Introduction: Upside Down Pear Cake Baked in a Cast Iron Skillet

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Did you know that you can bake pretty much anything in your cast iron skillet? If you don’t already own one, a cast iron skillet is one of the greatest purchases you can make for your kitchen. I use mine more than any other pan and have baked everything in it from chicken pot pie, to lasagna, to bread and many desserts.

Here I show you how to make one of my all time favorite winter comfort sweets: a scrumptious upside down pear cake. Right now is the time to make this! Pears are in season and at their best, plus your family and friends are in need of some serious food comfort during these cold winter months. The sweet caramelized pears and fluffy light cake combo is a match made in heaven, especially with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream.

So grab your cast iron skillet, get some delicious, perfectly ripe pears from your local market and bake this immediately! If you’re not a baker and have never made a cake before, this is a great recipe to start with…especially since I walk you through it step-by-step. Enjoy!!

Note: if you don’t have a mixer, no problem! You can use a good old bowl and whisk. Just make sure you switch arms so you don’t get too bulky on one side from whisking ;)

Step 1: Gather the Ingredients

For the Pears:

  • 3 ripe pears (preferably Bartlett or Anjou varieties)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick of butter

For the Cake:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional, but highly recommended!)
  • 1 stick of butter (softened to room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar (granulated, white)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs (yolks and whites separated)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Special Equipment:

  • A large cast iron skillet
  • A mixer with paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a whisk)
  • Lots of love :)

Step 2: Make the Caramel for the Pears

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Add the 1/2 stick of butter to the skillet, turn the heat to low and melt the butter, helping to spread it in the skillet
  • Add the brown sugar and stir with a spatula until it is dissolved in the butter
  • Move the pan around until the butter / sugar coat it evenly
  • Turn off heat while you prepare the pears

Step 3: Prepare the Pears:

  • Wash and peel the pears
  • Halve them lengthwise
  • Core the pears (either with a corer tool or a small spoon)
  • Place the pears cut side down on a cutting surface and cut crosswise into 1/4th inch thick slices
  • Arrange the pears over the butter / sugar in the skillet, creating as pretty of a pattern as your patience allows
  • Set the pan aside while you make the batter

Step 4: Mix the Dry Ingredients:

  • In a medium to large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and spices together (this is best done with a whisk, but you can also use a spoon or large fork)
  • Set the bowl aside

Step 5: Mix the Butter and Sugar

  • In a mixer with a paddle attachment (or bowl with whisk) cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed (about 2 minutes in mixer and 5 with whisk)
  • Add Vanilla extract and mix just to combine

Step 6: Add Egg Yolks

  • If you haven't done so already, separate the yolks from the whites, reserving the egg whites in another large bowl
  • Add the yolks, one at a time, to the butter and sugar. Mix after each addition to combine before you add the next yolk

Step 7: Add the Dry Ingredients and Milk:

  • Now add 1/3 of dry ingredients to the butter and mix 10 seconds to combine.
  • Next add 1/3 of the milk and mix a few seconds
  • Again, add half of what's left of dry ingredients and mix 10 seconds to combine, followed by half of the milk and mix again
  • Repeat with remaining dry ingredients and milk

Step 8: Beat Egg Whites and Fold Into Batter:

  • Now comes the slightly tricky part: beating the egg whites. You can use the mixer with a whisk attachment, a separate hand-held mixer or again... a good old whisk
  • Beat the egg white with the Cream of Tartar until "stiff peaks" form as shown in picture. You want them to stay pointy on the whisk, but still remain fluffy and soft. DO NOT OVER BEAT! The time varies for this, depending on speed and tool used. It is ok to stop and check the peaks. If they are holding peaks when the whisk is upside down, they are done. If peaks are holding for a second and then falling over, beat a bit more. It's just practice, eventually you'll be a pro at peaks! :)
  • Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter with a spatula
  • DO NOT MIX TOO MUCH!!! What makes the cake fluffy is the airiness of the egg whites, so just gently incorporate them into the batter

Step 9: Spread Batter Over Pears:

  • Using a rubber spatula, transfer the batter to the skillet
  • Spread the batter as evenly as possible over the pears, being careful not to move them

Step 10: Bake the Cake:

  • Place the skillet into middle position of oven and bake until the top is a slight golden brown, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This should take 40 to 50 minutes
  • Remove skillet from oven and let the cake cool for 10 minutes
  • Run a knife along the sides of the pan to loosen the cake slightly
  • Place a large plate or platter over the skillet and carefully invert the cake into it, it should invert very easily

Step 11: Slice and Serve!

  • Serve the cake with some vanilla ice cream and / or whipped cream
  • I promise this cake will become one of your favorite winter is SO GOOD!!!
Baking Contest 2016

Second Prize in the
Baking Contest 2016