Pear Pecan Upside-down Cake

a beautifully decorated pear upside down cake

“…the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows.”
– Joan Didion, Slouching Toward Bethlehem

No riot of color or chilling air; October’s subtlety in LA is lost to anyone not labeled “native.” Sunburnt leaves wither and suicide in golden sunlight without fanfare. Stifling Santa Ana winds unfurl scents of burning sagebrush with feelings of “prickly dread” and stopped time. Earthquake weather, we call it. Porch lights flicker awake by 6:00, lighting barefoot children pedaling bikes in dusty cul-de-sacs. This is autumn in LA.

Despite the warmth, autumn in my kitchen means roasts and stews – and desserts of pumpkin, apple or pear, like this autumn-inspired Pear Pecan Upside-down Cake.


Pear Pecan Upside-down Cake

A buttery-rich cake topped with fresh pears and pecans.


Ingredients

    Topping
  • 2 Bosc pears, cored, peeled and cut into 12 slices each
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup pecans
  • ⅓ cup bourbon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Cake
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
  • ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup pecans
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger

Directions

  1. Make Topping: Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter a 9” cake pan and arrange pear slices in a pattern on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  2. Bring 1 cup sugar and water to boil in a frying pan over high heat (not nonstick), reduce heat to simmer and cook, swirling, but not stirring until mixture caramelizes. When colored a medium brown, add pecans and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant. Remove from heat and carefully add bourbon and salt. Pour over pears. Note: At any place along the process, the caramel may seize and crystalize, just return it to the stove on a low heat and re-melt.
  3. Make Cake: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together unsalted butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time; beating after each addition (I add a small tablespoon of the flour mixture after each egg to help avoid curdling). Beat in vanilla. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beating after each addition, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in remaining ½ cup pecans and crystalized ginger. Batter will be thick
  4. Spoon batter over pears, smoothing and spreading evenly. Bake cake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool on rack 15 minutes, invert cake on a serving platter and cool until slightly warm.

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