Recipe: Spiced Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake

This recipe is adapted from the Gingerbread book I reviewed a week or so ago – I meant to post a recipe to go with the review, but then I made the cake and forgot to photograph it and then I forgot to write it up… Since I think you all deserve a break from my endless nattering about sourdough (two more batches of which are currently doing their thing in my kitchen), here’s a nice gingerbread recipe with a perfectly normal, cakey leaven.  But beware – whether tonight’s attempt at sourdough chocolate cake is a success or a failure, you will certainly be hearing about it…

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1/2 cup + 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tsp + 3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp + 3 tsp ground ginger
50g melted butter + 125g butter at room temperature
3 beurre bosc pears, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 1/3 cups plain flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarb of soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 cup treacle
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk (l0w fat is fine if that’s what you normally use)

Now what will you do with it?

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Stir together the 1/2 cup of sugar with 3 tsp of cinnamon and 2 tsp of ginger.  Spread the melted butter evenly over the bottom of a greased and non-stick 23cm springform cake tin, the bottom of which you may or may not have lined with baking paper (it’s cheating, and the caramelisation is less – on the other hand, the pears will actually come out of the tin at the end.  With the cake, that is.  Everything comes out of the tin eventually, but it’s better if it all comes out together, don’t you think?).

Sprinkle the sugar and spices over the butter (it makes a reasonably thick yummy layer), and arrange the pears in a decorative pattern on top.  If you have too much pear, you can do a second row (I did), and then if you still have too much pear (I did, again), chop the rest up a bit smaller and put it in the batter.

Cream butter and sugar together, then mix in the treacle and the egg.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt, and all the rest of the spices, and then mix this into the batter alternating with the milk.   Incidentally, you should follow your instinct with regard to the spices – I doubled the cinnamon and ginger, and added a whole bunch of other stuff, because I like lots of spice in my gingerbread, but you may wish to be more modest in this respect.  My version was a teeny bit fiery, which is how I like it.  My fellow choristers liked it too.

When your mixture is nice and smooth, pour it over the pears in the tin, and put the tin on a baking sheet, unless you like having caramelised oven.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake passes the skewer test.  Cool in the tin for about 15 minutes before loosening the sides carefully (feel free to use a knife for this – you don’t want to make the cake fall apart after all your hard work)  Turn it onto a serving plate and carefully, carefully, very, very, carefully, lift off the pan.

Isn’t it pretty?

The cake is lovely at room temperature, but would be even more glorious warm with ice-cream.


This cake would be dead easy to veganise or render gluten free – it already has baking powder and bicarb in it, so substituting the plain flour for a gluten-free mix would be (if you’ll pardon the expression) a piece of cake.  As for the vegan version, soy milk or rice milk would replace the dairy milk,  Nuttelex caramelises fruit very nicely, and can replace the butter without any trouble, and the egg can be replaced with about 1/3 cup of apple sauce or, better still, pear puree and an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.  This would probably even enhance the cake’s flavour, so it’s a win in every direction.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have sourdough to knead.  Wish me luck!

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3 comments for “Recipe: Spiced Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake

  1. Alison
    June 21, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Yum yum yum. Thank you for the recipe, Catherine, this cake is delicious. I’ve been wanting to make upside-down cake for a while but had trouble finding a recipe I liked, until now that is.

    I used a silicone cake pan and the cake came out of it just fine, no need for baking paper, just greased with a bit of butter.

    • June 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm

      Hooray! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m always a bit iffy about silicone – on the one hand, it sounds like such a good idea… on the other hand, everything I make seems to stick to it, and after a few uses, it’s really hard to get clean. But I can see it working very well for upside-down cakes.

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