Pear Upside-Down Cake

This pretty dessert is like a comforting hug.

pear upside down cake
Photo: Photographer: Isaac Nunn, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless, Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 10 mins

Step aside, pineapple. This season, we're trying a new upside-down cake. This Pear Upside-Down Cake is full of comforting flavor. Warming spices like cardamom and cinnamon are like a cozy hug. Our Test Kitchen recommends Bosc pears for this recipe, as they're tender but don't fall apart during baking. Look for ripe pears for maximum flavor and sweetness. Since caramel forms in the bottom of the pan, the top of this tender cake is super moist. To keep this cake soft, be sure not to overmix the batter, which can result in a dense and tough crumb. If you have one, a mandolin makes quick work of slicing the pears. A dollop of homemade whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be delicious with this Pear Upside-Down Cake.


  • Cooking spray

  • ½ cup (4 ounces), plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and divided

  • ¾ cup maple syrup

  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar

  • 3 ripe medium-sized Bosc pears (about 4 ½ to 5 ounces each), unpeeled and sliced crosswise into ⅛-inch-thick slices (large slices cored with a ½- to 1- inch ring cutter)

  • 1 ½ cups (about 6 ⅜ ounces) all-purpose flour

  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • ½ cup whole milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan with cooking spray, and line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease parchment paper, and set aside. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan over medium. Add maple syrup and brown sugar, and cook, whisking frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until a thermometer inserted into caramel registers 240°F, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour caramel into prepared pan, gently tilting pan to spread caramel into an even layer; cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

  2. Working with pear slices smallest in diameter to largest in diameter, arrange pear slices in a spiral pattern on top of caramel, working from center toward edges of cake pan, and allowing pear slices to overlap slightly; set aside.

  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat granulated sugar and remaining ½ cup butter in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and continue beating until combined, about 1 minute. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture alternately with milk in 3 batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until batter is smooth. Spoon batter on top of pear slices, gently smoothing surface with a rubber spatula. Place cake on a rimmed baking sheet.

  4. Bake cake in preheated oven until top is golden brown, edges begin to pull away from sides of cake pan, and a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes. Carefully run a small offset spatula or paring knife around edge of cake to release from sides of pan. Place a large plate or cake stand upside down on top of cake pan, and quickly invert. Remove cake from pan; carefully peel away parchment paper, and discard. Slice cake and serve warm, or allow cake to cool completely at room temperature, about 1 hour, before slicing and serving.

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