Sometimes you need a simple cake. Sometimes you need a simple cake that looks impressive (So impressive, your adoring fans gobble it up before you can take a picture of the whole thing). Enter the upside-down cake. Specifically this upside down cake. I think you ought to make this cake. It’s simple, like I said, and stylish, too. Heck, tell people that it’s healthy. There’s a whole two pears in it. But wait – there’s more: how delightfully springy it is, the wonderful texture from the polenta, and the perfect subtle sweetness of those pears. Like I said, I think you ought to make this cake. It’ll get you right side up again.
Pear Upside-Down Cake, from Bon Appetit, November 2011
9 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
3/4 cup flour
3 Tbsp. coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup sugar, divided
2 medium pears (I only used about 1 1/2 pears)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup whole milk
Step 1: Preheat 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8 in round cake pan with 2 in high sides, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Step 2: Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
Step 3: Stir 1/4 cup sugar and 2 Tbsp water in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Boil syrup without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until deep amber in color (8-10 minutes). Add 1 Tbsp butter, and whisk until smooth. Pour caramel into prepared cake pan and swirl to coat bottom.
Step 4: Peel, halve, and core the pears. Cut them lengthwise into 1/8 in slices. Layer slices over caramel flat side down, in circular pattern, overlapping as needed.
Step 5: Mix 3/4 cup sugar, 8 Tbsp butter, and vanilla in a large bowl using an electric mixter until light a fluffy. Add yolks one at a a time, occasionally scraping bowl. Beating flour mixture in 3 additions alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour.
Step 6: Using clean beaters in a new bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on low until frothy. Then increase the speed to medium and beat until soft peaks form. Fold in 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, then add the remaining whiles. Gently fold just to blend.
Step 7: Pour batter in prepared pan on top of pears, smooth top, and bake 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Step 8: Let cool in pan 30 minutes, and then turn out onto a platter. Cake can be served warm or at room temperature with whipped cream if desired.