Sunday, November 3, 2013

Caramel Pear Upside-Down Cake

With Thanksgiving a few short weeks away, 'tis the season for entertaining, and you can never have too many pretty-as-a-picture dessert recipes in your arsenal for holiday gatherings.  I came across this upside-down pear cake when searching for a way to use up the big bag of pears I picked up at the farmer's market.

This recipe may look involved, with its layers of pears, caramel and cake batter, but keep in mind that once baked all you have to do is flip it onto a plate and it's ready to serve - no frosting or fussing required.  And don't be scared of making your own caramel.  The toughest part is keeping your eye on it and your hands off.  Just leave it alone until it starts to turn that golden caramel color.

If you're having guests over, try to get this cake in the oven just before they arrive.  Not only is it best when eaten warm, but the ginger, cinnamon & caramel in the cake will make your house smell like heaven as it's baking.  If you do make it ahead of time, however, just warm up each slice in the microwave for 15-20 seconds before serving.

Caramel Pear Upside-Down Cake (from fine cooking)

2 firm ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4" slices
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs

For the topping:
Butter or spray a 9" cake pan with non-stick baking spray.  Layer your pear slices in concentric circles in the pan until the bottom of the pan is covered.

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, mix together the sugar, water and lemon juice.  Keep another cup of water and a pastry brush close by and brush down any stray sugar on the side of the pan.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Do not stir.  It should boil for about 5-7 minutes before the mixture begins to darken the edges of the pan.

Gently swirl the mixture so that the sugar doesn't burn.  When the mixture reaches a gold amber color (this will happen quickly once it starts to darken), remove from heat.  Whisk in the butter (mixture will bubble vigorously), one tablespoon at a time, until incorporated.  When the last of the butter is mixed in, pour the caramel over the pears in the cake pan, covering them completely.

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger & salt together in a bowl and set aside.  Mix together milk and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.

Use a mixer to beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.  With the mixer setting on low, alternate mixing in the flour mixture and milk in five additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  Do not over-mix.  When the last of the flour is incorporated, spoon the cake batter over the caramel and use a spatula to smooth it out in an even layer.

Bake for 35 - 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.  Cool the cake for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then run a knife around the edge of the pan and use potholders to invert the cake onto your serving plate.  Serve warm.

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