The Caramel Is Tops, but What's on the Bottom?: Gingered Pear Upside-Down Cake

As I was looking through Tish Boyle's cookbook Flavorful I noticed her recipe for "Gingered Pear Upside-Down Cake." Specifically, I noticed that it calls for two large ripe pears -- when we happened to have two very large and very ripe d'Anjou pears in our fruit basket. I had all of the other cake ingredients on hand so I decided to give the recipe a try.

Flavorful is organized in the same way as Lisa Yockelson's Baking by Flavor and Gale Gand's Butter Sugar Flour Eggs: the recipes are arranged in sections that all correspond to a particular flavor, e.g., vanilla, apple, citrus, or coffee. This pear cake recipe falls in the "caramel" section.

To make the caramel that coats the bottom of the pan, you cook butter with brown sugar until the sugar melts and the mixture is bubbling. You spread the mixture over the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan (buttered only along the sides) and arrange fresh pear slices on top of it. Then you sprinkle chopped pecans over the pears and set the pan aside while you make the cake batter.

To make the ginger cake batter, you beat softened butter with brown sugar until light; mix in eggs; and alternately add in the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, and salt) and the liquid ingredients (buttermilk, grated fresh ginger, vanilla, and orange zest). You carefully spread the batter over the pears and caramel and bake.
After baking I let the cake cool for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a serving plate. All of the pears released cleanly and came out still attached to the cake. The topping of caramel pears and nuts was delicious, and the fruit was tender without being mushy. But I thought the cake itself was just okay. It's possible I overcooked it a bit, but it was a little dry -- despite the headnote's promise that the cake is moist and delicious because the juice from the pears is supposed to seep into the cake as it cools.
I also thought that the ginger flavor was somewhat harsh. I love ginger desserts and I usually don't find too much ginger to be problem, even in baked goods that are quite spicy -- but I wished that the cake was sweeter. Or perhaps just less gingery. Or maybe included diced candied ginger instead of grated fresh ginger. In any case, I'm indifferent to it.

Recipe: "Gingered Pear Upside-Down Cake" from Flavorful by Tish Boyle.

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