Pear and Pecan Upside Down Cake

The combination of pear, pecan and caramel is an American classic. William and Comice are the traditional cooking pears and good new varieties are constantly coming onto the market but you should avoid Conference pears as their texture is too hard for this dish.

Ingredients

For the Topping

  • 4 pears, such as William or Comice, peeled, cored and cut into 2 cm (¾ in) slices
  • the finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 100 g ( oz/7 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 125g ( oz/heaping ¾ cup) caster (granulated) sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 g ( oz/1 cup) pecan nut halves

For the Cake

  • 75g (3 oz/¾ stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 225g (8 oz/1 heaping cup) caster (granulated) sugar
  • 4 medium (large) eggs, separated
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150g (5 oz/1 heaping cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • ½ teaspoon salt

To Serve

  • thick cream or ice cream

Method

To make the topping, toss the sliced pears with the lemon juice and zest. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, then add the pears and cook gently for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the sugar, ginger and vanilla, extract and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove the pears from the saucepan and place in a bowl. Bring the remaining juices to the boil and simmer until they form a thick, dark syrup. Mix this with the pears and pecans and spread along the base of a greased 25 cm (10in) cake tin.

For the cake, cream the softened butter and sugar together.

Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, then add the vanilla extract. In a separate container, mix all the dry ingredients together and slowly add them to the egg mixture so that it forms a stiff batter.

Heat the oven to 190°C (375°F/Gas 5). Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the cake batter. Spoon the batter over the pears and pecans in the cake tin. Smooth the top over with a spatula and bake for 35 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes before turning upside down onto a serving platter. Serve the cake warm, with some thick cream or ice cream.

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