Pear Upside-Down Chocolate Cake

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr 40 min
  • Prep: 45 min
  • Inactive: 1 hr
  • Cook: 55 min
  • Yield: 1 (9-inch) cake (6 to 8 servings)
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Ingredients

Pears:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 Bosc pears, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored

Cake:

1/3 cup milk

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup finely ground toasted almonds

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch-process), plus additional for dusting

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions

  1. For the pears: Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the paper. Put the butter, brown sugar, and lemon zest and juice in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until melted. Add the pears, cover, and simmer, turning once, until the pears are soft and juicy, about 4 minutes. Pour the pears and their syrup into a strainer set over a saucepan. Set the syrup and 1 pear quarter aside. Arrange remaining pears in the prepared pan, stem ends toward center, rounded sides down, and 1/4-inch from the side. Chop reserved pear and use just enough to fill center.
  2. For the cake: Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
  3. Scald milk in a small saucepan; keep warm. Whisk flour with almonds, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and gradually add granulated sugar; continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl. Add cocoa powder and vanilla and beat 1 minute. While mixing at medium-low speed, add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. While mixing slowly, add the flour mixture in 4 additions; turn off the mixer and fold in the hot milk with a rubber spatula. Spread the batter over the pears, taking care not to disturb them. Tap the pan lightly on the counter to settle the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then invert the cake onto a serving plate. Cool briefly, carefully peel the parchment paper from the top, and then cool completely.
  5. To finish the cake: Boil the reserved pear syrup until slightly thick and lightly brush the top of the cake with syrup. Whisk a few tablespoons of cocoa powder with an equal amount of confectioners' sugar, and sift over the cake; serve.
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