Pear and Ginger Upside-Down Cake

Pear and Ginger Upside-Down Cake

  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 65 minutes
  • Servings: 8 to 10

The Christmas holidays call for special-occasion desserts, and this upside-down cake fits the bill perfectly. Showcasing favourite flavours of the season, including sweet pears and warming spices, the cake gets a double dose of ginger—the batter features ground ginger, while fresh ginger lends mellow heat to the rich caramel. Choose pears that are ripe but still firm to the touch so they’ll hold their shape when thinly sliced on a mandoline.


For the cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz./390 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz./105 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) (4 oz./125 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (5 1/2 oz./170 g) molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) very hot water

For the caramel and pear layer:

  • 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml) plus 1 Tbs. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
  • 2 large or 4 small Bartlett pears, halved, cored and thinly sliced vertically on a mandoline

For the bourbon whipped cream:

  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) cold heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. bourbon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt


  • Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray a 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • To make the cake, in a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger and cloves. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together both sugars, the melted butter, molasses, egg and vanilla bean paste on medium speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat until combined, about 1 minute; the mixture will be very thick. Add the hot water in 2 additions, beating on low speed until the batter is smooth and cohesive, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 30 seconds. Set aside.
  • To make the ginger caramel, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the granulated sugar, fresh ginger and salt. Cook, without stirring, until the sugar has melted and the mixture is bubbling and begins to turn a dark amber, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream; the caramel will bubble at first. Continue stirring until smooth. Stir in the vanilla bean paste.
  • Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Fan out the pear slices and place them, slightly overlapping, over the caramel, with the top of the pears facing in toward the center of the cake. Pour the batter over the pears and spread evenly. Place the cake pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for about 25 minutes, then invert the cake onto a serving plate.
  • Meanwhile, make the bourbon whipped cream: In the clean bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment, beat together the cream, granulated sugar, bourbon, vanilla extract and salt on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Cut the cake into slices and serve warm with the whipped cream. Serves 8 to 10.
  • Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen