Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What do you call an upside-down upside-down cake?

Oh man, I should be working! I've been sitting in the library for a few hours, reading about Smallpox and Santa Fe, composing questions for conference tomorrow, but I'm so antsy tonight! I keep getting distracted by thoughts of - you guessed it - food. I figured I might as well do something productive with my distractability and write a blog (wow, is that twisted or what? Someday I'll learn how to REALLY procrastinate).

I love late summer. I think I prefer this time of year to the first blush of summer - the harvest is coming out in earnest, the sun sets just a little earlier and giving off that gold light at dusk, and the smells on the breeze hint of fall, but I can still wear tank tops and sandals to class. Yep, the best of all worlds - soon it will be time for acorn squash and butternuts, but my tomatoes are finally making a real show and the fruit keeps rolling in.

A bit too much fruit, if I'm allowed to say so.

I've been attacked by pears. People have been bringing them in to work, they are selling for pennies at the farmers market, and street trees are heavy with ripe fruit. They just kept piling up, begging to be made into something delicious for my friends.

One of the best ways to use fruit that's been around for a bit too long (what I like to call "ugly fruit") is to make an upside-down cake. The process is so simple, it hardly needs a recipe. Layer your fruit (slice big fruits and keep berries whole) on the bottom of a cake pan (you could toss the fruit with a half cup of sugar, but I usually don't) and pour your favorite cake batter over it. My favorite cake recipes use salted butter or salted nuts, I just adore that sweet/salty combo that seems to go really well with really ripe fruit.

I've found a new go-to vanilla cake recipe to go with any local fruit - and it couldn't be simpler. The recipe is based on Chocolate & Zucchini's Gateau de Mamy a la Poire, but I used a bunch of nuts, salted butter, a bit less sugar, and duck eggs (I got a dozen duck eggs from the farmers market and have been experimenting with them - they worked really well in my baked goods but were a bit much eaten alone - the yolks are huge and really oily - delicious, but heavy). The result is a really rich, moist cake with a crust that's to die for (almost tastes like salted caramel - yum!)

I used pears, because, well, they weren't going to last another day, but this would be so good with sliced apples, peaches, plums, or any berry you've got. This cake ended up being a right-side up cake, because the top layer of cake got so deliciously crispy that I couldn't bear leaving it under the cake and risk letting it get too moist. Presenting, a delicious upside-down upside-down cake. A definite crowd pleaser.

Enjoy these days when we're drowning in fruit - and eat a piece of this cake out on the porch at dusk! Be well, eat well, and come back soon.

Right-Side Up Pear Cake

1 stick salted butter, melted
5 large pears (or any other fruit you've got!)
1/2 cup sugar
2 duck eggs (or 3 large chicken eggs)
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mixed nuts (I used roasted & salted cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, and pecans)
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Slice fruit and arrange on bottom of 8 inch cake pan (I doubled the recipe and made two in the pics above - the recipe as written makes one cake).

In a large bowl with a whisk or using a stand-mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the sugar with the eggs for about a minute. Add in the flour, vanilla and baking powder, and blend well. Pour in the butter, and blend for another minute. Pour batter over fruit and top with mixed nuts. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for a few minutes. Invert it on a plate (the fruit side will be on top). If any bit of fruit has stuck to the bottom of the pan, simply scrape them and place them back where they belong on the cake. Use a second plate to invert the cake again (the fruit side will then be at the bottom). Let cool and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.


  1. It's gorgeous - I wouldn't have wanted to flip it over either!

  2. mmm, good idea. i'm still hanging on to summer, but will be giving up peaches for pears soon enough.

    the peaches i got yesterday at the eastside market are too good to cook!

  3. "Right Side Up Pear Cake." You crack me up.