Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Skillet Cake and Three Winners!

I know. You are probably looking at the above and wondering, trick or treat. I know. She looks like crap. Like she sat in the sun too long. She maybe got a bit burnt. But she didn’t. And she isn’t. Crap, that is.  In fact, she is really good crap. She happens to be one of the best cakes, I’ve made, well,  since my last best cake. We loved this cake-manservant and I. It is the perfect cake for fall, for winter, forever. So now you know. She isn’t crap. She isn’t a trick. She’s really a treat. And I mean that. (It’s just my photos that are crap!)

She is a sultry, spicy beauty in disguise. She may not look pretty, but will totally warm your insides. She is mellow and luscious and exotic, all at the same time. And she could be yours, if you choose. Plus, she is easy to come by and quick to make. And she even comes warm out of the oven, all the while, making your home smell like an exotic paradise. And I could use some exotic paradise – like now- don’t you know?

I think I’ve run out of adjectives now. But I must reinforce that she is a really good cake. I made her on Monday and she is still moist and delectable on Thursday. She may look like crap, but she is so totally worth baking. Truth is, I don’t think I ever ate gingerbread as a kid. I remember my kids made it at the Pioneer outdoor museum (their 5th birthday party) and burnt baked it over a fire. They then got to shake heavy cream in a jar until it turned to whipped cream. I’m not sure if all of them liked gingerbread, but I do remember faces covered in whipped cream. And it was then I discovered that I loved gingerbread, burnt and all.


Yes, it is Halloween and I am ready for some major league treats. I’ve had enough tricks to last a lifetime and unless you know one that is legal and can pay my bills, then I guess this beauty will have to do. She’s kind of like Cinderella when she still wore rags – and cinders. But one bite or the right shoe (in Cinderella’s case) can have anyone believing in fairy godmothers.

I’m not lying. This Cinderella is gingery with just the right overtones of spice. She’s definitely a brunette wearing a crackly, caramelized brown sugar wig that magically starts in browned butter at the bottom and ends up melted and sugary on the top. (OK, it is because you flip the cake, so it’s not really magic.) The brown sugar and the pears are worth the price of admission. And I’m sure most any fruit would work and you could  get away without fruit, too. I think it is supposed to make the cake pretty, but well, I’m not sure that theory holds!

I served this beauty with vanilla ice cream. But she can easily be had with whipped cream. And since she’s so easy, she can even be had on her own. This is a good one to practice what is often preached. You know the old adage-beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Trust me – one bite and you will be a believer. This baby is no trick. She’s a sumptuous treat!

And now, the three winners of the Whole Foods Giveaway:
Angie Agerter, Lucy-whose husband makes the meatloaf, and Georgette C- I will contact Angie and Georgette, but Lucy you need to reach me by Monday, November 4th to claim your prize!


Gingerbread, Browned Butter, Upside Down Skillet Cake – Serves 8

2 1/2 firm pears OR I had an old large can of halved pears in light syrup and used those after draining and drying
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3/4 c packed light brown sugar

2 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground cloves
1/4 t salt
1 c molasses -not robust
1 c boiling water
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

Topping: Peel, halve and core pears. Cut each pear into 4 wedges.
Heat butter in 10 inch, well seasoned, cast iron skillet over moderate heat, until foam subsides. Reduce heat to low, sprinkle brown sugar over butter and cook, undisturbed, for three minutes. Not all the sugar will be melted. Arrange pears decoratively over the top and cook undisturbed for two minutes. (If using canned pears, just place in topping and then remove from heat.) Remove from heat.

Put rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt in a bowl. Whisk together molasses and boiling water in a measuring cup.

Beat together butter, brown sugar and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy, about two minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture alternately with molasses in three batches, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until smooth.

Pour batter over pears in skillet, spreading batter evenly, but being careful not to disturb the pears. Bake until a wooden toothpick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Cool cake in skillet on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Run a thin knife around sides of skillet, invert onto a large plate with a lip over the skillet, and using potholders to hold skillet and plate tightly together, invert cake onto plate. Mine came out perfectly, however I didn’t have it centered in the center of the plate. Once it is out there is no moving it. It is a sticky cake and held together well. It was not syrupy but had a sugary, slightly crunchy topping with a delectable brown sugar taste. The cake was sublime with just the right amount of spices.

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.  Happy Halloween!

Other Great Treats:
Gingerbread Waffles
Microwave Caramel Corn
Hot Fudge Cake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites
Pumpkin Brown Sugar Muffins
Brown Sugar Spice Cake with Caramel Glaze


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  • Winnie
    November 25, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    I think it's a very delicious cake!
    Pear and ginger = interesting combination and I'm curious 🙂

  • Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes
    November 8, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Yes to ugly looking food that taste great! I often think how brown food is so annoying to photograph and hard to make others excited about it. This cake has all the right ingredients to be wonderful Abbe!

  • Biz
    November 4, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Some of the best dishes I make look the worst – think anything with spaghetti squash! Congrats to the winners!

  • dentistvschef
    November 4, 2013 at 5:28 am

    wow, luscious looking pear gingerbread…..
    well done!

  • Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl
    November 4, 2013 at 4:30 am

    This would be a great holiday cake! If I made it I'd have to fight for a piece! Great job!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 4, 2013 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks Pamela! If you made it you shouldn't have to fight for it! Everyone else should. Thanks for visiting and come back soon. And bake this cake!

    November 4, 2013 at 4:09 am

    This sounds really delicious –

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      It was Cquek. And it is finally gone from my countertop. Finished it off last night!

  • ChgoJohn
    November 4, 2013 at 3:35 am

    This looks like such a good cake, Abbe, and perfect for this time of year. Me and upside down cakes go way back. It was the first cake I ever baked when I was in high school. Never tried one with pears, though — at least not yet. 🙂

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      I was just telling my daughter about the first cake I ever baked. Now that I think about it, i think I told her wrong. It was a German chocolate cake and at the time I didn't like coconut. Must have been for an old boyfriend! But this cake I would have happily made, for anyone!

  • NancyC
    November 3, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    It sounds like a great cake-I really like pears and the browned butter mixture sounds yummy!

  • Pam
    November 3, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    She looks good to me and I don't even like pears! Bet I'd like this though!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 4, 2013 at 2:23 am

      Nice to see you again, Pam! No problem on the pears. Just sub in your favorite fruit or go fruitless. I think apples would be nice!

  • Daniela Grimburg
    November 3, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Just reading the description makes my mouth water.
    The cake looks luscious and pears and ginger sounds like a yummy combination!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 4, 2013 at 2:22 am

      Then I did a good job! Thanks, Daniela!

  • Nazneen Hamilton
    November 3, 2013 at 4:15 am

    I love gingerbread and I love upside down cakes, oh and I love pears too. This is totally for me. She looks just fine, besides the best tasting stuff doesn't always look good. This is a fall dessert if ever there was one!


    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 4, 2013 at 2:22 am

      You are right, Nazneen. The hardest part is flipping it. It held together well, but centering it on the plate was a different story!

  • Norma Chang
    November 2, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Your cake looks just fine. Molasses, pear and all those warm spices, great combo. .

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 4, 2013 at 2:21 am

      Thanks Norma! The molasses keeps it moist for a long time. And the spices meld together and I think it gets mellow as it ages. Thanks for commenting!

  • Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)
    November 2, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    With your description of how delicious this cake is, I must make it soon. Congrats to the winners.

  • Bam's Kitchen
    November 2, 2013 at 6:03 am

    This cake has my senses alert. I bet your whole house smelled wonderful and the taste is heavenly. I bet it would be good even hot out of the oven or cold.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 4, 2013 at 2:19 am

      You are so right, Bam. Hot cold or room temp it is sticky and sugary and spicy! Thanks for commenting!

  • Laura Dembowski
    November 1, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    I am all about gingerbread cakes. I made a very similar recipe last year and loved it. Looks great!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 4, 2013 at 2:18 am

      Then you know how good it is! Thanks, Laura!

  • Denise [email protected] Brazil To You
    November 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Wow, Abbe! This looks so amazing that I could eat the whole cake by myself. I am so sharing this…

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 4, 2013 at 2:18 am

      Thanks Denise. Much appreciated.

  • Angie Schneider
    November 1, 2013 at 4:14 am

    It looks just the way it should be…so moist and tempting!
    Congratulations to your 3 winners!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 4, 2013 at 2:18 am

      Very moist, Angie and very, very tempting. It keeps disappearing from the plate even though no one has cut a slice!

  • Sharon
    November 1, 2013 at 1:05 am

    She (the cake) looks good…really good ~ yummily rich and moist ♥ ♥

  • vanillasugarblog
    October 31, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    girl this looks fine to me!
    I'm ready to go, just give me a fork and some ice cold milk!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 1, 2013 at 1:47 am

      I love milk and cake! And this one is a good one! Thanks!

  • Georgette C
    October 31, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Oh my god, this sounds amazing!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 1, 2013 at 1:46 am

      Try it Georgette! It was amazing. Thanks for commenting!

  • Kitchen Riffs
    October 31, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Congrats to the winners! And this is a really interesting looking cake. Love the color of it! And reading the recipe, it sounds totally delish. I do see what you mean when you say this was a challenge to photograph. I think maybe an overhead shot of the entire cake (probably crop part of it out so you have some cake and some empty space – maybe a nice blue background) would look nice. As would a piece with vanilla ice cream. But the colors are perfect for Halloween! Good stuff – thanks.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 1, 2013 at 1:44 am

      Oh, Mr. KR, you are too kind. I probably should have tried other colors but I was getting frustrated! And the last time i worked with ice cream was a disaster because i am not fast! But it is a really delicious cake! And it is most definitely that color! I did take some shots with half the cake but I didn't like those either! Oh, well!