Tag Archives: fall

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.


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?


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.


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


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)


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


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.


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.


Well friends, I was right.


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.


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

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

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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Maple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Those of you who know me, know I have a cupcake obsession. When I was a kid my mother used to take me to a small local bakery about once a week, and tell me to order whatever I wanted. I always ordered the same thing: a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, and every year for my birthday we’d buy 20-some odd of those same vanilla cupcakes to bring into school. The bakery has sadly since closed, but my love for cupcakes remains.


I mean come on, they’re adorable, delicious, and unbelievably satisfying.

Plus unlike cakes which require levelling, torting, masking, and frosting, cupcakes just have to cool, be popped out of the cupcake tins, and frosted. Additionally, they’re much less stressful to transport than cakes. When I have a cake in the car you’ll see me folding towels to use as levellers, and then I drive ten miles below the speed-limit with one hand holding onto the cake-box until I am safely at my destination.

Cupcakes on the other hand can be popped into a box, and simply set into the back seat with very little fanfare. One or two may end up slightly ruined, but the great thing is most recipes make at least a dozen, and an ugly cupcake gives you an excuse to eat it. I mean seriously, no one wants that deformed one, and more importantly you have to make sure they still taste good after transportation. Quality control people. Quality control.

I mean, I love making cake. Love it. But sometimes I just want a cupcake.

I first made these cupcakes last June. They were completely inappropriate given that it was nearly 80 degrees out, perfectly sunny, and summer. Today is more appropriate, given that we’re into the second week of November and it’s definitely not pushing 80 outside. Plus, the time has officially ‘fallen back,’ Starbucks has switched to holiday cups, and I could order an eggnog latte, if I liked eggnog. It’s officially the holiday season, so let the holiday baking begin.


These maple cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting come out of one of my favourite cookbooks: Baked Explorations.


These particular cupcakes are pretty much perfect. They are dense, with a hint of maple, and covered in the most incredible cream-cheese frosting I’ve ever had. I love it so much I use it every time I make cream-cheese frosting no matter what I’m planning to use it for.


Unlike most cream-cheese frostings which are overly sweetened due to an overload of powdered sugar added in to stiffen them up, this frosting uses a bit more butter and cream cheese which lets the flavour shine through. I’ll be honest – it doesn’t hold a piped-shape very well, but it does so enough to use a plain round-tip, or to get decently-smooth edges onto the side of a cake. But the flavour is undeniable, and well worth putting out a slightly messier dessert.


Just trust me and make the damn cupcakes.

Here’s what you need (lightly adapted from Baked – Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented)

1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1.5 cups all purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 2Tbsp of butter – softened and cut into chunks.

2 cups pure maple syrup – and for the sake of maple syrup lovers everywhere, use the real stuff, it’s pricy but worth it.

3 egg yolks

1 egg

1.5 cups whole milk

For the Frosting:

3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks

12 ounces cream cheese softened – I let mine sit out on the counter while I make and bake and cool the cupcakes

4 cups powdered sugar – sifted, this keeps out the lumps so don’t skip it.

2 tablespoons maple syrup.

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line 2 muffin trays with cupcake liners.

2. Sift the flours, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter until it starts to ribbon a bit. Turn the mixer onto low and stream in the maple syrup before increasing the speed and beating for about 3 minutes until the mixture is close to uniform. It will look a bit curdled as the butter will not want to blend with the maple syrup. That’s ok so long as you’ve managed to get the mixture fairly uniform.

4. Lightly beat the egg yolks and eggs and then pour into the batter in three separate additions. Beat until just incorporated after each additions.

5. Scrape the bowl, and with the mixer on low speed add half the flour, then all the milk, and the rest of the flour. Mix until just uniform, as soon as the last of that flour disappears, turn off your mixer.

6. Using a 1/4 cup measure, fill each of the muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes (my oven took 22 minutes), rotating the pans 180 degrees, and switching racks if baking both pans at the same time, after 15 minutes. Remove from oven when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the muffin pan for 15 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool all the way before frosting.

To make the frosting:

1. Beat butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until it is completely smooth. Add the softened cream cheese and beat until they are combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary.

2. Add the maple syrup, then lower the speed on the mixer and add the powdered sugar, once it starts to incorporate beat on medium speed until the frosting comes together.

Frost cupcakes using either a pallet knife, or a large round tip. As I mentioned above, the frosting is too soft to hold a star shape.

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