Pear Upside-Down Cake

As much as we all wish it were summer berry and melon season (because those of us on the east coast are through with the the falling snow and the slippery ice, or at least I am), it's pear season! 

So stay positive and make the best of the winter fruits that we take for granted (that being pears and the multiple varieties of citrus fruits). 
Those of us who wish we lived in the tropics, where pineapples are tossed around as frequently as snowballs, we need to cope with it's wintertime absence. This time of year, I browse the grocery store and frown at the price of grapes and the bin that the peaches once called home six months ago. What's that on the shelf for a dollar per pound? Bartlett pears. 

Hmm..what can you do with pears? Roast them, poach them, make pear crisp when apples start to make you yawn, bake them into a cake, or perhaps, underneath a cake.

C'mon now, pineapple upside-down cake is so out of style. So let's talk about pear upside-down cake. 
Pear Upside-Down Cake
Recipe by Tish Boyle from Fine Cooking
Yield: 8 servings
(*scroll down for tips on how to make this cake vegan)

Unsalted butter, softened (for pan)

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup cold water
4 teaspoon unsalted butter

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 -3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs

Method of Prep:
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and butter the bottom and sides of a 9"x2" round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and butter the top of the parchment paper.

2. Peel, core, and cut the pears lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Arrange the pear slices along the bottom of the pan, slightly overlapping them. If needed, slice off the pointed ends of the pear to make the slices fit better. If the pear slices don't cover the middle of the pan, simply trim the extra into shorter pieces and fill in the gap.

3. Make the Caramel sauce by combining the sugar, lemon juice, and cold water together in a small heavy-saucepan. Fill a measuring cup with water and place a pastry brush into it. Place the pan over medium high heat to cook until the sugar's color begins to change around the edge of the pan, about 5-8 minutes. While the sugar is cooking, wash the sides of the pan down with the pastry brush to remove harmful sugar crystals.

4. As the sugar's color alters, carefully swirl the pan to prevent burning on the edges. Continue to cook until the mixture turns medium amber, about 30 seconds longer. The color will darken very quickly. Immediately remove the pan and whisk in butter, 4 tablespoons at a time, until completely melted. Carefully pour the hot caramel over the pears (the caramel should spread over the pears and fall to the bottom of the pan). Set aside.

5. Make the cake batter by sifting the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, and salt into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vanilla.

6. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Turn the mixer down to medium speed and slowly add the brown sugar. Increase the speed to high and continue to mix until lightened in texture and color, about 2-3 minutes total Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

7. Reduce the speed to low and alternate the flour and milk mixture in five additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix each addition enough to incorporate, but be careful not to over mix, as it will result in a tough cake. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more and stir just to ensure all of the ingredients and combined.

8. Spoon the batter over the pears and smooth into an even layer. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a nice place. Serve warm and store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.

*For vegan option: 
-Substitute the butter in the recipe for earth balance or other vegan margarine.
-Raw sugar may be used to substitute the brown sugar.
-Use non-dairy milk (I recommend coconut milk because it's high fat content gives flavor along with the tropical coconuttiness. (Can that be a word?)
-Use flax as an egg replacer:
(2 eggs= 1 tablespoon flax meal + 6 tablespoons water.
Mix together with a whisk or fork and allow to sit for 10 minutes to gelatinize)

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Maira Gall