Now that we’re completely in the throes of the holiday season, I’ve really been upping my cake-baking game. Why? Because in my daydreams, there’s always cake in the kitchen during the holidays for the tons of friends and family who revolve in and out of the house. Except we live super far away from our family and have about two to four amazing friends where we live, so there’s no constant revolving of people, and I’m pretty sure our two friends may be tired of my cakes. I imagine for them, eating my cakes is like playing Russian Roullete – one cake may taste delish and another could taste like sand. Anyway, I’ve just been practicing baking cakes a lot. My husband is gluten-free and I’m a year into trying to lose the baby weight, so I guess it’s only fair to myself to say I’m “gluten-free,” too.
The cakes that turned out phenomenally by lower standards were not gluten-free. They were just your regular ‘ol, run-of-the-mill, flour, eggs, baking soda, and baking powder types (and whatever else goes into cakes). On the other hand, the gluten-free cakes tasted like what I imagine the beaches in purgatory to taste like – a sweet taste of potential.
When I decided to try this recipe, I daydreamed that I could carry my healthy Upside Down Pear and Almond Cake on my Bernadaud French china out to my patiently-waiting family and serve a slice over a cuppa. And that, when I sliced into the thin, decadent cake I could hear the soft scrapes of the cake knife on the serving plates and gracefully hand tiny plates around like a delicate queen, confident that my cake would pass any scrutiny. Then, as we sat there eating our sweet slices, soft French classical music would be playing on the piano in the grand room down the hall.
I also wonder where this daydream came from because I live in a cottage and have a toddler. Also, I don’t own Bernadaud French china, and I’m pretty sure I don’t own anything near its value. Actually, I got my fancy plates at Goodwill! Nor am I confident in my cake-baking. Perhaps, too, there’s a little bit of an obsession with French decor since I found my new French Provincial headboard. Either way, the daydream was strong enough to fuel an attempt at making the dream come true.
What I Did Wrong
Let’s just say that when you’re a novice in the cake department, things don’t go so well. I think I fudged on a few ingredients here and there because I didn’t have arrowroot powder, cardamom, or almond extract. I also used the wrong sized cake pan. The recipe called for a pan that’s 8 inches. But I think my pan was nearly 10″, and this made my cake the thickness of an 8.5″ X 11″ piece of paper.
One area I definitely went wrong in was using almond flour, though the recipe called for it. I gotta tell ya, I’m about sick and tired of almond flour. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – it tastes like sand. At least this time it did.
If you’re curious, here’s a picture of my cake:
The Perfect Upside Down Caramelized Pear & Almond Cake
And here’s what it was supposed to look like according to the original recipe:
I read through the lovely blog where the original recipe was posted, I couldn’t help but feel sisterly pride for the baker. She successfully described the perfect picture, and I’m so proud of the fruit of her labor (get it, get it?).
Here she is, pulling a perfect cake out of the oven as her children come running through the door. And all I did was have YouTube cooking videos streaming in the background as I pulled out my Picasso-esque cake with what I presume to be a very doubtful look on my face.
Naturally, it is ugly, after all.
Anyway, for those of you who would like to attempt this cake yourselves for a chance to accomplish glazed, pear perfection, here is the recipe:
Upside Down Pear & Almond Cake
- 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 3 tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 pinch Salt (to taste)
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla
- 1 Pear (does it matter what kind?)
- 2 Eggs separated
- 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar (you think this would be good with date paste instead?)
- 1/2 tsp Almond Extract
- 3/4 cup Almond Flour
- 2 tbsp Arrowroot Powder
- 1/4 tsp Cardamom
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line an 8" cake pan with parchment.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add in the brown sugar and the salt and stir, cooking until the edges bubble and the sugar is dissolved stirring continuously. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Immediately pour the sauce over the parchment, spreading with the back of a spoon or spatula if necessary.
- Slice the pear in half and core using a melon baller. Thinly slice each half into 1/8-1/4" pieces. Arrange the slices over the caramel, fanning them out from the center.
- Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- In a separate mixing bowl, beat the yolks using a hand beater until they are thick and pale yellow. Slowly mix in the sugar, followed by the almond extract, the almond flour, arrowroot powder, and the cardamom. The mixture will be quite thick.
- Gently mix in half of the egg whites. When they are incorporated, fold in the remaining egg whites. The batter may be slightly streaked with white. This is fine. Be careful not to overmix when folding.
- Pour the cake batter over the pears. Spread into an even layer, fully covering the pears.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the center is set. Remove from the oven and invert onto a plate while still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.