Pear Upside-Down Cake

Pear Upside Down CakeI was really craving a homemade dessert. Cake, ideally. Something with a seasonal flavor, but definitely not one of my standby apple or pumpkin-flavored sweets. A more unique choice.

Luckily I came across a newish issue of Bon Appetit in the house that had just the thing: a luxurious walnut-and-olive-oil-based cake topped with pears resting in a caramel-y pomegranate syrup. Perfect! Pears aren’t as ubiquitous at my house as, say, bananas are, but they are easy enough to find at the market. Plus I feel like pears are often underrated as a dessert. This was definitely going in the right direction as far as uniqueness.

The recipe begins with making a syrup that lines the base of the pan, AKA cooled caramel that eventually ends up being the top of the cake once the pan is turned rightside up. No problems there. It consists of pomegranate syrup and orange juice that is combined with sugar and butter then reduced. Soon after the pears are added to the pan in order to soften the fruit and release some juice. They seemed to need a little more cooking time than listed in the recipe, but this was easily remedied. After a second round of syrup reduction I was able to pour the caramel over the pears and add them to the only spot in my freezer available for the cooling period. On to the cake portion!

The cake batter is created by using both a food processor and an upright mixer.  It seems excessive at first but makes sense: first of all, the processor is needed to grind the walnuts into a flour, and secondly, there is very little chance of beating 4 eggs without a mixer. So in the end I had a lot of dishes to do, but no biggie- this is what I get for making something besides brownies!

The olive oil/egg/ground walnut/all-purpose flour batter is then poured over the cooling-in-the-freezer pear/caramel mix and ready for the oven. The baking times listed seemed too short in my opinion. I definitely had to go past the suggested 50-60 minutes when the middle seemed raw after an hour. A few minutes later and all was ready for cooling.

I thought the end result was lovely, if not slightly misrepresented in the title. The idea that this is a “spiced” cake is going a bit too far, in my opinion. The bosc pears match wonderfully with the tartness of the caramel syrup. The cake itself is rich and slightly nutty, a great base element for the sweet-yet-tart top. Why so little spice flavor?  The recipe calls for a 1/4 tsp of cardamom, which to me wasn’t enough to register in the final baked product. So overall a spice fail, but really the cake is too beautiful to complain too much.

Pear Upside Down Cake

Recipe Credit: Bon Appetit

Kitchen Mess: 3 out of 4 starts. Not too terrible considering the steps involved. I feel the need to warn everyone that this contains a bunch of sticky ingredients.

Recommended For: Upside Down Cake Enthusiasts, People Looking for Recipes that Use up Pomegranate Syrup, Something to do with Extra Bosc Pears.

Not Recommended For: Anyone looking for a traditional spiced cake.

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Lunchbox Harvest Muffins, or what to do with that leftover zucchini half in the fridge.

This recipe saved my life since it was published 2 years ago, if I want to be a little hyperbolic. At the very least it has saved an overstuffed refrigerator veggie drawer from rotting on many an occasion. I like to use it when there seems to be an excess of carrots, zucchini, and other random fall vegetables hanging around waiting to be put to use.

Never the prettiest food, but always tasty.
Never the prettiest food, but always tasty.

It’s one of my favorite ways of using up any extra (shredded-or-to-be-shredded) vegetables, especially since it allows you to mix and match as needed. I like to think of it as a “choose your own adventure” sort of muffin.

The veggie ratios can be changed up and I’ve never had a problem with taste or texture. Last time I used mainly grated zucchini with a little beet thrown in for good measure. I didn’t even have an apple on hand, and while it didn’t have the same flavor depth it might have had with this addition, it was still yummy.  When I use the recipe I almost always coarsely grate the veggies, but you can do a fine grate too-  whatever you prefer here.

This is definitely a moist muffin. I think the amount of oil in the recipe will tend to keep the end product soft no matter what you do with the shredded veggies. You could probably try to lower the amount of oil used, but I would test that out a small amount at a time. Using whole wheat pastry flour seems to be important, as I tried using regular whole wheat once and it ended up heavier than expected. (should have known better.) If you use the weights listed in the recipe, you’re pretty much good to go. Overall it’s a versatile muffin recipe, ready for tweaking here and there.

Recipe Credit: NY Times

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4 stars. I can usually make this with minimal bowls.

Recommended for: Using up extra veggies, muffin lovers, fall lunchbox treats

Not recommended for: Anyone who dislikes “veggie breads” AKA picky eaters