Topsy Turvey

It has been a bad day, and cake was called for…

A catalogue of mistakes, small injuries and things just going wrong culminated in me giving myself a minor black eye. It doesn’t look that bad – no-one’s going to think the Husband has started slapping me around – but it does show. I’m lucky to wear specs, they saved me from worse damage without taking any themselves. I’ll spare you the detail, but the corner of my eye had a close encounter with a large steel set square I use for squaring up my quilts. It’s designed for use by carpenters, and is very, very robust… So, the situation called for cake, the panacea for what ails me.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 7.00.39 pmThis is my Pear Upside-Down Cake, so called for a very obvious reason. And it’s extremely yummy; buttery and caramely with delicious wodges of pear on top that start life on the bottom. I make the same thing with pineapple, apricots, plums and rhubarb, also extremely delish. I had pears, so that’s what it was today. As always, it’s gluten free, but it would work perfectly well with ordinary wheat flour.

4 peeled, cored and quartered pears (Beurre Bosc are best for this purpose, but any firm pear will do);  you can also use canned pear halves if fresh ones aren’t in season.
200g butter
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 ¼ cups GF self raising flour
¼ cup milk

40g butter
½ cup dark brown sugar.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Line a loose base or springform 24cm pan with strong aluminium foil, grease the sides. You need to make sure there are no holes anywhere.

First make the syrup by putting the butter and sugar and 1 tblsp water in a pan over low heat and stir till melted. Simmer until thickened slightly, then pour into the bottom of the lined cake tin. Arrange pears on top of syrup. If you’re using canned pear halves (and I often do), place them flat side down. Be careful, the syrup is hot.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars till pale and creamy, add vanilla extract, then the eggs, one at a time, scraping down frequently. Sift in the flour and fold in, add the milk, combine everything well. Spoon carefully over the pears so you don’t disturb the arrangement, and smooth out the top.

Bake for an hour or so. If it starts to get too brown, cover with foil. It’s done when it springs back when pressed gently with a finger.

Leave the cake to sit for 5 minutes or so before inverting onto a large plate. Gently and carefully peel away the foil to reveal the caramelised pears on top and the brown and sticky top of the cake. You’ll be wanting to scrape the gooey bits off the foil, I suggest…

Don’t be silly enough to wait till it’s cool. Eat it warm, with cream or vanilla icecream.

Black eye? What black eye?


59 thoughts on “Topsy Turvey

  1. cheergerm says:

    Just lovely, upside pear cakes are a fave here. Hope your eye fades fast. From one accident prone person to another. 😊

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Oooo I know what I’m having for dessert tonight! Why have I never thought to line the pan? Looks yummy – will cure all that ails!

  3. Sabiscuit says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your injured eye. I have had some gnarly mishaps in the kitchen but I’m safer now, thank goodness. I love your pie and found it when I was looking for bread recipes. If I can bake some normal acme bread without destroying my kitchen, I’ll try this recipe next. (I’m terrible at baking).

    • katechiconi says:

      I think I’m actually getting worse and clumsier as I get older! I love baking, I enjoy cooking in general, so I hope the recipe works for you – do leave a comment if you need any help or clarification.

      • Sabiscuit says:

        I will find you, thanks very much. I’m at the moment scheduling for the trial version. Please stay safe and recover well. And of course, have a great weekend when it rolls around.

  4. nanacathy2 says:

    If I agree to having a black eye too in sympathy may I have a slice? It looks delicious, hope your eye is better very soon.

  5. It sounds like you got very lucky with that eye. And cake does make everything better. I only bake in the cold months just before the holidays. If I baked more often, I wouldn’t be able to walk around here anymore. Then maybe if I walked around here more, I could bake more. Hmmm. You have sent me to the search engine again. All recipes from “down under” require it. Castor sugar is the same as super fine sugar here. That I can do. So much to learn when you read blogs from all over the world. I could do this all day. 🙂 Please watch your step now so you don’t need to bake another cake. Hugs.

    • katechiconi says:

      Another time, just ask, and I’ll ‘translate’: Icing sugar is powdered sugar, soft dark brown sugar is turbinado, plain flour is all-purpose (as opposed to self-raising/ rising), golden syrup is a thick heavy cane syrup, not thin like corn syrup, and so on. I have trouble with American recipes: what on earth is a ‘stick’ of butter, how much does it weigh? (I think it’s 4 ounces). You see the problem: two nations divided by a common language!

      • I think we are the ones that stirred things up by changing “EVERYTHING” We don’t measure anything the same way as the rest of the world. Our butter comes 4 sticks to the pound package. So my guess is it’s 1/4 pound each. They even measure it by the teaspoon on the wrapper. Yesterday I had to look up sultanas which are golden raisins here. It’s a lot of fun to learn new terms for the same thing. I avoid corn syrup now. Looking always to substitute honey or maple syrup instead. Don’t get me started on the difference between a yard and a meter of fabric. 😦 Thanks for the information. It’s not just nations that cause confusion. In this country alone they have different names for the same thing in different areas. When we moved to Georgia from Germany, I swore they didn’t speak English down there. I could understand not one word.

      • katechiconi says:

        I had to laugh earlier; I was looking up weight equivalents for cups for Viv and one website started off by saying “since Imperial measurements are used almost universally…” and I wondered what universe she was inhabiting, since most of the world I know of uses metric! I can’t help feeling there’s a funny book to be made out of all the differences…

      • It could be a funny book. My mother used her German cookbooks for many years and had a heck of a time translating them over into American measurements. A lot of trial and error went on there. We are a stubborn lot here waiting for the rest of the world to come around to our way of thinking. I wish they’d give it up or at least teach both in school so the rest of us wouldn’t be blindsided when we travel.

  6. tialys says:

    This reminds me of cookery lessons at school. We made pineapple upside down cake with tinned pineapples. I thought it was magical when it was turned out and the pineapple was in neat circles on the top. I was, as now, easily pleased and my Mum was no cook 😉

    Almost worth a black eye to be able to console yourself with cake.

    • katechiconi says:

      Did you put bright red glacé cherries in the middle of the pineapple circles, too? I have one of those old WI recipes, but the cake is dry and unsatisfactory. I have remedied the situation with lots more of the good stuff…

  7. The panacakea for all ills! (Sorreee) I don’t do cups – I have too many of different shapes and sizes to know what to use – but I suppose standard sponge proportions would work just as well.. I’m drooling thinking of making this, as the Conference pears are lovely at the moment.

    I’m so sorry you’re having a bad day, and hope things improve for you.

  8. South Africa has been metric since 1971. If we can do it ,anyone can!

  9. wow, this looks delicious !!!! you know, when bad luck starts early in the morning you can be sure it will be a hell of a day !

    • katechiconi says:

      I think my run of bad luck started at about lunchtime and steadily got worse till it peaked with the black eye. After that, things were back to normal. And then, of course, there was cake!

  10. EllaDee says:

    If the skin isn’t broken rub a little Arnica & Aspirin onto the bruise… I’m pleased it wasn’t worse.
    I’m happy to have this recipe in case I need an emergency remedy of cake, which I agree fixes everything. It’s such a stunning looking cake as well which if I am able to produce it similarly will do much for my baking self esteem… and impress the G.O. 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      Sadly, there’s a small graze there too, so I think it’s safest not too. Concealer is doing a good job. It’s a good cake for showing off, the trick lies in peeling off the foil very slowly and carefully (and then smearing all the residue off with your finger and scoffing it, and forcing yourself not to actually lick it… oh… is that just me?).

  11. Ouch! Sounds nasty 😦 but the cake looks yummy 🙂

  12. vivjm says:

    Ouch!! My favourite pudding as a child was pineapple upside down cake. I’ve been gluten free for a few years now but never tried one. I like the idea of pears so will give your recipe a try!

    • katechiconi says:

      Go on, try it. I defy you not to like it. Make sure you have cream or vanilla ice cream. If you’re lactose intolerant too (like me, but I buy lactose free cream) you could in a pinch make whipped coconut cream.

  13. Im a terrible baker! But pineapple upside-down cake is one of the few things I’ve made for hubby’s uncles – one of whom is a professional baker. No pressure there! You know, I think they would have liked it better with pears.

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s a little bit more, um, sophisticated with pears, but also lavishly good with other more tart fruits. I’m a coeliac, so all my recipes are gluten free, but most of them will translate quite happily to regular flour, and none of them is at all challenging: I’m a lazy as well as a greedy baker!

      • We aren’t, but we are always looking for low-to-no carb alternatives for ourselves. The uncles and my MIL seem to be able to eat all the bread and sugar and never a bother! Of course it is homemade and no preservatives so that helps.
        I know fruit is full of sugar, but I refuse to admit it – so much better than anything we humans can invent.

  14. You gave yourself a black eye? Ouch!
    If I ever got around to baking, I would make this. It is just the sort of cake I like.

    • katechiconi says:

      Fortunately, the frame of my glasses hides the worst of the damage and casts the rest into shadow! I must find a new home for the set square, which is invaluable, but is obviously a hazard to switching on my iron and air conditioning… I am going to request a large peg board to hang over my cutting table and the set square can hang there with my rulers, cutters, scissors, etc.

  15. Lynda says:

    I’m so sorry you blackened you eye, but glad to know it wasn’t so bad as I imagined.

    I had a friend years ago who made an over simplified version of this cake. (She didn’t put all the good stuff on the bottom. Only the pears.) I didn’t like it. Yours on the other hand looks and sounds delicious and I can already tell I am going to love it. Confession: I am a bit of a teetotaler, but the thought came to me that the tiniest amount of brandy in the pear mixture would be a decadent addition. For very special occasions of course. 😉

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s already a pretty rich cake – I love the idea of adding an alcoholic ‘enhancement’ but I think a pear schnapps might be a better complement to the flavours. Now, if you were going to do it with apricots or plums, brandy would be perfect. And rum with pineapple, of course!

  16. Lorij says:

    Kate, how much is 200g of butter and what is caster sugar? Can baking apples be used with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg added do you think? And, does it take the same amount of regular flour as gluten free? Thanks
    I’m sure your cake and ice cream straighten all the issues out and made the house smell good too 😄. Don’t eat too much

    • katechiconi says:

      Hi Lorij, 200g is 7 ounces. Caster sugar is superfine sugar.
      You can use baking apples, but they tend to be more floury and will collapse a little, so if that’s all you have, don’t cut them too thinly; I’d use a firm, juicy and if possible tart, eating apple by preference. The spices sound nice, but will turn it into a different cake; you will lose the buttery, caramely flavour a little and it will taste more like apple pie. I’ve tried it with cinnamon, and prefer it without.
      You can use exactly the same amount of regular flour as gluten free, but it needs to be self-rising.

      • Lorij says:

        So 11/2 sticks of butter maybe? I’m going to use granny smith apples and no spice I think. 😊

      • katechiconi says:

        That’s a tricky one, as we don’t use sticks as a measure for butter here. A bit of online research has revealed that a stick is probably 4 ounces. Say 1 3/4 sticks… And I think Granny Smith apples would be perfect.

  17. I’m klutzy too, bashing toes against furniture that’s been in the same place for years or smacking a shoulder on a door that I’m in the process of closing. Never thought of cake as a way to soothe the bruise. You’re a genius.

    • katechiconi says:

      My clumsiness became extreme after chemotherapy, which seems to have affected my sense of where I am in relation to other things, as well as a whole raft of other cognitive issues. Funny thing is, I still have a good deal of manual dexterity, it’s just the rest of me that gets in the way!
      Cake is the Final Solution where injuries are concerned, otherwise I’d be the size of a house. I thought a self inflicted black eye qualified, though…

  18. Magpie Sue says:

    So sorry about your injury! At least it was minimal – or minimized (and no damage to your specs, added bonus!). Mr. Magpie and I have recently become huge fans of The Great British Baking Show on our local PBS station here in the States. Are you familiar with the program? And what is caster sugar by the way?

    • katechiconi says:

      I do know it, but as it’s on pay-to-view TV here and we only have free TV I haven’t been watching it. I sometimes catch it at a friend’s place.
      Caster sugar is superfine, somewhere between granulated and powdered sugar. It dissolves more quickly in the cake batter and is a very common choice for baking in the UK and Australia. So called because it was used in sugar ‘casters’ or shakers in the old days. It’s like the difference between cooking salt (coarse) and table salt (fine). If you don’t have it, granulated is fine, it just takes longer to break down in the batter.

  19. Magpie Sue says:

    Never mind; I went back and started reading other comments and found the answer to my question. Well, the second one anyway! ;- )

  20. Kirsten says:

    Looks delicious!! Is there any left?

    I don’t like the sound of that set square. Maybe get a plastic one for the clumsy days . . .

    • katechiconi says:

      Of course there isn’t! The set square is brilliant, but the place I keep it is stupid, and will have to be changed. And don’t imagine that plastic will stop me hurting myself…

  21. Jen Gardener says:

    That looks ah-mazing! Sorry to hear about your black eye though 😦

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