Tag Archives: easy

Upside Down Pear Ginger Cake

So by nature I’m a bit of a rule follower. I’m positive it’s why I love to bake. Baking is all about rules. It is about butter to flour to sugar to egg ratios. It’s about balancing fats and liquids, and beating for the right amount of time to ensure a tender crumb, delicate flavours, and fluffy texture.

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I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t often mess with recipes. I know I can execute well, so why mess with a recipe I already know will turn out?

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But sometimes, strawberries are out of season, and I don’t feel like investing 10$ in a jar of cardamom when my spice cabinet is already overflowing. Seriously, if anyone has clever spice organization tips, I’m all ears. I can’t find ANYTHING in there.

See, here’s what happened: Friday night I was invited to dinner at the home of one of my oldest family friends. Having run into them at a birthday party the week before where I had made one of my favourite cakes – Orange-Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Almond frosting (it went un-pictured, I’m sorry, but the original post on it is way better than what I could come up with, and being a rule follower I made no changes to the recipe), they knew I could bake. When their daughter confirmed she was in for dinner, I knew I was making dessert.

My original plan for an elaborate layer cake fell through when my Friday suddenly filled up with errands and obligations, so I turned to one of my favourite, no fail and very speedy recipes: Joy the Baker’s famous upside-down strawberry cake with cardamom. It’s one of those fabulous recipes that takes 25 minutes to get into the oven and turns out perfectly Every. Single. Time.

Except I couldn’t find strawberries at the nearby grocery store, and I had a good parking spot. Good parking spots are worth more than gold in my neighbourhood, so there was no way I was moving my car to go buy some strawberries. Especially when I didn’t feel like spending money on cardamom.

But they did have pears, and I do have several containers of dried ginger (the reason being that I always think I’m out. Messy spice cabinet = I have no idea what I own). So I tweaked a little.

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And because the recipe always comes out perfectly, it worked.

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The cake was fluffy, tender, and impossibly moist. The butter and brown sugar caramelized with the pears to create that delicious oozing caramel you see pictured above. I even impressed myself with my ability to properly guess that a 3/4 teaspoon of ginger and a teaspoon of cinnamon would give the cake that perfect spiced flavour. I could’ve really turned it into a spice cake by adding some molasses, but then I would have been messing with the baking holy-grail: the wet:dry ratio, and I feel like I’m just not ready for that yet.

Upside Down Pear Ginger Cake (adapted from Joy the Baker)

Ingredients:

For the toping:

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 pears, sliced thinly

For the cake:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks

2/3 cups brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2/3 cups sour cream

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a 9-inch cake pan place butter, and then put the pan into the oven. When putter is melted remove pan, swirl butter up the sides of the pan to coat it, then set aside.

3. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, and cinnamon. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl and add the egg and vanilla, beat until combined, about one minute.

5. Scrape down the bowl and add the dry ingredients, mixing on low while adding the sour cream until just combined. Give it one or two final turns, gently with a rubber spatula. Over-mixing will ruin this cake, so just go until the batter is uniform. It will be quite thick, that’s ok.

6. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the melted butter in the cake pan, and then lay out the pear slices.

7. Pour the batter over the fruit, spreading to the edges with a spatula. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes away clean or with just a few crumbs. Another good test is to lightly push the middle of the cake down, if it springs back, you’re good to go.

8. Let the cake cool for about ten minutes before running a knife along the edges to loosen it up, and then turn it out onto a cake platter. It should loosen quite easily, but if it doesn’t tap the bottom of the cake pan a few times until it comes free.

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Gingerbread Pear Cranberry Crisp (and Thanksgiving)

Last week was the biggest week of my year. You see, for the last six years I have lived in Vancouver, BC, where Thanksgiving takes place in early October and is not quite as big a deal as it is in the USA. I mean it’s still fun but it’s a three day weekend not a four day weekend, and because it is in early October it doesn’t quite signal the start of the holiday season the way US Thanksgiving does.

This year, I felt like I had a marathon-long list of things to be thankful for, but first and foremost, I was/am beyond thankful for the opportunity to once again live in my favourite city in the world, surrounded by the majority of my favourite people.

So to show my gratitude and appreciation, I did what I do best: I baked.

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I mean, I’m pretty sure I don’t know how to say thank you other than via baked goods.

For the record, the back four desserts were by me. I promise to tell you more about them this week.

Today I want to tell you about the dessert that was the most un-assuming. Second from the left – Gingerbread Pear-Cranberry Crisp.

I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen about a month ago, and immediately bookmarked it, thinking ‘I’ve got to make that for Thanksgiving.’ My family has a history of crisps on Thanksgiving, and since I had offered to be in charge of the desserts (really I announced I was doing them and I think everyone was too afraid of my butter and sugar crazed self to argue) I figured I had to include crisp as a hat-tip to tradition since I don’t really make pie…

I love pears, and I love cranberries, so I suspected the mix of tart and sweet flavours combined with the spiciness of the gingersnaps would be outstanding.

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Well friends, I was right.

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Not only was it delightful to look at, with the bright red cranberries giving this dessert a particularly festive flair. It was delicious. I was nervous that the topping, which is basically crushed cookies, some flour, spices, and butter, would be too crumbly, or powdery, but it clumped perfectly and retained its crispness until this particular dessert was finished off for breakfast on Friday morning.

The acidity from the cranberries and the lemon juice paired flawlessly with the mildness from the pears and gingerbread flavour just tied it all together.

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So if you’re looking for an easy and delicious dessert to grace your holiday table (I suspect this would certainly be Christmas appropriate) then I suggest you do yourself a favour and make this crisp.

Pear, Cranberry and Gingersnap Crisp
Very Lightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Crumble
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
16 store-bought gingersnap cookies (I used the triple-ginger snaps from Trader Joes and it worked perfectly)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup/1stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus some extra to butter the pan

Filling
2 pounds (about 4 to 5) large ripe pears peeled, halved, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice – about 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon worth of zest)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (14 grams) cornstarch

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and lightly butter a 2 quart oven-proof baking dish

2. Combine flour, both the sugars, gingersnap crumbs, ginger, and salt. Pour in the melted butter and stir until mixture clumps.

3. To the baking dish add the pear, cranberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Stir to coat in lemon juice. In a separate small bowl whisk sugar and cornstartch, then add to fruit, mixing to ensure all fruit is coated.

4. Cover in the crisp topping. It will feel like a lot, but just use it all. Trust me on this one. Bake for 45 minutes until the topping is just a bit brown, and you can see juices bubbling through the topping and around the edges.

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