roasted pear & rosemary upside down cake

This cake is the very delicious answer to pears gone wrong. Who hasn’t gone to a farmer’s market or seen a lovely pyramid of glossy fall pears and bought way more than you could consume before they progress beyond dribbly eat-over-the-sink perfection into mushy mistake. Since there is a weekly market, a block from my apartment, that lines one end of Fort Greene park, I am a chronic over-buyer of pears and other irresistable produce.

My pears cried out to me from the counter. “Use us! Use us! TODAY! BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!” And so I did. And so should you because you will swoon over this cake. It is an angel’s chorus of three things I love: rosemary, sweet cornbread and butter-browned fruit. You don’t have to wait until you have sad pears around to make this either. In fact it’s a great thing to make with pears that aren’t quite ripe yet too. The roasting will make the hard fruit all melty and concentrate the sweetness in them.

You will need a cast iron pan. But you probably have one. Dig it out. And if you don’t have one, get one! Mine is a Le Creuset I’ve had for about 15 years and it is a workhorse. And I’m not saying that just because I’m doing cooking demos for Le Creuset all over the New York metro area in William Sonoma stores. I just love the way the cast iron is so heavy and substantial and distributes heat so evenly…and the Le Creuset is enamel coated and gets more beautiful to me with age and use. Mine are blue.

Serve with a softened bit of vanilla icecream or Hagen Daz Dulce de Leche for an added treat. Enjoy!

Roasted Pear Rosemary Upside Down Cake
adapted from Ger-Nis Culinary & Herb Center, Brooklyn, NY


8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick) separated into two 4 T portions
1 cup sugar, separated into two 1/2 cup portions
3 medium pears, skins on, cored and cut into wedges (I used this corer)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped finely
3/4 cup medium to fine ground cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (or corn flour if you want gluten-free)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream (or half and half)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt half the butter (4 T) of butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, making sure to caot the sides. Add half the sugar (1/2 C) and cook until the butter starts to melt and turn golden brown—about 3 minutes. Add pear wedges forming a circle pattern covering the entire bottom of the pan. Sprinkle rosemary leaves on the pears, evenly. Place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes or until pears are tender. Set aside.

While pears are in the oven, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder and soda, chopped rosemary leaves, and salt. Separately, in the bowl of a mixer (you can use a hand mixer, or do this by hand too) beat the other 4 T of butter (medium-high speed) and the other 1/2 cup of sugar, until fluggy. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time, making sure to scrape sides of bowl as you go along. Next, add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. (Don’t overwork). Finish by adding vanilla extract and cream. Batter should be on the thick side.

Drop spoonfulls of batter over pears in the pan. Coat pears evenly. Ideally pears should be entirely covered with batter and not visible, but if they are it’s no big deal. Bake until golden brown and a tester comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. NOTE: For maximum coverage here, a 9-10″ pan is recommended. I used the only one I have, an 11-inch, and my cake came out on the thin side, but just as delicious. If using a larger pan start checking the cake for doneness at 30 minutes.

When done, let stand for 10 minutes, run a knife or spatula around the cakes edges and invert onto a large cutting board or platter. Inverting can be a challenge because of the weight of the pan, but resist the temptation to cut into this without turning it upside-down…it’s too beautiful to miss! Enjoy!

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