Pear Upside-Down Cake

I feel like I’ve been baking a LOT, but I think that’s mostly due to the holidays, which I am A-OK with! In my last Farm Fresh To You box I got Bosc pears (they’re the brown ones) AND they are supposed to hold up better to cooking. Originally I had lofty ideas for poached/pastry pears, but quickly abandoned that idea due to time constraints and went back to a good ol’ cake.

I have made more cakes this year of blogging than I ever have before. Dinner club has been a contributing factor because what’s easier than a cake? It’s also because I realized how easy they are – the ones I’ve made that are just one layer with out frosting, aren’t super sweet or over the top in any way. The fact that two of them have been upside-down cakes, is due purely to the fact that i think they are awesome, and I like blasts from the past.

This pear cake was light and fluffy (I will always put beaten egg whites in my cakes after this year) and unlike the other cakes this year, there is no hint of citrus – I loved it. It’s a simple yellow/vanilla cake with a smooth texture and a delicate flavor. The pears add a slight bit of texture and flavor, but more than anything look very impressive. The caramel on the bottom of the pan adds additional a layer of sweetness that, because it’s cooked, is more developed than the simple sugar in the cake. So delicious, it’s worth a try. I think this base cake and method would also lend itself to an number of season fruits you put on the bottom.

My tips:

  • Don’t burn the sugar! Keep an eye on it – it goes from deep amber to nearly burned in a heartbeat
  • Cut the pear a little thicker than 1/8 in. for additional flavor and texture
  • Cut time to about 40 min if using a 9 inch pan

Pear Upside-Down Cake*


  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided, plus more
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 medium pears (about 1 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Whipped cream or caramel gelato (optional)
  • Special equipment:An 8″-diameter round cake pan with 2″-high sides


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Butter pan; line bottom with a parchment-paper round. Whisk four, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Stir 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high. Boil syrup without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until sugar turns dark amber, 8–10 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add 1 tablespoon butter (caramel will bubble vigorously) and whisk until smooth. Pour caramel into prepared cake pan and swirl to coat bottom.
  • Peel, halve, and core the pears. Place flat on a work surface and cut lengthwise into 1/8″-thick slices. Layer slices over caramel, flat side down, overlapping as needed.
  • Mix remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 8 tablespoon butter, and vanilla in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occassionally scraping bowl. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  • Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites on low speed in a medium bowl until frothy. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until whites form soft peaks. Fold about 1/4 of the whites into cake batter. Add in remaining whites; gently fold just to blend. Pour batter over pears in pan; smooth top.
  • Bake cake, rotating pan halfway through, until top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few small moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of pan to release cake. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
  • Invert cake onto a plate; remove parchment paper. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or caramel gelato, if desired.

*Recipe copied exactly from Bon Appetit, available here


5 thoughts on “Pear Upside-Down Cake

  1. The cake really looks good and fluffy! I love the simplicity of it which must go so well with the pears. I’ve eaten Bosc pears before, but not in baked goods. Will have to try it though, because I can’t really resist the look of this cake!


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