Here’s a not so secret, secret. Scott doesn’t like pumpkin. Especially pumpkin pie. He’ll tolerate it in certain forms — like the pumpkin bread that I am required to make every year, but he turns his nose up at pumpkin pies, custards, cheesecakes, mousses, br?l?es, cookies — well you get the idea.
The thing is, when I asked you to share your favorite fall comfort foods, people understandably shouted “PUMPKIN”. I understand, I appreciate and concur with your feelings! But I live with Scott. So I went in another direction for this one. Pears and cranberries — both arguably fall harvest foods and both perfect for any number of autumn-y desserts.
I found the original recipe on epicurious. It was sourced by the Bi-Rite market in San Francisco. There are two universal truths here:
One: any food originally sourced in San Francisco is by birthright at the top of its class.
Two: Cool, independent food markets and purveyors just seem to germinate in and around this city.
I tweaked their recipe slightly — not because there was anything wrong with the original — I just didn’t have candied ginger on hand and I had a whole bag of cranberries. I normally don’t futz with baking recipes because baking is a science and invariably when I get “creative” I also get something I didn’t originally intend — as in — “well, if I put a scoop of ice cream on top, maybe they won’t notice.”
My tweaks here weren’t so egregious as to alter the science. In the end the cake came out beautifully! The pears were tender and held their shape. The cake was sweet and perfectly spiced. But the best part for me was the cranberries.
People always add dried cranberries to their baked goods. I know, I know, they’re chewy and sweet – blah, blah, blah.
Do you know what happens when you add fresh cranberries? They’re tart and jammy and absolutely wonderful! It’s a revelation! From now on, my dried cranberries will stay in my salads and the fresh ones will go into all my baked goods — they’re that good!
Anyway, getting back to my original rambling – Scott doesn’t like pumpkin – so when he took his first taste of this cake he said, “Oh, Wow! This takes like fall! This would be perfect for Thanksgiving. Uh, you know, as another dessert. For people who don’t like pumpkin pie.”
I get the hint!
pear and cranberry upside down cake
For the sugary top
- 6 tablespoons butter 3/4 stick
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 1/4 pounds Bosc pears peeled, cored, sliced into eighths - vertically
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
For the cake
- 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of one orange
- 1 cup peeled cored and grated Bosc pears
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl combine brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom and mix until well blended. Set aside.
Melt butter in heavy 10-inch diameter ovenproof skillet over low heat. Remove from heat and sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Sprinkle half the cranberries over the sugar mixture. Arrange quartered pears in a flower design in the pan on top of the sugar. Cut pieces to fit and fill in any holes. Add remaining cranberries. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk flour, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk eggs, oil, vanilla, and orange zest to blend. Stir in grated pears. In 2 or three additions, add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring to combine evenly.
Pour batter over pears in skillet. Bake until cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
Cool cake on a rack for 20 minutes. Run a sharp knife around skillet sides to loosen cake. Place a cake plate over the skillet and quickly invert the cake onto the plate. Serve warm.