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Dessert Week Comes to a Close, With a Look Back

We're still living out of boxes at home, and between that, the recent bout of strep throat, and the work I've been doing on "Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for their Families," I have not been spending much time in the kitchen. I miss it.

Back before the book, before the move, before the torture of facing eviction, in the sweet and simple period of the fall of 2009, I had the time to make my first attempt at baking. Reveling in the nostalgia I have for pineapple upside down cake, which I loved as a child, I made a pear upside-down cake. Santa Maria, an expert when it comes to desserts, helped me with the recipe. Here it is again:

 Santa Maria’s Pear Upside-Down Cake

  • 11 Tablespoons butter
  • ¼ Cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • optional: 1/3 cup (2 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate pieces (broken from a bar into whatever size you prefer)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt three tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium heat.

Add brown sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves.

Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes.

Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a 9 ½ -inch baking pan.

Arrange the pear slices in the sugar mixture as you see fit.

In a mixing bowl, beat the remaining butter (one stick) and the sugar with a mixer until it is light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and eggs and mix until smooth.


In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Combine the wet (butter) and dry (flour) mixtures in three batches with the milk. And mix until barely combined. Do not over mix. Lumps are okay.

Carefully spread the cake batter on top of the pears using a spatula.

Bake in oven about 45 minutes, until top is golden. A thin sharp knife stuck in the cake should come out clean.

Let the cake sit for five minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the cake pan.

Put a plate on top of the cake and carefully flip it so the plate is on the bottom and the pan is on top.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


Note: Fold chocolate pieces into the batter before baking for a slightly richer cake.


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