Pear Upside-Down Cakes from Donna Hay Magazine, Fall 2011

After I’ve gone through a magazine, there are always tabs left; paper reminders of recipes that I didn’t have time to get to. They hang around in the recesses of my mind, whispering ‘hello’ once in a while. It’s because of this that I’ve created¬†Turn Back Time Tuesday. It’s a chance to go pull out an old magazine and make one of those recipes that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. Care to join me?

If I were to say the name Nadia Comaneci, what comes to mind? Do you have your answer ready? Hold on to it for a moment and let’s go back in time together.

The year is 1976. I was around 15 years old. I hated high school, wore mood rings, loved Starsky more than Hutch, lived for the opening day of baseball season and didn’t care for football.

During those times, there was only one Olympics and it came every four years. That year it was in Montreal and I think my mom and I watched everything we could manage to, especially gymnastics.

My mom may have been trying a subtle nudge to see if I’d develop a desire to be a gymnast, but it never took. While I admired and was in awe of the athletes, I had no desire to fold myself in half around the uneven bars around or contort my body into abnormal positions the way the Olympians did. I remained an observer.

One of the things we would talk about together while we watched was how the judges could be able to score what they saw. If there wasn’t a glaring error, we couldn’t see a single thing that was wrong with a performance. The execution always seemed flawless.

Then along came Nadia Comaneci, and by example she showed us what perfect execution really means. Nadia was the first athlete to ever score a perfect 10 at the Olympics. I remember watching it happen. It was an amazing, magical moment.

The Process
This dessert is a lesson in execution. The ingredients are simple and easy to make. It’s what happens after the muffin tin is removed from the oven that takes this from a 7 to a 10, not just in looks, but in texture and flavor as well.

Donna Hay doesn’t provide very precise instructions sometimes so when a recipe is done exactly as written, the results may not come out as hoped.

Fortunately, the servings are way off in this recipe so I was able to do what I’d do differently immediately instead of just explaining it down below (which I’ll do anyhow). Instead of six cakes, I got eleven.

Do you see that second cake, behind and to the right? That’s the cake from the batch that was made exactly as Donna told me to make them. Nothing to write home about, is it. It’s not ugly and doesn’t taste bad, but it’s just a 6 or 7.

The front cake however, it was done in the second batch. The batter had time to sit (at least 30 minutes), I doubled the amount of syrup in the bottom and I filled the empty tins with a bit of syrup and slices of pear. Those helped top the cakes once I removed them and made that beautiful wavy look.

With the first batch, I just flipped the cakes over at once onto a tray after running a knife around the edge of each to ensure they would come out well. With the second batch, I removed each cake individually and repositioned the pear slices by hand, which made them much prettier.

Same recipe, more defined execution.

The Verdict
The cake done the original way had a mealy texture, much like cornbread. It tasted fine, but it wasn’t cake-like at all. The second batch was spongy, tender and just like you’d want cake to be. In both cases, the cake absorbed much of the syrup so I was glad that I had the extra tin cups with syrup in them to spoon over the pears.

As far as flavor, these were good, but nothing fantastic simply because there isn’t anything to give them ‘pop.’ Pears are a very mild fruit anyhow so I would think including some spice (ginger and cinnamon) would have been natural.

What I’d Do Different Next Time
First, I’d toss the sliced pears with a little cinnamon and ground ginger. Second, I’d let the batter sit for 20-30 minutes after making it. I’d give it another stir before adding it to the muffin tins. Third, I’d double the amount of syrup on the bottom. Third, I’d pour syrup in an empty tin and add slices of pear to it, then use that for finishing the cakes after they’ve been removed from the tins onto plates.

Pear Upside-Down Cakes - print this recipe
from Donna Hay Magazine, Fall 2011

1/4 cup (90g) golden syrup, plus extra to serve
3 small pears, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour, sifted
1 taspoon baking powder, sifted
120g (1/2 cup) butter, melted

Prehat the oven to 180C (350F). Place 2 teaspoons of golden syrup in the base of each 6 x 3/4 cup-capacity (180ml) greased non-stick muffin tins. Arrange pear slices on top of the golden syrup.

Place the sugar, eggs and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 4-5 minutes or until thick and pale. Fold in the flour, baking powder and melted butter until just combined.

Spoon the mixture over the pear and bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Cool for 5 minutes; turn out and drizzle with extra syrup to serve. Makes 6.

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