Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pear Upside-Down Ginger Cake

Many years ago I was at a dinner party in San Francisco on a chilly autumn night. Not only was the host a gifted graphic designer he was also a fabulous cook. At the end of the meal he whipped up a very quick dessert of caramelized bananas with ginger served over vanilla ice cream. It was the first time I had experienced fresh ginger, and I can still remember the explosion of flavor. 

Now I eat ginger fresh and dried all year long, but it is particularly appealing during the fall especially when paired with ripe autumn fruit like Bosc pears. I love the texture, flavor, and sweetness of Bosc pears. They hold up so nicely when baked and they have a depth of flavor that lends nicely to warm autumn spices.

A play on the classic upside-down cake this rustic version combines two of my favorite autumn flavors: pears and fresh ginger. But nice crisps apples would be a delicious substitute if pears aren't your thing. Or if you don't have ripe pears on hand.

While I baked the cake in an iron skillet, if you prefer a more refined look it can be baked in a regular cake pan or a spring-form pan. If using a spring-form pan wrap the outside with aluminum foil to catch any possible run-away juices from the pears.

If you can not find Lyle's Golden Syrup either increase the molasses or the brown sugar by a 1/4 cup (60 ml or 60 g). The cake is a snap to make and is tasty at any time of day.

Pear Upside-Down Ginger Cake
makes a 9-inch (23 cm) or 10-inch (25 cm) cake

2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated or minced 
1/2 cup (4 ounces/113 g) unsalted butter 
1/2 cup (125 ml) molasses
1/4 cup (63 ml) Lyle's Golden Syrup
1/2 cup (120 g) brown sugar (light or dark), firmly packed
2 eggs
3/4 cup (180 ml) boiling water
2-3 Bosc pears or other firm pears
2 tablespoons (1 ounce/30 g) salted or unsalted butter (for the pan), at room temperature
1-2 tablespoons (15-30 g) granulated sugar (for the pan)

Preheat the oven to 350℉ (175℃). Using the 2 tablespoons of room temperature butter generously coat a 9-inch (23 cm) or 10-inch (25 cm) iron skillet then sprinkle liberally with 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 g) of granulated sugar. If it isn't all needed you can leave the extra in the bottom of the pan or dump it out. (A regular 9-inch (23 cm) or 10-inch (25 cm) cake pan or spring-form pan may be substituted for the skillet if desired. If using a spring-form pan wrap the outside with aluminum foil in case the pears are very juicy.)

Peel, core, and cut each pear into quarters. Slice each quarter into 3-4 slices. Line prepared skillet (or cake pan) with pear slices in a spiral pattern. 

In a bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside. In a large saucepan melt the butter with the fresh ginger stirring for a minute or two. Add the molasses, Lyle's Golden Syrup, and brown sugar. Stir to incorporate. Whisk in the flour mixture followed by the eggs, then the boiling water making sure all ingredients are combined.

Pour the batter over the pears and bake in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before inverting the cake onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. (If using a cake pan or spring-form pan allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the pan.) The cake can be stored covered at room temperature for a day or two. Refrigerate for longer storage.

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