I want to start off by saying that I had never made gingerbread before in my life, nor an upside-down cake of any kind. I also had never baked with pears, so right off the bat this recipe would kick-up my baking experience three-fold. I had tagged it for later and forgotten about it until my grandmother and I made a “baking date” and I needed a recipe. Baking with my grandmother (a woman who received her degree in home economics), I wanted a dessert that would call for readily available ingredients but also be challenging enough to draw on her experience. Sticky Pear and Walnut Upside-Down Gingerbread from Jill O’Connor’s Sticky, Chewy, Messy Gooey fit the bill.
Sticky Pear and Walnut Upside-Down Gingerbread
(from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey)
For the topping…
4 T unsalted butter
¾ C firmly packed light brown sugar
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and diced
1/3 C coarsely chopped walnuts
For the batter…
1 C all-purpose flour, plus 1 T
½ t baking soda
¼ t salt
2 t cinnamon
2 t ground ginger
¼ t freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1 large egg
¾ C firmly packed light brown sugar
6 T dark unsulphered molasses
½ C buttermilk
4 T unsalted butter, melted
- Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8″ round cake pan or prep with cooking spray.
- Cream butter and sugar together in a medium bowl. Spread mixture over the bottom and halfway up the sides of the prepped pan. Sprinkle with the pears and walnuts and set aside.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices into a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together egg, brown sugar, molasses, buttermilk, and melted butter. Gradually whisk the wet ingredients into the dry, whisking just until combined. Carefully pour the batter over the fruit and nut mixture into the bottom of the pan.
- Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top of the cake is firm and shiny and the sides pull away from the pan. Remove the cake and let cool for a few minutes. Next, place a large plate over the top of the pan and carefully turn the cake out onto it. Any sticky sauce, fruit, or nuts left in the pan can be scraped out and smoothed over the cake top.
- Let the cake cool for another 5 minutes or so before serving.
This cake – erm, bread? – is amazing! Oh, the flavors, the textures, the color! My photos definitely do NOT do it justice (working on that, but that’s another story). It is soft and gooey and spicy and juicy all at once, with a chewiness at the very outer edges – oh and did I mention it is the perfect pairing with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream? The tastes and textures remind me fleetingly of banana’s foster with a gingerbread flare, but that’s probably due only to my limited experience of baking with fruit. I could ramble on about this dessert for ages, but I should probably mention a surprise we had.
We used an eight inch cake pan, as instructed, but my grandmother’s pan had a shorter rim than I normally see. I noticed this as soon as she pulled it from the cupboard but didn’t think a cake like this would rise enough to worry. Well, I was both right and wrong: about fifteen minutes into bake time the batter began to overflow the container in a bubbly mass. It was a good thing I was with my grandmother because such an event would normally cause me to freak out (oh no, oh no, oh no!! what-do-I do?!), but Mommom just said, “Oops! Oh well,” closed the oven door, and ignored the mess. Now that’s a pro.
In the end our cake did come out of the pan denser and more moist than I had initially envisioned (since the majority of the depth was taken up by the fruit topping as apposed to, say, half) – but who would complain about that? 🙂 Also, the fact that our cake didn’t “pull away” from the sides of the pan, as described in the book, gave the edges a satisfyingly chewy quality to them that offset the juicy sponge of the rest of the dessert.
Overall Enjoyment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥