This post has been updated for recipe, content and photos since it’s original publication in 2014.
Looking for delectable fall desserts? This Cranberry Pear Upside Down Cake is a gorgeous seasonal dessert that’s perfect for Thanksgiving and the holidays. This pear cake recipe is dotted with tart fresh cranberries and crowned with caramelized pears, so there’s no need for frosting… but a scoop of vanilla or dollop of whipped cream would be awesome.
My husband loves this beautiful caramelized pear upside down cake with fresh cranberries… He loves how moist it is, that it’s not too sweet and he really likes the jammy pockets of tart cranberries nestled in the tender pear cake crumb. He also loves that it’s not pumpkin… a refreshing twist from the bevy of pumpkin spice desserts assaulting us from September through Thanksgiving (he’s not a fan). Consequently, when I offer up a fall dessert, this one always makes the cut.
Tips For Cranberry Pear Upside Down Cake
Before we get started, let’s go over a few housekeeping notes. It’s important not to jump around in this recipe... particularly at the beginning. I know many people don’t actually prepare their cake pans until the cake is ready, however, you have to start at the beginning for this caramelized pear cake recipe.
Preparing Pears and Cake Pan
- Line the cake pan with parchment paper and spray the pan with vegetable spray.
- Peel and slice the pears and arrange them in the bottom of the pan, so they make a pretty pattern and overlap.
- You have to do this step first, because the hot caramel gets poured over the pears. Consequently, if you had waited to prepare and arrange the pears, the caramel would harden before you could pour it over the fruit.
If you’ve never made caramel, you’ll be surprised how truly simple it is and how few ingredients you need. Essentially, caramel is melted sugar that’s been cooked to an amber color. You really only need one ingredient for that — sugar. If you were making a caramel sauce you’d add heavy cream. For these caramelized pears, you’ll add butter.
Caramelized Pear Ingredients:
- Place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and heat the burner to medium high.
- Don’t touch the sugar. Let it heat and melt. Only when it starts to dissolve on the bottom of the pan, do you stir it.
- When stirring, all you’re trying to do is move the sugar on top to come into contact with the pan so it can start to dissolve.
- The molten (yes, it’s very hot — like lava) sugar will start to take on a golden color, followed by a light amber and finally a medium amber… it will go further if you let it (and can burn), but medium is what we’re shooting for here.
Finishing Caramel and Caramelizing Pears
- Once you’ve reached the medium amber stage on the sugar, whisk in a tablespoon of butter.
- Once the butter is melted and fully incorporated, add another pat of butter.
- Continue in this pattern until all of the butter is blended into the caramel.
- Pour the hot caramel over the pears and set aside.
Ingredients For Cranberry Pear Cake Batter
- All Purpose Flour
- Baking Powder
- Vanilla Bean Paste (or extract)
- Unsalted Butter
- Light Brown Sugar
- Cranberries (Fresh or Frozen)
Tips On Assembling Cranberry Cake Batter:
- The key to at light, tender crumb is to whip the butter well BEFORE adding the sugar… Then beating in the brown sugar and whipping until VERY LIGHT AND FLUFFY (about 3 minutes).
- Add the eggs one at a time and beat very well after each addition. Paying attention to these steps will add structure to the cake as well as give you a light, tender crumb.
- Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients — beating JUST UNTIL BLENDED.
- Avoid over mixing once you add the flour otherwise you risk developing the gluten and getting a dense or chewy cake.
- Gently, fold the cranberries into the batter.
Assembling Cranberry Pear Cake Recipe
- Drop spoonfuls of the batter over the caramelized pears.
- Smooth the batter with the back of an offset spatula.
- Bake until a cake tester comes out clean.
You’ll want to let the cake rest for 10 minutes before running a sharp knife around the perimeter of the cranberry pear cake and inverting onto a platter or cake stand.
Amazing Cranberry Pear Cake
So, what do you think? Isn’t she a beauty?
You can taste every aspect of this amazing confection… from the deep caramel to the juicy, tender pears, the pops of tangy cranberry and the perfectly spiced crumb. The pear cake is uber moist with swirls of the amber caramel blending with the batter and straddling the line between pudding and cake. Caramelized pear upside down cake isn’t a sugar bomb, either because the deep, toasty notes keep it subtle and sophisticated.
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Serve Cranberry Pear Upside Down Cake with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a company-worthy, holiday-appropriate, fall dessert that’ll make you swoon.
You May Like These Fall Dessert Recipes:
- Sweet Tart Apple Cranberry Pie
- Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust
- Fresh Cranberry Pear Crisp
- One Bowl Applesauce Walnut Snack Cake
Cranberry Pear Upside Down Cake
FOR CARAMELIZED PEARS
- 2 large Firm, ripe pears (Bosc, D'Anjou or Bartlett work well)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
FOR CRANBERRY CAKE
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (8 tablespoons/1 stick) at room temperature
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
PREPARE THE PAN AND PEARS
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x2" round cake pan with a round of parchment paper. Spray with vegetable spray and set aside.
- Peel the pears, slice in half and remove the seeds (I use a melon baller for this). Slice the pears into 1/4" slices and arrange over the parchment paper, slightly overlapping the pears.
MAKE THE CARAMEL
- Add sugar to a small saucepan and place over medium high heat. Don't disturb the sugar, let it start to melt. When the sugar starts to dissolve, carefully stir it to mix the sugar crystals with the melted sugar, but try not to splash the sugar onto the sides of the pan. (If a lot of sugar crystals stick to the sides of the pan, you can brush them down with a little water, but it's easier if you just don't get the sugar on the pan).
- Continue to cook the sugar and let it caramelize to just beyond a golden color, like a medium amber, but remove it from the heat before it gets too dark or smells like it's burning. Add a tablespoon of butter at a time and stir into the caramel until melted and incorporated before adding the next tablespoon.
- Immediately pour the caramel sauce over the pears. It will fill in and around the gaps. Set aside.
MAKE THE CRANBERRY CAKE
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- Place the butter in a large bowl and use a stand mixer or hand mixer to beat until soft and creamy, scraping sides of bowl as you go.
- Add the brown sugar to the butter and beat on medium high speed for about 3 minutes until the mixture is very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until well blended before adding the next egg.
- Combine the milk and vanilla bean paste (or vanilla) and whisk together.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and milk mixture to the creamed butter, beating just until the ingredients are combined before adding the next. Do this in 5 additions starting with the flour. The batter will be thick.
- Fold in the cranberries.
- Spoon the batter over the pears and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before running a sharp knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it. Place a cake platter over the top of the cake and quickly invert it onto the platter. Lift the pan and pull away the parchment paper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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