My girlfriends and I made this cake for an Indian themed, ladies only dinner party. I am a major Indian food fan (and boy, did we feast well on dinner), however I have never been able to get into traditional Indian desserts. Gulab Jamun anyone?? I just can't. I do love Chai tea though, and it was on the menu. I chose this cake as one of our dessert options because I thought the cardamom was reminiscent of those beautiful Indian flavours, it would go nicely with our Chai tea, and the fall pears were booming. It's not a showstopper of a cake, it's kind of casual in a brown and mushy, snack cake sort of way. But the flavour and light, fluffy, moist texture, more than compensates for it's lack of visual appeal.
Pear and Cardamom Upside Down Cake
Origin, Mary Ellen Rae, LA Times
Notes: I've made this cake a few times, once without a stand mixer. With a wooden spoon, taking turns around the room, beating with some serious elbow grease, we got the butter nice and fluffy and the cake turned out great.
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (from about 6 to 8 pods) (I used pre-ground cardamom)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature, divided
3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
2 firm-ripe Anjou pears (I used Bartlett)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9 x 1 1/2 inch round cake pan.
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together. Stir in the cardamom and set aside.
Melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sugar has melted and combined with the butter. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan, spreading it to reach the sides.
Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the core and stem. Cut each half into 1/4 inch thick slices. Arrange the pear slices in a slightly overlapping circle around the cake pan, starting at the outer rim. Finish with several slices in the center. Sprinkle the pears with the lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Beat the remaining 1/2 cup butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat after each addition just until combined.
Gently spoon the cake batter on top of the pears, smoothing out to the edge of the pan and making sure the cake batter fills in around the pears.
Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Place the cake on a rack to cool for 5 minutes in the pan.
Run a small spatula or knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a cake plate, leaving the pan on the cake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.