Upside-down Pear Gingerbread


If we were to compile a book of family recipes, this upside down pear gingerbread may just be on the cover. We have it every Thanksgiving – it’s our pumpkin pie – and although gingerbread in general is not my favourite, this cake is. It’s special but not fancy, with a soft interior and chewy, caramelly edge, and is one of the very best vehicles for whipped cream there is.


One of the biggest selling points of an upside-down cake is the fact that it needs no decorating. When you invert the cake the pear slices end up on top, making it look gratifyingly complete with no need for frosting. It does, however, scream for ice cream or whipped cream – provide a bowl of it alongside for people to serve themselves, or put a dollop on each slice. Pear gingerbread is also perfectly suitable for breakfast – in wedges with hot coffee, or smothered in thick Greek yogurt.


You can do it in a pie plate, or a cake plate, or a fancy plate your friend brought you just because it made her think of you. I like to melt the butter-sugar-syrup in the pan in the oven as it heats, then stir it up and lay pear slices in the puddle. The cake batter is easy to mix up – I also like to grate in a bit of fresh ginger and add a spoonful of dried ginger too, which adds a different, peppery flavour. (And if you don’t have ginger, I’ve made it with cinnamon alone, and it’s just fine.)


Whatever you bake it in, invert it onto a plate while it’s still warm, and the goo is still liquidy. If you forget and it cools, warm it up a bit in the oven to make it easier to slide out. And if some pear slices stick, simply peel them off the plate and put them back in their place on the cake, and no one will know. Besides, that’s what the whipped cream is for.

Upside-down Pear Gingerbread


September 22, 2016



2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. honey or corn syrup

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1-2 ripe but firm pears (or tart apples), peeled and thinly sliced


1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger, or 2 tsp. powdered ginger (or both)

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. allspice (optional)

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt, thinned with milk


1Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray an 8 or 9-inch round cake pan or deep pie plate with nonstick spray.

2To make the topping, melt the butter, honey and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat or microwave it until it’s smooth. (Or combine them in the bottom of the pan, put it in the oven until it melts, then take it out and stir it with a fork until it’s smooth.) Pour the mixture over the bottom of the pan and arrange the pear slices on top, placing them tightly together – they shrink a bit as they cook, so you can even get away with overlapping them.

3To make the gingerbread batter, beat the butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl until well blended. Add the egg, molasses, ginger and vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined. It will look separated - that’s OK.

4In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture and stir by hand or on the lowest speed of an electric mixer just until the batter is combined. Add the buttermilk, and then the remaining dry ingredients in the same manner. Pour the batter over the sliced pears.

5Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, until the top is springy to the touch. Let it stand for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto a plate while it’s still warm. (If it cools too much and sticks to the pan, warm it in the oven again before you try to invert it.) Don’t worry if any pear slices stick to the bottom of the pan – simply peel them out and place them back on top of the cake where they belong.

6Serve with whipped cream. Serves 8.


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18 comments on “Upside-down Pear Gingerbread

  1. Teresa
    September 23, 2016 at 12:23 am

    Oh, oh…..no ingredients!

  2. Shauna Wagner
    September 23, 2016 at 4:36 am

    Whew, i thought that was just me. No ingredients list can make things interesting

  3. Kelli
    September 23, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Hey Julie this looks so good and I’d love to make it…can you list the ingredients?

    • Julie
      September 24, 2016 at 12:06 am

      Oh sheesh. Sorry you guys.. this new website is just so full of glitches. I have no idea where the ingredients went, and now I’m in Lethbridge until tomorrow night – will put them back as soon as I get home! Sorry!

  4. Jen
    September 24, 2016 at 1:49 am

    This looks amazing! I might have to make it for Thanksgiving. Can’t wait for the recipe!

  5. Ina Gawne
    September 24, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Can’t wait for your ingredient list…I will so make a gluten free version of this upside down pear cake! 🙂

  6. Julie
    September 24, 2016 at 9:08 am

    OK, it’s there! Went in the back end and the ingredients were there… not sure what was going on. But they seem to be showing now! Enjoy! And sorry about that! 🙂

  7. Carol S-B
    September 25, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    This is one of my favourites. Happily, I have a couple of pears ripening on my counter right now!

    • Julie
      September 26, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      Yay! Love having ripe pears on hand 🙂

  8. Betty C
    September 26, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Yummy! I made this on the weekend and it is definitely a keeper!

  9. Jen
    October 5, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Is it okay to make this ahead of time i.e the morning of the day you are going to serve it? Or is it best served warm?

    • Julie
      October 6, 2016 at 11:45 pm

      I like it warm, but it’s fine the next day!

      • Jen
        October 7, 2016 at 12:05 am

        Thanks for the tip!

  10. Leanne
    October 7, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    I made this last Friday from your latest cook book Out of the Orchard. Fabulous recipe! Just loved the flavour combinations of the pear and ginger. It was a big hit with everyone, especially with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Really enjoying the cookbook Julie. I’ve made the apple sticky buns too, and they turned out beautifully as well.

  11. Ina Gawne
    October 10, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Julie. Just made this gingerbread cake for our Thanksgiving dessert – gluten free! It was amazing. Have done a blog post of this recipe gluten free with a link back to your site. Thanks for sharing…we will be having this again. 🙂

  12. Bridget Oland
    October 11, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Oh yum, I wish I had found this recipe over the weekend. It looks lovely and sticky. The new blog design is lovely too.

  13. Julie
    October 9, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Hey Julie — Another Julie here.. Just wanted to say thanks for posting up this recipe! 🙂 It’s one of my faves from your book “Starting Out” which was my first recipe book when I moved out on my own. I’m so glad to find it online since my book is somewhere packed away.. This is my favourite dessert for thanksgiving too!

    Have a happy thanksgiving!

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