How does caramelized pears with a hint of brandy baked under a warm gingerbread cake sound about now? Pear Upside Down Gingerbread cake literally tastes & smells like the holidays!
Lucky me! Once again I was invited to bake in a historic home with a 7′ wood-fired stone oven. As I proud baking-geek, I can tell you that I anticipate these baking days the way a 4-year-old anticipates Christmas morning. As soon as the invitation comes in, I gleefully begin planning what I will bake.
Because the heat in this oven is pretty intense, especially early in the day as the fire is heating up, I try to plan for items that like to bake hot. Of course, breads like a hot oven for a big oven-spring and crisp crust. I’ve also found that crackers and flatbreads do really well in this oven.
This year I made another sourdough loaf (that’s a given!) and I made Sourdough Soft Pretzels. It took a bit of trial and error to figure out exactly how to bake the pretzels. But once the kinks were worked out, they baked beautifully. That recipe will be in a later post.
With the hot floor and super high temps, a stone wood-fired oven is a great place to bake a flat tart with thinly sliced fruit. On previous baking-days I’ve made Fruit Galettes for dessert. I wanted to change things up this year and considered other desserts that might do well in the heat of the big oven.
Since I’m still using up the bounty of pears given to me by a friend, I wanted to feature pears in the dessert. The pears he gave me are “winter pears”. They’re meant for long storage so they’re quite firm and hold their shape really well when baked. I figured they could stand up to the heat of the wood-fired oven.
So I made one of my favorite go-to fruit desserts, an upside down cake. I just love the contrast of gooey caramel, chunky fruit and soft cake. Pears and ginger always work well together, so using gingerbread for the cake-part was an easy choice.
To tell the truth, the cake didn’t do that well in the wood-fired oven. Part of the fun (if you’re a baking geek) of using this oven is trying to figure out where the hot spots are and finding just the right temperature for each item to bake perfectly.
When I put the cake in to bake, the floor of the oven wasn’t quite hot enough and the upper part of the oven was too hot. So the cake was burned on top (which would be the bottom of the cake once it was upside-down) and the batter right under the fruit (which was the bottom in the oven but the top once it was upside down)…ARG. Too confusing! Anyway I baked it again in my home oven and it was perfect.
This does make a large cake since I baked it in a 12″ skillet. If your pan is smaller you can reduce the recipe by 1/3 or 1/2, or make the full recipe and use the extra batter for muffins or a mini-loaf. This is not one of those fussy recipes that must be very precise.
I suggest you enjoy it warm with a cup of coffee for breakfast, or with whipped cream, ice cream or a drizzle of brandy-spiked Crème Anglaise for dessert.
Click through the slider to see how to make a Pear Upside Down Gingerbread Cake:
- 4 Tbsp (2oz, 55g) unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp brandy
- 3/4 cup (6 oz, 165g) light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3# Pears, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
- 2 cups (10 oz, 285g) all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (3 oz, 85g) cake flour
- 1.5 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp table salt
- 3/4 cup (9 oz, 255g) molasses
- 1 cup (8 oz, 235 ml) water
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup (4 oz, 115g) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (4 oz, 115g) light brown sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325°F convection or 350°F conventional
- Combine butter, brandy, brown sugar, vanilla & cinnamon in a 12" cast iron skillet. Heat until the butter is melted and the mixture just begins to boil.
- Place the pears into the caramel and cook until the bottoms are beginning to brown. Flip the pears over. Add more pears as the pears in the pan shrink and make more room. Continue to cook until the pears are tender about 1/2 way through. Turn off the heat and set aside while preparing the batter
- Sift the dry ingredients, set aside.
- Mix the molasses and water, set aside.
- Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and aerated. Scrape the bowl and add the. Mix to combine. With the mixer running on low, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the molasses in 3 batches. Gently pour the batter over pears and smooth to an even layer.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake is puffed and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan.
- Run a paring knife or small spatula around the edges of the pan to make sure the cake isn't sticking. Place a large serving platter over the pan and flip the cake, pear side up.
- If any pears stick to the pan simply lift them out with a spatula and place them back onto the cake.
- Enjoy warm.
The cake can be made several hours ahead and reheated in the oven before removing from the pan.
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