Pear-almond upside-down cake

from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison

The Pears
3 Tb. butter
3/4 light brown sugar, packed (I used dark, and it was fine)
2 large Conice or Bartlett pears

The Cake
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
3 eggs at room temperature
2/3 cup blanched almonds, finely ground
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Heat the butter with the brown sugar in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until the sugar is melted and smooth, then remove pan from heat. Peel, halve, and core the pears. Cut halves lengthwise into slices about 1/4 inch thick (try to keep them uniform, but honestly, who can ever get this right?!). Overlap the slices in the pan, going around the outside.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla and almond extract. Beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Stir in the nuts, followed by the remaining dry ingedients. Spoon the batter over the fruit and smooth it out with an offset spatula.

3. Bake in the center of the oven until the cake is golden and springy, about 35 to 40 minutes, Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then set a cake plate on top to the pan, hold tightly, and flip over. Carefully ease the pan off the cake.

4. Let cool to room temperature and serve with vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream.

Note: If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, a plain old baking dish will do; melt the butter and sugar in a pan, and then pour into the baking dish (round or square) and proceed with the recipe.

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