Pears are a wonderful fruit to bake with because they become tender very quickly and get even sweeter when they spend some time in the oven. The problem with pears is that they’re so tasty on their own, it’s often difficult to sacrifice a whole bunch of pears into one dessert – no matter how delicious. One of the reasons that I like to make these little pear upside down cakes is that you only need one pear to bake a whole batch of cakes, but the finished product still packs a lot of pear flavor. The other reason is that pears and almonds are an excellent combination and these cakes are exceptionally tasty.
These Upside Down Pear and Almond Cakes are single-serving cakelets baked in a muffin pan. Thin slices of pear are placed in a mixture of butter and brown sugar that is at the bottom of the pan, and a light almond cake batter is poured on top. As the cake bakes, the sugar around the pears caramelizes and the fruit intensifies in flavor. The cakes are turned out of the pan after baking and you end up with a sweet, buttery pear layer on top of a very tender almond cake.
Although some pears are considered to be better for baking than others, these cakes have a short cooking time and that means that just about every type pear will work in this recipe. I used Comice pears, but Bosc and Bartlet are also good choices. Choose pears that are ripe but not so ripe that they’re soft and difficult to slice. I do not peel my pears because the fruit is sliced very thinly and the skins are not noticeable in the finished product, though you can peel your pears if you prefer.
If you flip these cakes out of the pan shortly after baking, you should not have too much of a problem with the cakes sticking. I prefer to use a muffin liner (even though it can be a touch more difficult to get those pears in place), where there is no chance of the pear pieces sticking to the pan. Muffin liners also mean that leftover cakes are easy to store and transport, in the event you want to turn these into a casual snack instead of a dinner party dessert.
Upside Down Pear and Almond Cakes
2 tbsp butter, cold and cut into 8 small pieces
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 whole large pear (or two small pears)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal(finely ground almonds/almond flour)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a muffin tin with 8 paper liners. Place one small piece of butter into each muffin cup. Top with 1 1/2 teaspoons of brown sugar. Place pan in oven for 3 minutes, just until butter melts. Sugar will not be fully melted. Allow pan to cool for a few minutes before proceeding.
Taking care to slice around the core of the pear, cut pear into very thin slices no more than 1/8-inch thick.
Lay about 3 slices of pear across the bottom of each muffin cup (enough to cover the base), on top of the butter and brown sugar layer. Set aside while you make cake batter
In a large bowl, combine flour, almond meal, sugar, baking powder and salt and whisk until well-combined. Add in eggs, vanilla extract and almond extract and whisk until batter is smooth. Add in melted butter and whisk until butter has been completely incorporated.
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups on top of the of pear layer.
Bake for 19-22 minutes, until the cakes spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Brown sugar may be bubbling slightly around the edges of the cake.
Take cakes out of the muffin pan and allow to cool on a wire rack in their paper liners.
Cakes can be served slightly warm or at room temperature. Invert cakes onto a plate and remove paper to serve.