Pear-Walnut (or Pecan) Upside-Down Cake
I served this cake as one of three options on Thanksgiving. Almost everyone asked for the recipe, because the cake is so scrumptious.
Bosc Pears, those brown-skinned elongated beauties, hold their shape in this delicious cake. I’ve made it with walnuts as well as pecans. Be sure that the pan you use is at least 2 inches deep and it is best if it is light-colored.
The recipe is from those perfectionists at America’s Test Kitchen.
A confession: I use salted butter because it is what I have on hand. So I use a little less salt than is called for in the recipe. Use the salt amounts given if using unsalted butter. Bad Cathy. (It works out fine.) And if you look at the photo, you’ll she that I cut the pears in quarters rather than eighths … always testing to see what I like best.
Serve it with sweetened whipped cream or crème fraiche. Ho, ho, ho!
Yield: 8 to 10
Butter for greasing pan
Parchment paper cut to match bottom of pan
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 ripe but firm Bosc pears (about 8 ounces each)
1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted, cooled (toast on baking sheet about 5 minutes at 350 degrees – watch carefully because nuts burn easily)
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1. Topping: Adjust oven rack to middle position. Heat to 300 degrees. Grease 9-inch round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Pour melted butter over bottom of pan and swirl to evenly coat. Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in small bowl; sprinkle evenly over melted butter.
2. Pears: Peel, halve and core pears. Set aside 1 pear half and reserve for another use (maybe a nice snack for the baker). Cut remaining 5 pear halves into 4 wedges each. Arrange pears in circular pattern around cake pan with tapered ends pointing inward. Arrange two smallest pear wedges in center. (I’ve noticed that sometimes the pears are so long there is no room in the center, so I just snuggle them closer together …)
3. Cake: Pulse nuts, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in food processor until nuts are finely ground, 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer to mixing bowl.
Process eggs and sugar in now-empty processor until very pale yellow, about 2 minutes. With processor running, add melted butter and oil in steady stream until incorporated. Add walnut mixture and pulse to combine 4 to 5 pulses. Pour batter evenly over pears (some pear may show through, but cake will bake over them).
4. Bake until center of cake is set and bounces back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours, rotating pan after 40 minutes. Let cake cool for 15 minutes (set a timer because this timing is important). Carefully run paring knife or offset spatula around sides of pan. Invert cake onto wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet; discard parchment. Let cake cool for about 2 hours and transfer to serving platter.