bath!

Ready for their butter-sugar bath!

In a 9-inch square metal baking pan, melt the 1/4 cup of butter over medium meat.  When melted, add the brown sugar.

Stir to dissolve the sugar

Stir to dissolve the sugar

Stir and cook until sugar has melted– not just dissolved.

Bubbly and buttery

Bubbly and buttery

Add the pears, turning to coat in the melted sugar/butter.

The pears will release some of their juice as they soften

The pears will release some of their juice as they soften

Cook until pears have softened.  It will look like there’s a lot of liquid, but that’s OK.  Arrange the pears (or not– I just make sure they’re evenly spread across the bottom of the pan) and set aside pan while you make the gingerbread batter.

The syrup is thin

The syrup is thin

for the gingerbread batter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).

Measure the spices into a small bowl.  (I use a teeny bowl from an old set of W-S glass mixing bowls that Grace gave me decades ago– glad I kept them because the new versions are much thinner and smaller volume).

Warm, homey, autumn spices:  ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves!

Warm, homey, autumn spices: ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves!

Measure the flour into a mixing bowl.  Mix in the spices and the baking powder.  Set the bowl aside.

Flour and flavors

Flour and flavors

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

A hand mixer is the most efficient way to do this!

A hand mixer is the most efficient way to do this!

Add the egg and the molasses, then mix until well incorporated.

Molasses for flavor, egg for fat and structure

Molasses for flavor, egg for fat and structure

Heat the water (e.g., in the microwave) til boiling.  Add about half the flour into the butter/sugar mixture and blend well.

I switch from the mixer to a spatula or wooden spoon to prevent over-mixing

I switch from the mixer to a spatula or wooden spoon to prevent over-mixing

Add about half the boiling water and mix well.

Make sure the water is very hot to activate the baking soda

Make sure the water is very hot to activate the baking soda

Repeat, taking care not to over mix the batter.

The batter is thicker than cake batter

The batter is thicker than cake batter

Plop the batter on top of the pears in the pan; you won’t be able to pour the batter, so just go for big dollops over the pears.

See how thick the batter is?

See how thick the batter is?

Using an angled metal icing spatula, smooth the gingerbread batter over the pears.  Some liquid may seep over the batter, but don’t worry.

If you don't have an angled icing spatula, try a tablespoon!

If you don’t have an angled icing spatula, try a tablespoon!

Bake the gingerbread for 40 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven.  If it looks like the gingerbread is over-browning towards the end of the baking time, place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pan.

There may be juices bubbling when you remove the pan; again, this is OK.

There may be juices bubbling when you remove the pan; again, this is OK.

The cake is done when the surface springs back when lightly pressed.  Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes.  Unmold the cake by placing the serving platter over the cake pan and flipping the cake over.  It should release easily.

Ken, who doesn't care for the grainy texture (stone cells) of pears, LOVES this cake.

Ken, who doesn’t care for the grainy texture (stone cells) of pears, LOVES this cake.

Serve warm or at room temperature.  I prefer this cake to the pineapple version because of the spices and the fact that the cake is not too sweet.

I meant to take a picture of a slice, but when I came back downstairs, the cake WAS ALL GONE!

Bosc pears

Bosc pears

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9 Comments

Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts, Everyday Cakes, Family, Food

9 responses to “Bosc Pear Upside-down Gingerbread Cake

  1. Rebecca McGill

    Looks delicious! I’m not showing your blog to Dave or Kyle! They’ll be knocking at your door for dinner:)

  2. Margo Williams

    This is so funny! Last night during the game (go sox!) I was browsing cookbooks for Thanksgiving recipes, both for the family feast and the office pot luck. The recipe I had about decided on was guess what – upside down pear gingerbread! But it’s from (I think) the Dorrie Greenspan cookbook. I’ll have to compare the recipes and let you know. Margo

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Go, Bosox! I’ll always be an AL fan because I was an Orioles fan before the Nats arrived. The combo of the fruit and spice cake is soooooo good. This gingerbread is denser than regular cake, so the dessert is not very tall, and doesn’t have the visual impact of a layer cake. But it goes fast, LOL!

      • Margo

        I made this for the office Thanksgiving potluck. It was delicious but the competition was stiff. My family really enjoyed what was left. I found the gingerbread was a little dry/tough – so either I cooked it too long (40 min) or maybe I overmixed it? I wonder how I could lighten it up a bit next time. 2 eggs? 4 pears (so more juice to soak in

      • The cake definitely dries out after a day. I have another gingerbread recipe that adds another egg yolk, so I’d try that or upping the butter. I’m going to try my other recipe with pears to see if it lasts longer…

  3. Barbara Conway

    The pear cake was a hit for Thanksgiving in addition to the usual pumpkin pie. Kids and big folks all liked it! Question on the recipe though– baking soda or baking powder? Oven temp? I used 350 degrees. Thanks!

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