Fine Specimens

upside down

I have a new favourite fruit, and they won’t leave me alone. I can’t walk past the fresh fruit at the market without at least gazing at them, if not slipping a few into my basket. I always admire their curvaceous shapes when I slice them in half. I’m talking about pears; they’re bountifully in season and absolutely gorgeous in every way. I don’t know if it’s lucky or unlucky, because without even trying, I’m finding pear recipes everywhere I turn, and I’m nothing short of helpless when there are already fine specimens residing in my fruit bowl.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, or a crazy obsessive lady. I know there was the pear and vanilla brown butter crumble, which still makes me dribble a little every time I think about it. And I’m aware that I posted these pear and maple cupcakes barely two weeks ago. A few nights ago for my Dad’s birthday, I made a surprisingly delicious dish of roast lamb cooked with rosé and pears, but unfortunately didn’t get a photo of it. I suppose I can only hope you share my fondness of them, because here I present to you a most delightful pear and ginger cake courtesy of Orangette, the Macrina Bakery and Seattlest.

On the eve of winter, I can’t imagine a more appropriate dessert. The warm cake is intensely comforting as the temperatures at night get cooler. It was a good opportunity to use the treacle that’s been sitting in our pantry for ages; one of dad’s impulse buys that I’ve been scratching my head over what to do with. I’d also never used fresh ginger before (shame!) and I’m now looking forward to using what’s left in other dishes – perhaps something savoury to balance out all the desserts I post here.


To be completely honest, I don’t think I would have looked twice at this recipe if there weren’t pears involved, but I really did love the result. The cake itself was the real winner here, but the glossy cinnamon-slicked pears played a nice supporting role. The cake was beautifully moist with an incredible depth of flavour, not too sweet and not too rich. I kind of like the idea that I can conjure up a famous but far away bakery in my own kitchen… until I plan a trip to Seattle and can taste for myself!

I keep forgetting that Pam tagged me for a six word memoir a few months ago. If those six words had to form a sentence of sorts, I think “small mocha, double shot, two sugars” would aptly describe me, but otherwise, here are some words put together by me and people who know me well… Caring, Spirited, Cute, Idealistic, Imaginative and Affectionate.

Pear and Ginger Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Seattlest and the Macrina Bakery
Serves 10-12

• 75g butter, at room temperature
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 4 medium pears, peeled, cored and quartered lengthwise

• 250g butter, at room temperature
• ¾ cup brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
• 3 eggs
• 2/3 cup treacle (molasses)
• 3 cups plain flour
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 ½ cups buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F). Grease a 22cm (9-inch) removable-bottom cake tin and line with baking paper.
2. To make the topping, combine butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat until melted. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Place quartered pears on top of the mixture tightly in a decorative circle so that none of the bottom shows through.
3. To make the batter, place butter and brown sugar in a large bowl. Cream with an electric mixer until pale in colour. Add the ginger, and beat for another minute. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Slowly pour in the treacle and beat to fully mix. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled.
5. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and baking soda and salt together, and whisk to combine.
6. Alternately add small amounts of flour and buttermilk to the batter, being careful to only mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
7. Transfer the batter into the pear-lined pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.
8. Bake for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.
9. Cover the pan with an upside down serving plate and carefully invert. Release the sides of the pan and lift it away. Peel off the baking paper, and cool for about half an hour. Serve warm, with whipped cream or ice cream.

17 Comments on “Fine Specimens”

  1. Wow, that cake looks amazing! My partner just drooled over it (he’s a big fan of gingerbread/cake & pears – think it’s his perfect cake!) and I might end up making it for his birthday next year. Might have to give it a go, and try it out a few times though – you know, to get it right 😉

  2. Lizzie, I know what you mean, because practice makes perfect of course 🙂 I can tell you though, that this cake is so good, you’ll get it right first time! I hope he (and you!) enjoy it.

  3. Manggy, thank you! I haven’t been able to find the Macrina cookbook here in Sydney, though the Tartine Bakery one is gorgeous, I spent an afternoon in the library ogling it…

    My Sweet & Saucy, there is a forkful there just for you! 🙂

  4. That is one gorgeous-looking cake. What a fantastic combination of flavours – I’d love a slice of this even though we are on the brink of summer over here in the northern hemisphere!!

  5. Antonia, I don’t blame you! For the record, it also tasted great at room temperature, and with ice cream.

    Mansi Desai, thank you so much! The cake was indeed lovely, and so was your compliment 🙂

  6. Ooh I love how dark that cake is. Looks so decadent and.. wintery 🙂

    I have the Macrina Bakery book, but haven’t cooked much from it. Maybe I should!

  7. Y, if I had to describe it in one word, wintery would probably be it. I’ve yet to find the Macrina cookbook in Sydney unfortunately.

    Kimberley, I hope you enjoy it! We certainly did 🙂

    Ginny, I don’t think that will be a problem, I can’t help myself these days! The more pears the better.

  8. I got to your blog through the back burner and I tried this recipe last weekend and it turned out great! Thanks for this great recipe!

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