Top | Cakes and Muffins

Pear Ginger Upside-Down Cake

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)

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While I quite like Nick Malgieri's Pear and Ginger Cake, it was Leslie Mackie's upside-down version (in her book, Leslie Mackie's Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook) that really hit the sweet spot. This is my adaptation of Mackie's intensely rich, gingerbready confection. If you serve it while it's still warm from the oven, the texture — moist and dense yet still light and airy — is evocative of a classic British steamed toffee pudding. The pears are just a bonus.


    1. 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
    2. ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
    3. 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
    4. 2 large pears, peeled, cored, and sliced into ½-inch slices
    1. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2. ⅔ cup dark brown sugar
    3. 2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
    4. 3 large eggs
    5. ½ cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses
    6. 1⅓ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    7. 1⅓ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
    8. 1½ tsp. baking powder
    9. 1½ tsp. baking soda
    10. ½ tsp. salt
    11. ½ tsp. ground ginger
    12. ½ tsp. ground allspice
    13. ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
    14. ¼ tsp. ground cardamom
    15. ¼ tsp. ground cloves
    16. 1⅓ cups buttermilk
    1. Whipped cream (optional)


    1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Oil the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch nonstick springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper.
    2. Make the topping: Melt the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread out as evenly as you can. Place the sliced pears on top of the butter-sugar mixture, lining the pieces up tightly in a decorative circle.
    3. Make the batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the 2 sticks of butter with the brown sugar for three to five minutes, until smooth and pale tan in color. Add the minced ginger and beat 1 minute more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on low speed and making sure that each egg is fully incorporated before adding another. When all the eggs have been added, slowly pour in the molasses and beat to fully mix. (The mixture will look as though it is “breaking” or curdling, but don’t worry; it will all come out fine in the oven.)
    4. In a separate medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Alternately add small amounts of the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the batter, stirring and folding with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are just absorbed. Do not overmix the batter. Pour and scrape the batter into the pear-lined pan, smoothing the top with a rubber surface. The pan will be nearly full.
    5. Bake the cake: Bake on the center rack of the oven for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake’s center comes out clean. (You'll probably want to put a baking sheet on the rack immediately beneath the cake-baking rack, to catch any sugary drips.) Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Cover the pan with an upside-down serving plate, then carefully invert them together. Release the sides of the pan and lift the sides away. Gently lift the pan’s base off the cake, then peel away the parchment paper (if it didn't stick to the pan base, that is). Allow the cake to cool for 30 minutes or so, then serve warm, with whipped cream if you like.