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.