In this delicious Warm Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake from The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook, mother-daughter authors Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramis Hearne add cornmeal to give the cake more substance and texture, and incredibly moist. The hint of ginger in this cake really pulls all the flavors together. Topped with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, this is the ideal finish to a winter’s feast.
Makes 8 to 10 Servings
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
¾ cup sugar, divided
2 pounds firm but ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears (about 4 pears), peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
2 tablespoons minced candied ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup medium-ground yellow cornmeal
½ cup boiling water
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup whole milk
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add ¼ cup of the sugar, stir just enough to combine, and cook without disturbing until the sugar dissolves and starts to turn golden brown (caramelize), about 5 minutes. Beginning with the outside edge and working your way toward the center in a circular pattern, arrange the pear slices on top of the caramelized sugar. Sprinkle the ginger and nutmeg over the top. Cook until the pears are soft and the caramel starts to thicken, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place the cornmeal in a large bowl, add the boiling water, and stir to blend. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and the remaining ½ cup sugar to the cornmeal mixture and mix until well blended. (This can be done by hand.) Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, alternating it with the milk, making sure not to overmix. Pour the batter on top of the pears in the skillet.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the top starts to brown and the center of the cake feels firm and springs back when pressed, 18 to 20 minutes. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen it, and place an inverted plate on top of the skillet. Protecting both hands with oven mitts, flip the cake onto the plate. Replace any fruit that may have stuck to the skillet. Serve warm or at room temperature.