I’m fairly certain that the hubster’s clinical fellow is the reincarnation of Attila the Hun. No, he doesn’t go rampaging through the wards on horseback and I’m fairly certain he can’t use a bow and arrow either. So why was he Attila the Hun in a former life? There’s got to be a reason why the heavens come crashing down every time he’s in the hospital and my money’s on the fact that he’s paying karmic debt for a previous life. Sure, he could have been Caligula but um, priestly horse aside there’s the marble cruise ship and, um those are the printable things so, no. You see, when he’s on service, bizarre, dire, and statistically improbable cases come crawling out of the woodwork. And in volume, like quadruple the number of truly sick and medically fascinating patients you’d normally see. (Just in case you’re wondering, you never want your physician to find you medically interesting or want to show you off to their colleagues cuz that’s just bad for longevity, ya know?) So needless to say, the last couple weeks have been fraught with looong hours, lots-o-complicated patients, and so much quality bonding time that the ED docs are starting to batch their calls. So in an offering to the karmic call gods, I offer
them you pear and candied ginger up is down cake. We come in peace so take it easy on our peeps, ‘kay?
Here in Portlandia, the leaves are fluttering off the trees in the wind and apples and pears abound at the markets. So even though it’s somewhat decadent, this cake was made with Comice pears, actually 1 gigantic almost 2 lb buttery smooth, sweet, juicy pear. I like the delicate sweetness of pears that complement more assertive flavors like candied ginger or almond or even candied orange peel, brandied berries…. Pears are the Miss Congeniality of the culinary world so if ginger’s not your thing, odds are whatever flavor you pick will be a hit. And don’t worry if you don’t have Comice pears cuz this tastes great with Anjou, Bosc, or whatever you have lying around. While the fanned out pear slices may look shi-shi, it’s actually an easy peasy cake to make cuz the buttermilk gives you a moist tender cake and the caramelized pear bottom that becomes a top just slides right out of the cast iron skillet. This springy cake stays moist for days, if it doesn’t disappear before then….
1) What if I don’t have a cast iron skillet? If you have a sticky or savory skillet or just don’t have one, you can still make this cake. Make the ginger caramel in a small saucepan by melting the butter and brown sugar together and then stirring in the candied ginger (or ginger powder + a little extra sugar). Pour the caramel into your greased (make sure to grease the sides too) 9-inch round baking pan, let cool for 5-10 minutes and then fan out the pears over the caramel and then pour the batter over everything else. Violà!
2) Want a tender fluffy cake? Mix your batter just until any lumps or streaks of flour disappear. It doesn’t have to look perfectly smooth like thick paint otherwise you will overmix it and really develop the gluten in the flour making your toothy cake chewy 😦
2 + 8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp candied ginger chips or 1 tsp ginger powder + 1 tsp sugar
1-2 pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch slices (I used Comice pears)
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 c low-fat buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a 9-inch cast iron skillet (see tips above for making this cake without a cast iron skillet) over medium heat melt butter, brown sugar, and ginger together to create a caramel. Remove from heat and let cool so you don’t burn yourself placing the pear slices ~10-5 minutes. (I usually prepare the pears at this point.)
Fan out pears in an overlapping circle on top of the caramel. Don’t worry if they seem a bit tall in the center, everything will compress down in the baking. If you have really juicy pears, mine was dripping down my arm while peeling it, sauté them in the pan for ~5-10 minutes to reduce their liquid content. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl mix remaining 8 tbsp butter till light and fluffy then mix in sugar. Add vanilla extract and egg and mix well. Mix in half of flour mixture. Mix in half of buttermilk. Alternate flour with buttermilk till just combined where no lumps/streaks of flour are visible. Bake till top is golden and a cake tester or wooden toothpick comes out clean ~30-45 minutes. With a cast iron skillet and convection it takes me 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15-20 minutes. Loosen cake from the sides with a butter knife and then invert over a plate. Yields 10-12 servings and hopefully a few appeased call gods 😀