Friday, February 13, 2009

I Like to Bake: Pear Almond Upside Down Cake

If you have been reading my blog since the beginning, you will remember that I stated "I love to cook, but don't like to bake". I have always felt it limited my creativity in the kitchen, because I had to follow ingredients and measurements like science.

Well, I have changed my mind. I am a woman, therefore, entitled to change my mind anytime I want to.

I have been enjoying baking lately, and have included a baking post once a week on the blog.
I no longer am afraid to add a dash of cinnamon or vanilla to a recipe that doesn't call for certain ingredients. I have substituted yogurt for sour cream in cakes with perfect results and added nuts and raisins to batter all by myself! with no one telling me to do so!
However, I never screw around with baking powder and baking soda. I got a D in chemistry class.

I find it relaxing to bake, therapeutic almost.
I like baking at night, preferably at 10 pm, when the kitchen is nice and clean and I have a burst of energy.

I have also found that I am actually good at it.
I still have not made a ganache or baba rhums, or Claire's Canneles in wax molds or any other magnificent pastries like on Tartelette's blog (frighteningly beautiful), but am competent enough to turn out great cakes and cookies, cupcakes, biscotti and good tarts.

My sister in law, who is an excellent baker, said to me recently "I thought you hated baking? how come you have all these desserts on your blog?".
Well, I have decided that I like baking now.

Last night's 10 pm therapy session found me making an upside down pear almond cake, made from ground almonds and baked in a cast iron skillet. This was much like a tarte tatin usually made with caramelized apples then inverted, but this recipe uses pears and almonds.
This was best eaten warm, a few minutes out of the oven. Thank God I didn't have any vanilla ice cream or I would've thought I died and went to heaven.

This was seriously good and seriously simple.

Upside Down Pear & Almond Cake (from the book Seriously Simple):

1 cup whole almonds, ground in a food processor
2/3 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder

6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup orange juice (preferably fresh)

my additions:
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract

for the pears:
2 tbsp butter
2-3 pears, peeled and sliced into 1/2" thick slices
3 tbsp packed light brown sugar

Oven at 350.

Mix your first 3 dry ingredients together and set aside.

With a mixer, beat your butter and sugar until pale and golden.
Add your eggs, orange juice, vanilla and almond extract and mix.

Now add your dry ingredients to the egg butter mixture and mix just to combine.

Now caramelize your pears.

In a well seasoned 9" cast iron skillet (my newest purchase!), melt the butter over high heat. Add the brown sugar, stir to dissolve, and cook until bubbly. Add the pear slices in a single layer. Cook in the syrup for 2 minutes, use tongs to turn them over, until lightly caramelized. Be careful that the syrup doesn't become too dark. The pears will exude juice and help to keep the caramel from burning. Remove from the heat and let cool 3 minutes.

Pour your batter over the pears and gently spread the batter to cover the pears.
Bake for 45-50 minutes. Cool in skillet 10 minutes and then carefully invert onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

One of the best cakes I have ever made!


nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

This looks amazing!

I live in Rome now so I have to search for baking powder but I must try this.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

This looks amazing!

I live in Rome now so I have to search for baking powder but I must try this.

Culinarywannabe said...

I'm glad you like baking because I like baked goods! Really, the only reason I bake is for the end results - I hate how much of a mess it makes. The pears look so beautiful and golden on this.

Lisa said...

I just started baking also and it is relaxing. I actually found out this last week that I love kneading bread. This cake looks good.

LaDue & Crew said...

I bet your house smelled like heaven last night! Looks SO good!. I love to bake. There is just something so sinful in seeing peoples expressions when taking bites of your baked treats ;-)

lisaiscooking said...

Good for you, changing your mind. Invoking your prerogative! I've been seeing upside down cakes here and there lately. They might be stalking me. I've never made a tarte tatin, but I'm starting to feel the urge.

kat said...

Funny the same thing happened to me since I started blogging & making cupcakes every week.

" FUSHIGI " said...

Just looking at the side of your Tatin with its translucency and caramelization very well defined...prompted me to load my espresso pot on the stove-top and salivate!
I am glad you converted, HIP HIP HIP, HURRA!

Colloquial Cook said...

Cooking in a skillet?? Great idea! I have a tiny baby skillet, I could make a tiny baby cake for myself. Nothing for the flatmates, héhé!

kaye said...

That looks WONDERFUL! I'll have to invest in a cast iron skillet. Beautiful pictures.

Pam said...

Wow. So, so pretty. I love pears so I know I would love it. Great recipe Stacey.

SarahB said...

I'm glad you didn't have vanilla ice cream too because if you died, I would really miss you.

noble pig said...

Very nice and yes never mess with the powder and the's never good!

Linda said...

Aw, thanks Sta!!
Well obviously baking likes you !! this looks wonderful!!! I would have bought you some vanilla ice cream!!!

Bob said...

That looks so good. I love upside down cake, but have never had it with nuts before. I'm definitely trying that out next time.

Maria said...

I am glad you changed your mind. This cake looks amazing! Nice work!

Debbie said...

I love baking because I love cakes and cookies!!! The cake looks great and to think that was made in a skillet! If I could have a virtual slice I would top it with whipped cream too!!!

The Duo Dishes said...

If you make something like this, it's a good way to convince yourself baking is fun! And tasty.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Look at you, baking up a storm at 10pm! I could just picture you in your Dansko's!

Peter M said...

Stace, you're being too hard on yourself...the cake looks yummy...almost as yummy as the Malibu Stacey! lol

Culinary Cory said...

This sounds so good. I have a couple of pears I need to use up. I'm going to have to try this recipe.

freefun0616 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Randi Lynne said...

I made this a few weeks ago to use some pears I had on hand and really enjoyed it. I love the way the ground almonds complemented the caramelized pears. :)