Pear Upside-down Cake

pear cake

As the name implies, this cake is baked with the pears on the bottom and then flipped onto a plate. The pear and caramel mixture is something akin to the apple bottom of a tart Tatin and recipe is, in fact, only a slightly adulterated version of the Barefoot Contessa’s tart Tatin recipe.

I served this on Tuesday night with an Amaretto ice cream and two different guests shamelessly scraped the plate for crumbs afterwards. I take that as a good sign.

Overall Rating: 9

Recipe for the bottom:
2 ripe pears
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water

I think the toughest part of this recipe is making the caramel. For some reason I have a bad habit of burning caramel, but this process works for me. Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat. You may swirl the pan gently, but do not stir it. Do not stick anything into it, except a candy thermometer, if you have one. When it gets to a nice amber color, or about 360 degrees, take it off of the heat immediately. It will take a while before it starts to change color at all. It will simmer for a while and you’ll wonder if it will ever get any color at all, and then all at once it will start to change, and you’ll worry that it’s not dark enough, but once it gets golden throughout, turn it off.

Butter the bottom of your baking dish. I like a fluted pie pan for this. Peel the pears, halve them, core them, and then slice them thick. Arrange the slices on the bottom of the pan and then gently pour the caramel syrup over it.

Recipe for the cake:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle. If you don’t know what that means, it’s the process of beating them together for a bit until they got sort of fluffy and glossy, like icing. With the mixer turned all the way down to low, add the eggs one at a time, then add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. The batter should be nice and even at this point.

Measure the flour, baking powder and salt and sift them together. Add them to the batter and mix briefly. Once the baking powder hits the wet ingredients, it is going to start making little bubbles. You want those bubbles to stay trapped in the batter and make the cake rise once it’s in the oven. If you keep mixing the batter after the bubbles form, they will sort of fizz out of the batter and the cake won’t rise. So, mix it only enought to get the wet and dry ingredients combines and then stop.

Pour the cake over the fruit and smooth it out evenly. Bake in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden. Take it out of the oven and set it on a rack for 15 minutes or so to cool down and set. After that, loose the cake by running a knife or spatula gently around the sides and then invert it onto a serving dish. The easiest way to do this is to turn the plate over, cover the cake with it, grab the two together and then flip them as one. Remove the baking dish and you should be all set.

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