When I was a kid, I loved both kinds of pears – the ones that came in cans and the fresh ones that grew on trees. I’m not entirely certain I realized they were the same fruit. Sort of.

Now that I am older, I still have a secret, shameful fondness for the canned stuff. But what really thrills me are the fresh fruit in all their varieties: Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc, Starkrimson, Comice and more. This time of year, it’s pearadise.

Pear upside-down cake builds on a foundation of pears and caramel, another perfect combination. The pears absorb the caramel on the bottom of the cake pan – which of course becomes the top of the cake – with the cake batter above (which is to say below) that.

But this is no typical cake batter. It’s lighter than most, with whipped egg whites folded into it, but is also grounded with just a hint of the flavor of corn from a few tablespoons of cornmeal.


Makes 6 to 8 servings

12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, divided, plus more

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 medium pears (about 1 pound)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup whole milk

Whipped cream or caramel gelato, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter cake pan; line bottom with a parchment-paper round.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium-low heat and stir in brown sugar until well combined. Pour into prepared cake pan and spread to coat the bottom.

Peel, halve and core the pears. Cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices, and arrange over the caramel in a circular patter, overlapping as needed.

Mix granulated sugar, remaining 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add yolks one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down the side of the bowl with a spatula. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Using clean, dry beaters (or a whisk), 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 folding just to blend. Pour batter over pears in pan; smooth the top.

Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few small, moist crumbs attached, about 55 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of the pan to release cake. Note: This can be done up to 1 day ahead at this point. 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.

Adapted from Bon Appétit


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