Pear Upside-Down Cake

Bosc Pears

Bosc Pears

By Cat, Oct 2011 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

See also: 1. Tarte aux Poires (Pear Tart); 2. Plum Upside Down Cake; 3. Cakes & Tortes Menu

NOTE: The ingredients of this and the Plum upside-down cake recipes are similar, but the original Fine Cooking recipe amounts (after converting to same 10″ round cake size) differ: the pear recipe uses ¼ cup more flour and ¼ cup less butter than the plum recipe. My adaptations level these differences. My first test was for this recipe (pears), and I had some difficulty – see testing 12/24-25/16 below). It will need to be tested again with suggested changes from first testing.

Perhaps the best known upside-down cake is the pineapple version; but many other fruits also lend themselves to this method, including apples, pears, plums, cherries and berries. Because upside-down cake batter usually includes buttermilk or other cultured milk product, it lends itself easily to using part pre-soaked whole grain flour (instead of all white flour), to improve the nutritional value.

Bosc pears (pictured above) are recommended for this, as they are more firm and won’t turn into pear sauce. Boscs are a later season pear, and can be stored in a root cellar for a month or so into the winter. Their skins are russet in color, like brown paper bags. Anjou pears are a reasonable substitute. Seckel pears are also firm enough for this use, but I don’t recommend them because they are too small. Bartlets and Comice will get rather mushy when baked.  For more on pear varieties, see Local Food (About) (3) or USA Pears (4).

I have not yet tested this recipe.

Pear Upside-Down Cake

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (1), with modification ideas from an old recipe for pineapple upside down cake in Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (2). Modifications to original recipe:

  • Reduced the recipe from two cakes to one.
  • Adapted it to use whole grain flour pre-soaked in the buttermilk (Note that you could use kefir or yogurt instead, or add a bit of lemon juice to fresh milk and let it sit until it thickens).
  • Instead of making caramel for the bottom of the pan, I scatter the sugar (or mix a smaller amount of sugar with stevia) over butter in the bottom of the cake pan. The sugar will caramelize during baking, and the stevia enhances the sweetness (2).
  • Provide an option to sweeten the cake batter with a mix of sugar and stevia instead of all-sugar.

Additionally, the original recipe brushes the finished cakes with a cognac-flavored syrup, but this means even more sugar. This is an elegant treat for a special event, but for family fare, skip the cognac syrup; either way, serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream (I use stevia but you could use maple syrup or Rapadura sugar).

Makes one 10″ round upside-down cake to serve 8 – 10.


  • large and medium bowls
  • bakers parchment or waxed paper
  • heavy-bottomed sauce pan
  • small bowl
  • egg whip
  • wooden spoon
  • one 10″ round cake pan


NOTE: recipe uses totals of: 1 cup or 2 sticks butter (1½ sticks for batter, divided, and ½ stick for fruit mix ); about 1 ½ cups flour, divided; 1 ¾ cup sugar or equivalent; 1 cup buttermilk; 1 ½ – 1 ¾ cup flour; and 2 large eggs

  • Presoak:
  • 1 ¼   cups whole wheat pastry flour (if using whole spelt flour, you will need to decrease the amount of white flour in the next day cake step, by 1 – 2 Tbsp)
  • 3 Tbsp real butter, melted
  • ¾ – 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature [start with ¾ cup and add more if batter is too thick]. Add more flour, 1 Tbsp at a time, if too thin.
  • Next day: Pears
  • 2 – 3 Bosc pears (~ 1 ½ lb)
  • ¾ cup Rapadura or white/btown cane sugar (or ¼ cup sugar plus ⅛ – ¼ tsp stevia extract powder)
  • 4 Tbsp real butter (½ stick) [NOTE: original recipe had zero butter for pears]
  • bowl of water with a bit of lemon juice added (to keep prepped pears from turning brown)
  • Cake:
  • presoaked ingredients (above) plus
  • ¼ cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • heaping ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp unrefined sea salt
  • 1 cup Rapadura or white cane sugar (or 2 Tbsp Rapadura/white cane sugar plus scant ½ tsp stevia extract powder)
  • 5 Tbsp real butter, room temperature
  • ⅛ tsp ground cardamom or nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp real vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • Cognac Syrup for a Fancy Finish (Optional):
  • 3 Tbsp Rapadura or white cane sugar
  • 3 Tbsp filtered water
  • 1 Tbsp cognac or brandy
  • Whipped Cream: (see also my recipe for Whipped Cream)
  • 1 tsp Rapadura or white cane sugar (alternately, use 1 tsp honey or maple syrup)
  • 2 Tsp cognac or ¾ tsp real vanilla extract
  • ¾ cups heavy whipping cream


  1. Presoak: Melt 3 Tbsp butter and cut into 1 ¼ cup flour in large bowl. Stir in ¾ cup buttermilk. If too thick (not easily stir-able), add remaining ¼ cup buttermilk. If batter is too runny, add up to 4 Tbsp flour, 1 Tbsp at a time, stirring well between additions.
  2. Press oiled parchment or waxed paper against the surface and cover bowl with a towel. Let rest on counter overnight.
  3. Pears: Peel & core pears, then slice into ½” thick wedges; place in bowl of water with lemon juice to keep from browning.
  4. If using stevia, mix it with the smaller amount of sugar in a small bowl with a whisk; you want it to be evenly distributed through the sugar
  5. Melt butter in cake pan. Sprinkle sugar (or sugar-stevia mix) over butter, then arrange pear wedges in a pattern over all.
  6. Cake: Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350°F; butter pans.
  7. Sift together the ¼ cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, stevia (if using) and cardamom/nutmeg; set aside.
  8. Cream sugar and 5 Tbsp `butter until well combined.
  9. Add eggs with vanilla and almond extracts until fluffy, then stir into soaked flour mixture with the sifted dry ingredients.
  10. Bake: Pour batter over pears in cake pans. Tap pans against counter several times to settle the batter. Bake in preheated oven 45 – 55 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
  11. Cool cakes in pans on rack about 5 minutes, then invert onto serving plates.
  12. Cognac Syrup: Combine sugar with water in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in cognac.
  13. Let cool briefly, then brush syrup over cakes to shine the pears.
  14. Whipped Cream: Whip cream in bowl until lightly whipped – not quite making peaks – slowly increasing from medium to high speed. Then slowly add sugar or other sweetener while you continue beating at high speed. Stir in cognac or vanilla (see also my recipe for Whipped Cream for more detail).


Dec 24-25, 2016: For presoak, I started with 1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour, 3 Tbsp melted butter, cut together; added 5 Tbsp room temp butter and cut until well mixed; it’s pretty buttery so  added another ¼ cup whole wheat flour (total 1 ½ cup flour). Added ½ cup buttermilk; it is pretty thick and impossible to stir so I added another 4 Tbsp buttermilk (total 12 Tbsp or ¾ cup), then used my hand to mix and shape into a ball; wrapped with waxed paper and covered with towel for overnight soak. Not sure how thick/thin it is supposed to be; it could have used total 1 cup buttermilk, but I can add that last 1/4 cup tomorrow if needed. OOPS: those 8 Tbsp butter were supposed to be divided as 3 Tbsp melted for presoak and 5 Tbsp room temp for next day. Probably would not have needed that additional ¼ cup flour.  Pear mix: Used 2 large pears (1 ½ lb), peeled, cored and cut into wedges. Melted 4 Tbsp (½ stick) butter in pan. Sprinkled with sugar/stevia mix (¼ cup sugar, ⅛ tsp stevia). Arranged pears over. For cake batter: sifted ¼ c white flour, 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp soda, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp stevia, and ⅛ tsp cardamom. Creamed 2 Tbsp sugar and 8 Tbsp butter (1 stick) with 2 eggs and ¼ tsp each vanilla and almond extract and mixed til fluffy. Presoak mix was too stiff to stir (from all the extra butter that was cold and stiff), so I put it in my stand mixer, added 4 Tbsp buttermilk (total 1 cup used in recipe) and managed to break it up a bit. Added egg/sugar mix and beat until fairly mixed. Added flour spice mix and beat until smooth (but still fairly stiff); could not pour so spooned over pears in pan, and tapped pan against counter. Baked 45-50 minutes. Removed pan and cooled 5 min before inverting onto plate. Brandy syrup: Didn’t have time to make and add this before I had to leave for holiday dinner. Result: Caramelized topping is quite good; you can’t tell there is stevia in the mix. Nice texture but cake is a little too thick since I only have a 9″ pan. Cake part could be a bit sweeter since there is not as much caramel on top as is more typical.  Next time: remember only 3 Tbsp butter for presoak and remaining 5 Tbsp on next day; also will likely need entire cup of buttermilk (12 Tbsp), but start with 10 Tbsp and add more if presoak mix cannot be stirred. Recipe updated accordingly.


  1. Fine Cooking recipe, Caramelized Pear Upside-Down Cake: ( )
  2. Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (see Beloved Cookbooks for details about the edition I use)
  3. Local Food (About): (
  4. USA Pears (

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