WHOOP WHOOP for pear season! Don’t you just love them? I do – so much so that my own shape resembles theirs – but they are very temperamental fruit; there’s just no way of telling if they are ready for you to eat them or not and they either turn out to be tasteless mush, or else they have the same texture as granite and will chip your teeth.
So how to circumnavigate the dilemma of the imperfect pear? Put it in a good old-fashioned upside-down cake. It doesn’t matter what they start out as, somehow the cake transforms even the most stubborn pear into something yummy and beautiful. And it doesn’t need any further embellishment by way of icing or whatnot, perfect for when you don’t really want to spend a nice spring day beating buttercream into submission in a stuffy kitchen.
For one Head Over Heels cake:
3 small or 2 large pears – any variety, any degree of ripeness, this cake will sort them out good and proper
200g softened butter
200g castor sugar (although I find that regular sugar works just as well, just make sure it’s really fluffy after creaming)
3 eggs, room temperature
200g self-raising flour
3 tablespoons milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and thoroughly grease a suitable cake receptacle. I have baked this in a regular cake tin, two small loaf pans and even a pyrex dish – no problem at all.
Then prepare the pears; peel them and core them and then slice them into wedges. I don’t own a corer, so I kind of slice the wedges off of the core. If you are quite greedy, cut big fat wedges, so that when it comes to cutting the cake you have get a nice big slice.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy and pale, then beat the eggs in well one by one (for the beating, use an electric beater – I love a good wooden spoon but if you want a nice fluffy cake you would have to beat until you have blisters). Fold in the flour with a spatula, then stir in the milk.
Arrange the pears in a pretty pattern in the baking dish, then spoon the batter evenly over the top. Don’t pour it in, or you will move the pear wedgies out of position when you try to push the batter to the edges of the pan. Bake for about 45 minutes – this may seem long but trust me, it really is 45 minutes. If you remove it any sooner the cake will still be gloopy in the middle and this is not ideal for slicing later. The cake will be golden brown and the sides will start to pull away from the pan, and the pear-infused steam will smell divine.
Remove from the oven, let it stand for 5-10 minutes, then turn it out onto a pretty serving plate. It’s very good served warm, with a little icing sugar sifted over the top. If you really want to take this cake from Upside-Down to Head-Over-Heels, serve it with creamy caramel sauce *eyes unfocus and drool happens*.
Settle in with a book about head-over-heel-edness: I recommend The Man With The Dancing Eyes by Sophie Dahl. It’ll take about two slices of cake to read it from cover to cover, and it’s as yummy as the cake is. It had horrible reviews but I strongly suspect that that’s because the reviewers did not have access to cake while reading it. Shame.