October 04, 2007

Taking the chill off, with Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake

In need of some cheering up after that sad business about happy endings , I decided to make Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake with pears, from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (13th edition). Very nice for fall, by the way, or to jazz up a simple autumn supper of venison sausages, creamed garden potatoes, garden tomato salad, and home-pressed cider.

Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake (makes one 8- or 9-inch cake, square or round)

12 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
1½ cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. powdered ginger [I use 1 tsp. and also add 1 tsp. cinnamon and a pinch of allspice]
½ tsp. salt [I use just a pinch, and I omit it entirely if I'm using salted butter]
½ cup sugar
½ cup milk
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a small pan, add the brown sugar, and stir over low heat until blended. Pour into a square cake pan and arrange the pear slices in the pan; set aside.

Mix the flour, baking powder, ginger and any other spices, salt, and sugar in a bowl.

Melt the remaining 8 tbsp. (4 oz.) of butter in a small pan [I use the same small pan from before]. Remove from heat, add the milk and egg, and beat well.

Add to flour mixture and beat until smooth. Pour over the pears and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a serving plate, fruit-side up. Serve with whipped cream [or vanilla ice cream, or a drizzle unwhipped heavy cream] if you wish.

There, I feel better already. Don't you?

PS The above recipe is also very nice -- especially if you're a gingerbread purist who requires molasses in your gingerbread -- if you substitute one of Laurie Colwin's recipes, such as this one from Home Cooking, adapted from the Junior League of Charleston's The Charleston Receipts (first published in 1950), though admittedly she likes her gingerbread more gingery than I do:
  • Cream one stick of sweet butter with ½ cup of light or dark brown sugar. Beat until fluffy and add ½ cup of molasses.
  • Beat in two eggs.
  • Add 1½ cups of flour, ½ tsp. of baking soda and one very generous tablespoon of ground ginger (this can be adjusted to taste, but I like it very gingery). Add one teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ tsp. of ground cloves and ¼ tsp. of ground allspice.
  • Add two teaspoons of lemon brandy*. If you don't have any, use plain vanilla extract. Lemon extract will not do. Then add ½ cup of buttermilk (or milk with a little yogurt beaten into it) and turn batter into a buttered tin [buttering not necessary if you make the upside-down cake version].
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for between 20-30 minutes (check after 20 minutes have passed). Test with a toothpick/cake tester, and cool on a rack.
* Lemon brandy: "a heavenly elixir easily homemade by taking the peel from two lemons, cutting very close to get mostly zest, beating up the peels to release the oils and steeping them in four ounces of decent brandy."

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