I remember the first time I made upside down cake and how thrilled I was. I was able to invert the pan without dropping it or spilling the juice and when I pulled the pan off to reveal the beautiful fruit atop a warm cake with caramel soaked sides, I thought I had died and gone to cake heaven.
That first time I used dark burgundy elephant heart plums and it was stunning. Now I make them with almost any fruit I can get my hands on, cherries, peaches, nectarines, blueberries, even cranberries and now pears. The buttery flavor and soft texture of the warren pears make them the perfect fruit for an upside down cake.
This is the recipe I learned years ago and I haven’t seen a better one since. The cake is soft yet substantial and the cake to topping ratio is perfect.
¾ cup brown sugar
4-5 Warren pears
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
½ cup milk
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a 9 inch cake pan with 2” sides, melt the butter and brown sugar over a low flame/heat on the stove.
3. With a fork mix the butter and brown sugar together until they form a solid layer over the bottom of the pan. This should only take a minute. Your are just melting them together not caramelizing the sugar. Remove from the heat.
4. With ripe pears, cut in half from the stem to blossom end down the middle of the pear.
5. Peel, remove the stem membrane and the core. Lay cut side down and cut into ¼ slices.
6. Lay each slice into the cake pan on top of the caramel mixture so they are overlapping. You don’t want too much fruit or it will be too juicy and you will have a soggy cake.
(The exposed pears should show the middle or core of the pear, as it will be concealed by the cake; it’s the caramel side you want to look pretty as it will be what you’ll see when the cake it finished.)
7. Cream the butter and sugar until light in color in a stationary mixer or in a bowl with hand held mixer.
8. Take 2 eggs (see note below) and separate the yolk from the whites.
9. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla to the yolks and add to the butter sugar mixture.Mix until combined.
10. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder.
11. With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and warm milk alternately beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Careful not to over mix.
12. Pour the batter into a wide bowl, clean your mixing bowl with warm and soapy water and dry well.
13. With the whisk attachment whip the egg white until fluffy and they hold a 10 second ribbon.
14. With a rubber spatula, remove about 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Stir together. (This will help “lighten” the batter and make it easier to fold in the rest of the whites without over-mixing.)
15. Pour the remaining egg whites over the batter and gently fold the whites into the batter.
16. Pour over the fruit and bake for 50 minutes to an hour.
17. When ready, the cake top will be quite brown. To test for done-ness, gently push down with 2 fingers the middle of the cake, if it springs back it is done. Also, push a wooden tooth pick or skewer, into the middle at an angle; if it comes out clean, it is done. (If you push it directly down you may get some fruit /caramel on it and it will be difficult to tell if the batter is dry.) If the cake in underdone in the middle, your cake will sag when it is inverted.
18. As tempting as it is to immediately remove the pan, let it sit for 10-20 minutes. Otherwise, the fruit will be too hot and it will slide off the cake. If you wait too long like an hour or more, you can put the cake pan on the stove over a low flame, to melt and loosen the caramel.
19. Run a knife around the edge of the cake so the sides don’t stick when you try to invert it. You will need a dinner plate or a cake plate that is flat. Lay it over the top of the pan.
20. Holding the plate with your fingers, keep your thumbs on the edge of the cake pan. In as small a motion as possible; turn the pan/plate over so the bottom of the pan is facing up. Slowly pull up the cake pan from the cake.
21. Take a moment to enjoy your beautiful creation!
Chef Becky's Expert Tips for Baking: It is best to have the eggs, butter and milk at room temperature. If everything is cold, the batter will be stiff and it will force you to over mix it. If they’re coming directly from the fridge, you can warm the milk in a sauce pan on the stove very briefly just to take the chill out. In an aluminum bowl, the whites can warmed over a flame, 3 inches above it, and kept swirling as you do so. The butter can be warmed as well by cutting into 1 inch blocks and melting in by about ¼ quarter in the aluminum mixer bowl. Put in on the mixer with the paddle and mix so that it is blended before you add the sugar. This method works with a handheld mixer as well but you must use a metal bowl.
This cake will keep at room temperature for a day but after that it will need to be refrigerated and let come to room temp before eating.
This recipe has been contributed by Chef Rebecca Courchesne.