I know that I’m easily distracted, but sometimes that leads to very good things. The other day, I was thumbing through Donna Hay’s book Flavors looking for something, and now I don’t even remember what that was. As the pages of the chocolate chapter flipped by, I caught a glimpse of the gorgeous cake with halved pears nestled into it with a sticky, caramelly top. I had to know more about this cake. There were pears in my refrigerator that had just arrived from my CSA, and I always have cocoa powder on hand. It was entirely possible that I could go straight to the kitchen and make this cake. A quick scan of the ingredient list confirmed that I indeed had everything I would need. And, hence, off I went forgetting all about whatever it was that made me pick up the book in the first place. I’m sure I’ll think of it eventually, but for the time being, I was very happy to focus on this chocolate pear cake. It’s an easy, upside-down, fruit-filled cake with a built-in caramel sauce that ends up glistening on top and settling into the cored-out pears when the cake is turned out onto a platter.
You’ll want to use small pears, and the ones I had were just the right size. They should be peeled, halved, and cored. I use a melon baller to remove the cores from pears and then a knife to cut out any pieces of core that are missed on the edges of the pears. The pear halves were cooked in a skillet in a mixture of melted butter, brown sugar, and water. You’ll need to adjust the cooking time depending on how firm your pears are. They should soften some but still be able to hold their shape while baking. After a few minutes or so of cooking, the skillet was removed from the heat and set aside. A nine inch round cake pan was lined with parchment paper. Then, room temperature butter and more brown sugar were mixed, and three eggs were added one at a time. Flour, baking powder, and cocoa powder were sifted together and then stirred into the butter mixture. The pears were placed in the prepared cake pan cut-side down, and the buttery caramel was poured over them. The chocolate batter was spooned over the pears, and the cake baked for 50 minutes.
It’s suggested that the cake be served with cream, but I was very happy with it just as it was. With the fruit and caramel, the cake doesn’t stand a chance of becoming dry, and it didn’t last long enough to do so anyway. Chocolate, pears, and caramel were absolutely worth the distraction. Now, I should try to remember what I was looking for in the first place.