Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Upside Down Cake is an Old Standby

While upside down cakes have been around for what seems like forever, there are always new ways to combine flavors. Today I got an idea for a Spiced Pear Upside-Down Cake.

Growing up, my Mom made peach or pineapple upside-down cakes. I loved both, but peach was my favorite. I have made them over the years, changing the type of cake I put into the pan as I discovered new recipes. Long ago I found a recipe for an upside-down cake that used spiced apples. You know those very red colored spicy rings in a jar? I loved those things - yum. I made the upside-down cake recipe with those spiced apple rings and I really liked it, but my husband was not as keen on it. I never made it again. Last Fall, my friend Deb brought me a little bag of Seckel pears. It was such a small amount, I was unsure what to do with them, but I cut them in quarters and cored them, and made a spicy vinegar-sugar mixture and pickled them. It was enough to fill one quart jar and a partial 1-cup jar. I opened and tasted the small jar, and they are really good. I think they would be excellent with prosciutto wrapped around them as an appetizer.

Spiced Pickled Pears
Spiced Pickled Pears

Spiced Pickled Pears

Makes about 1 quart, plus a little

(Multiply the recipe as needed)

18 - 20 Seckel Pears, slightly under ripe
1 gallon water
juice of 1 lemon
1½ cups sugar
1 cup white or cider vinegar
2 (3-inch) cassia cinnamon sticks
6 allspice berries
10 whole cloves
¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon canning salt or 1¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

Have a bowl with the gallon of water and lemon juice handy. Wash the pears, then quarter and core them. They may be peeled, but this is not necessary. Cut the quarters in half again, or thirds, if they are larger, and place them into the water so they will not turn brown.

Prepare the syrup by placing all the rest of the ingredients into a large, nonreactive pot (stainless or enamel) and bring to a boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. Have the canning jar at the ready in a boiling water bath, with lid and ring.

Drain the pears and add them to the syrup and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Pack the pears into the canning jar and top off with the syrup, ensuring that most of the spices have gone into the jar. Place the lid and ring and then put the jar into a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.


Spiced Pear Upside-Down Cake
 Meanwhile, the larger jar of Spiced Pickled Pears was on a shelf in the basement storage room. As I pondered what to make for dessert today, I thought of those apple rings and that upside-down cake and wondered why not try this with the pickled pears? I made a spice cake recipe for the cake part of the mix and it just came out of the oven. It came out of the pan perfectly and looks nice, if unexciting. The pears are a dull color and I added pistachios in between the pears and they, also green, don't exactly jump out at you. Color-wise, it is drab, but it came out whole and lovely regardless. Once the cake cools, I am going to drizzle a thin confectioners' sugar glaze over top. Maybe that will perk up the look. Hopefully the spice cake will be moist and tasty. I know the pears are good!

Not everyone will have spiced pickled Pears around the house, and while the spiced pears will lend a certain piquancy to this cake, they are not necessary. If you want, regular canned pears, peaches or pineapple will work just fine.

Spiced Pear Upside-Down Cake

Makes one 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup spiced pickled pears
1/4 cup pistachios or other nuts

Prepare an 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking dish by spraying it with cooking  spray. Set aside. In a small saucepan combine the butter and brown sugar and heat until the butter is melted. Allow the mixture to boil until it thickens and starts bubbling up in the pan. Pour this mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread it to the edges of the pan. Place the pears or other fruit down into the butter & sugar mixture being mindful that the side that goes down will be the top when the cake is finished. Place fruit evenly all over the surface. Place nuts into spaces between, if desired. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toppings in pan, left                                                Cake batter on top, right
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup plain yogurt  

In a bowl, sift or whisk together the first 7 ingredients and set aside. In a mixer bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and honey until soft and creamy. Add in the egg and the vanilla extract and beat to combine. Begin adding the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt, mixing well after each addition. Do not over beat. Place the batter is small dollops all over the surface of the pears (or other fruit) in the baking dish. Gently smooth the cake batter as much as possibly. Rap the pan sharply on the counter a few times to remove bubbles or large air pockets. Bake the cake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then set a plate over the top of the pan and invert the cake. Gently lift off the baking dish. If any fruit sticks, lift it with a spoon and invert back onto the cake. Do not wait longer than 5 minutes to turn out the cake; the brown sugar topping will ooze all over if less than 5 minutes, but longer can give the topping enough time to stick to the pan.

1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons water or milk

Stir the ingredients together in a small bowl. Once cake is cooled, drizzle the topping over the cake artfully. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.