Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Miniature Pear Upside-Down Cakes

Okay. Elephant in the room. I abandoned you for a whole month. There. I said it. It’s out. 

If I said I was sorry, would you believe me? That things just kept coming up, and it totally wasn’t you, it was all me, me and my desire to read cookbooks and to watch cooking shows but not to actually cook. Which is a problem, for a cooking blog. 

But look, I’m back now, and I’m ready to go. Okay? Forgive me? 

If it helps, I brought cake.

Not just any cake, either. I brought a delicious, caramel-y, fruity layer of golden goodness over top some of the most silky, supple vanilla cake I have ever had. Pear Upside-Down Cake, with warm caramel still running down the sides. 

And I didn’t bring you one cake. I brought you four. Miniatures, yes.  But you get one all to yourself. 

And you know what else? I get one all to myself, too! And that’s exciting for all of us, because that means when I blow out my birthday candle, you don’t only have to worry about me spraying saliva all over your serving. That would be pretty rude of me. 

I turned older this past weekend, and while this wasn’t my proper birthday cake, it was the cake I baked on my birthday. It seemed like the right thing to do.  I couldn’t be happier than to be simmering thick slices of ripe pears in caramel and folding whipped egg whites into a delicate batter, so that’s what I did. I’m pretty sure it’d make you happy, too.

This past weekend, we also lay to rest the ashes of Sparky’s grandfather, who succumbed to his battle with cancer last November. In the weeks leading up to his passing, the family was fortunate enough to be able to come together one last time for a meal with him. This was the cake I made for dessert. 

I don’t mean to get all heavy on you. Maybe I’m just getting a little more circumspect in my old age, but it seemed fitting to bake this cake to again celebrate life. My life, this time – another year past, and a new one to come.  Here’s to the wild ride. 

And here’s to you. Go make this cake. Celebrate something, or someone, or someplace. Share it with friends. Make memories. 

Check after the jump for the recipe, and an adaptation to produce one 10 ½ inch cake, rather than four miniatures - and check out the new poll in the sidebar to give me your opinion on cake vs pie!

Um, PS? Don't forget to turn your camera back up to high-res after coming back from vacation. That's totally a mistake. Whoops. And if you do, try to notice before you eat the subject of your photos, so you can retake them. Double whoops.   

Mini Pear Upside-Down Cakes
adapted from Martha Stewart Living
**The original recipe creates a single 10 ½ inch cake. I have scaled the recipe and altered it to produce four 3 ½ inch cakes instead.

3 tablespoons butter (I used salted and it was fine; unsalted is better)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
pinch of nutmeg
2 ripe pears, peeled and cored, sliced into ¼ inch thick wedges

1 cup all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons butter, softened (see butter note above)
¾ cup granulated white sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup whole milk (whole milk is ideal, but I cut skim with a little cream)

Equipment: 4 standard oven-proof ramekins (3 ½ inches across). Straight sided is best; mine had a lip, and the sides of the cakes didn’t slide out so neatly. Grease your ramekins very well, especially the sides. Use butter, okay? Nonstick spray isn’t going to cut it here, this is a super-sticky cake.

Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a heavy-bottomed pot or skillet over low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir til dissolved. Splash in a tablespoon of water (be careful! It will splatter!) and the nutmeg, and stir until you’ve produced a smooth caramel sauce. Spoon two tablespoons of the sauce into each ramekin, or enough to create an even layer across the bottom. Reserve any leftover sauce for drizzling (though you’ll probably have to re-melt it over low heat). 

Arrange slices of pears artfully in the caramel at the bottom of the ramekins to create an even layer of pears. Set all four ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside. 

Preheat your oven to 350. If you’re using a stand mixer, decide whether you want to use it to cream butter or whip egg whites (or both, but you’ll have to wash the bowl twice). 

In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract, and then the egg yolks only, one at a time until combined. Add a little milk, then a little of the flour mixture, then a little milk, and a little of the flour mixture, each time beating the batter until it’s just combined. Incorporate all the flour and the milk. 

In another bowl, beat reserved egg whites until they are glossy and stiff. 

Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the egg whites into the cake batter. After incorporating the egg whites, the batter should be lighter and fluffier. Carefully spoon the batter into the ramekins, being careful not to disturb the arrangement of the pears in the caramel. Leave three quarters of an inch of room at the top of the ramekin for the cake to rise. 

Bake (on a baking sheet, in case the ramekins overflow) until well-browned on top and a cake tester inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Immediately (before the caramel has time to cool), run a knife around the edges of the cakes and invert onto serving dishes. 

Delicious served warm, but also really tasty the next day. 

1 comment:

  1. BAHHH Looks SO GOOD! Excellent photography- I can actually feel myself taking that bite!


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