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Upside Down Pear Walnut Cake

I know, I promised to eat fewer sweets at the start of the new year, but this has three pears sliced on top, so doesn’t that count as health food? (Don’t answer that.)

Seriously, I had to make this cake, if only because I wanted to use some of those delicious boxed pears sent to us for Christmas by our friends Jan and Dave. We still had five uneaten pears left in the box, despite having had a houseful of family and visitors over the holidays. Yes, of course we could have just eaten them raw, but when you have a husband whose idea of the perfect wedding vow includes a commitment to provide cake each night, well, you try to obey (No, neither the cake nor the obey part was part of the vows). Truth be told, I was longing to make this dessert since I saw it being whipped up on the TV program, “America’s Test Kitchen” recently. And with ample pears in the house, it was good timing.

I’ve made a lot of upside down cakes in my life, from my childhood favorite, pineapple upside down cake, to peach, to cranberry, to plum, to fig, to blood orange. 

All of them are made with a basic white or yellow cake, but this one is very different. It does use a little white flour, but it’s got one dominating ingredient that gives the cake a distinct look and flavor.

Can you guess?

Maybe now you can, after seeing this cut slice. It’s toasted walnuts, giving the cake a delicious walnut-y flavor. It’s also very moist with a delicate crumb. And it’s easy to make too – using a food processor instead of a mixer.

The only thing missing is perhaps a little whipped cream or creme fraiche.

If you want to be really wicked, maybe a scoop of ice cream. Oh what the heck, go for it. Bathing suit season doesn’t start for a while.

Upside Down Pear Walnut Cake
 
 
Ingredients
  • From Cooks Illustrated:
  • For the Topping:
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces) packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 2 t. cornstarch
  • ⅛ t. salt
  • 3 Bosc pears - 8 ounces each - (I used Bartlett and it worked out fine)
  • For The Cake:
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • ½ cup (2.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. baking powder
  • ⅛ t. baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. FOR THE TOPPING:
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  3. Grease 9-inch round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. (I strongly suggest using a cake pan that is 2" high, or use a springform pan. The batter is almost too much for a regular 9" cake pan.)
  4. Pour melted butter over bottom of pan and swirl to evenly coat.
  5. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in small bowl and sprinkle evenly over melted butter.
  6. Peel, halve, and core pears.
  7. Set aside 1 pear half and reserve for other use.
  8. Cut remaining 5 pear halves into 4 wedges each.
  9. Arrange pears in circular pattern around cake pan with tapered ends pointing inward.
  10. Arrange two smallest pear wedges in center.
  11. For The Cake:
  12. Pulse walnuts, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in food processor until walnuts are finely ground, 8 to 10 pulses.
  13. Transfer walnut mixture to bowl.
  14. Process eggs and sugar in now-empty processor until very pale yellow, about 2 minutes.
  15. With processor running, add melted butter and oil in steady stream until incorporated.
  16. Add walnut mixture and pulse to combine, 4 to 5 pulses.
  17. Pour batter evenly over pears (some pear may show through; cake will bake up over fruit).
  18. Bake until center of cake is set and bounces back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour 10 minutes to 1¼ hours, rotating pan after 40 minutes.
  19. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.
  20. Carefully run paring knife or offset spatula around sides of pan.
  21. Invert cake onto wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet; discard parchment.
  22. Let cake cool for about 2 hours.
  23. Transfer to serving platter, cut into wedges, and serve.
 

Torta Paradiso Al Limone

Torta Paradiso al limone

Before National Blueberry month is over (yikes, that’s today!) and before all those sweet/tart local berries disappear from farmer’s markets, I thought I’d post this cake that I made a least a month ago.
Blueberries not only taste delicious, but the plump berries are packed with healthy nutrients for you. They’re a good source of fiber and manganese, which plays an important role in bone development and converting proteins, carbohydrates and fats into energy. They’re also high in levels of vitamin C. and they’re low cal – only 80 calories per cup and no fat — making them the perfect summertime snack.
I used them as part of the filling on this cake called “torta paradiso al limone” — a recipe that popped up in my Facebook feed a long time ago from an Italian site called “Strabuono – Solo Cose Buone” (translates to “Extra special – Only Good Things.”)
The recipe was written with metric measurements, and I’ve included those for you — actually measuring by weight is always more accurate than using the standard American method of 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup and so on. Be aware that the original recipe didn’t include the whipped cream in the filling, nor the blueberries, but I’ll take any excuse I find to include seasonal berries (and cream) in a recipe.
The cake includes plain Greek yogurt, but I had some lemon Greek yogurt in the fridge, so used that instead (hey, does that yogurt counter the calories from the whipped cream? – Don’t answer that.).
It’s a little firmer than a sponge cake, but not as dense as a pound cake.
The filling recipe calls for making your own lemon curd, which I did. But you can always buy a jar of it if you don’t want to go through the trouble.
Homemade lemon curd however, is infinitely better than what you can buy. Make sure you strain it to get out any solids. (As you can see, I almost curdled the curd — not good, but straining it saved the day.)
You can use the curd just as is, which is the original recipe, but warning – it’s really, really tangy and lemony. Instead, I thought the strong lemon flavor needed to be tamed a bit, so I combined the curd with some whipped cream (also because I lost a bit of the curd from overcooking and nearly curdling it.)  Spread the filling over half the cake, then place blueberries all over the filling. Top with the other half of the cake and refrigerate.
Warning – the filling may be too soft and start oozing out the sides, making for a messy looking cake. But once you refrigerate it for an hour or so, the filling will start to firm up. Smooth out the sides with a spatula to tidy things up.
Decorate the top with more berries (I added some fresh currants in addition to the blueberries).
A little sprig of mint completes the decoration.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
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Ingredients for the cake:
3 eggs
1 cup sugar (180 grams)
pinch of salt
zest of one lemon
3/4 cup plain or lemon flavored Greek yogurt (125 grams)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (60 grams)
1 3/4 cup flour (200 grams)
1 tablespoon baking powder (1 bustina lievito per i dolci)
1 tsp. vanilla
for the filling:
juice and peel of two lemons – (this makes a very lemony filling. If you like it less tart, use one lemon only)
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter (20 grams)
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams)
2 eggs
1/2 cup whipping creamblueberries – enough to cover the middle
confectioner’s sugar – to dust over the top

Directions:

Beat the eggs, sugar and salt together until fluffy. Add the lemon peel, yogurt, oil, flour, baking powder and vanilla and beat until combined, a couple of minutes.
Pour into a 8 or 9″ prepared cake pan (buttered and a dusting of flour.)

Bake at 320 degree Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celcius) for 35-40 minutes.For the filling, place the juice and lemon peel, plus the butter and sugar into a saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Add the two whole eggs and cook for a couple of minutes over low heat until it thickens enough to coat a spoon. (Be careful, it’s easy to overcook and for the eggs to curdle.) Strain through a sieve and let cool, covering with a piece of plastic wrap directly over the curd, to avoid a “skin.” Whip the cream until the point just after soft peaks start to form (but not too much or you’ll have butter!) Fold the cream into the lemon curd.
Cut the cake into two sections. Spread the lemon cream over the bottom half, then fill with a layer of blueberries. Cover with the top layer of cake, and dust everything with powdered sugar.
Decorate with more berries and a sprig of mint.

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

 Snow and freezing rain are in the forecast here in New Jersey for today — not exactly the warm beaches of the Caribbean or the shores of the Mediterranean. But if you buy a bunch of these blood oranges while they’re still in season, you can bring a little bit of Florida or Sicily into your home with this beautiful and delicious upside down cake. Just looking at these jewel-like slices brings a smile to my face. 

The recipe comes from Coffee and Crumpets, but I first saw this cake posted on my friend Stacey’s blog and I knew right away it had to be in my future. I made it in a cast iron skillet, but the recipe calls for a traditional cake tin. Use whichever you like. The brown sugar and butter go in first, then the slices. Overlap them a bit, since they tend to shrink somewhat. Make sure you spread a little butter along the sides of the pan too.
Then spread the thick batter evenly over the slices.
Bake it in the oven for the allotted time. 
Then flip it over and stare at your beautiful plate of sunshine.
But not for too long. Dig in (with a serrated knife so you can cut through the caramelized orange slices) and enjoy. My favorite way to eat it is while it’s still warm from the oven. It may not be Capri or even Miami, but it will be a welcome treat from shoveling snow.

 

 

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
The Cake Part
1½ cups/225g all purpose/plain flour
¾ cup/110g cornmeal, organic
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup/200g cane sugar
1½ sticks/170g butter, softened
¼ cup/60ml oil, neutral flavor
½ cup/120ml blood orange juice
3 eggs, large and organic
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. The “Upside Down” Part
  2. 1 or 2 blood oranges, scrubbed and dried, sliced thinly with peel (I used three)
  3. ⅓ cup/70g brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup brown sugar)
  4. 4 tablespoons butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C
  2. In a 10″ round cake tin preferably, place the butter and sugar.
  3. Place in the oven to allow the butter to melt, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and arrange the sliced oranges into the melted butter and sugar.
  5. The orange slices will shrink so you can slightly overlap them to get better coverage on top of the cake. I only used one orange so mine are spaced out quite a bit.
  6. Keep aside and make the cake batter.
  7. Mix the flour, corn meal, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and keep aside.
  8. In a mixer bowl or with a hand mixer, beat the butter, oil and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  9. Add the orange zest and vanilla.
  10. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  11. Add half the flour mixture and mix gently.
  12. Add the blood orange juice.
  13. Add the remaining flour and mix until well incorporated.
  14. Spread the batter into the cake pan, carefully.
  15. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean and the cake is golden and puffy.
  16. Check the cake at 45 minutes and leave a bit longer if still wet in the centre.
  17. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  18. Run a knife around the sides of the cake if necessary.
  19. Unmold the cake while still warm onto a cake plate and allow to cool completely.
  20. Serve as is, or with a dollop of sweetened cream.
Notes
  1. Make sure to cut the orange slices quite thinly without tearing the insides. The thin slices candy nicely and become soft and sweet and accompany the cake perfectly.