This pear and cardamom caramel upside-down cake is a gorgeous dessert, from Great British Bake-Off’s Chetna Makan, that combines a tender and moist orange-almond sponge cake with a sweet caramel and pear topping. It’s easy to make but looks absolutely stunning.
Home baking is not very popular in India and, as with most Indian kitchens, ours didn’t have a built-in oven. Most home cooking is done on the hob, and in restaurants, the oven of choice is the tandoor. My first memories of baking are of Mum using our very basic tabletop oven (which she still uses) to make birthday cakes for my two sisters and me. As I grew older, I would bake cakes myself for friends and my many cousins—we had a large extended family and there was always plenty of great food at family gatherings, celebrations and festivals.
We regularly visited local bakeries for treats such as cream rolls, pineapple cake, rum balls, doughnuts, and pattice (savory puff pastry snacks)—just thinking of these transports me home. Whenever I return to India, I make a point of visiting the old bakeries to relive those wonderful moments from my childhood. The shops still make the same bakes, even after all these years.—Chetna Makan
Pear and Cardamom Caramel Upside-Down Cake FAQs
What are the best pears to use in this pear cake?
In a cake like this, the shape of the fruit is visible in the finished product so you’ll want to use a pear that is firm enough to stay, well…pear-shaped. Bosc pears are the top choice in this recipe but Concorde and Anjou (French butter pears) will also work quite well.
What’s the best way to freeze this cake?
The cake will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days. If you want to freeze your leftovers, wrap tightly and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter, then unwrap. Wrapping and freezing does mean that you might lose a little of that caramel topping though, so be aware before you do it.
I don’t have self-rising flour. What can I use instead?
For this recipe, we’ve already done the math for you. Simply combine 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Make sure to mix together thoroughly and use as directed.
Pear and Cardamom Caramel Upside-Down Cake
For the cardamom caramel
- 3 1/2 tablespoons (1 3/4 ounces) unsalted butter plus more for the pan
- 3 1/2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) light muscovado sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 4 pears peeled, cored and halved
For the upside-down cake
- 5 1/2 ounces (about 3/4 cup) superfine sugar (or blitz granulated sugar in a food processor until finely ground)
- 14 tablespoons (7 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 1/8 cups (5 1/2 oz) self-rising flour
- 1 3/4 ounces (about 1/3 cup) ground almonds
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 large eggs
- Zest of 2 oranges (about 2 tablespoons) finely grated, preferably organic
Make the cardamom caramel
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 9-inch (23-cm) springform pan.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, gently warm the butter, sugar, and ground cardamom until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted, about 3 minutes. Cook for 2 minutes more, stirring often.
- Pour this sauce carefully into the prepared pan and spread it evenly over the base. Place the halved pears on top of the sauce with the cut sides facing down.
☞TESTER TIP: Depending on the shape and size of your pears, you may not be able to fit all the pear halves into the pan. Enjoy the leftovers as a snack.
Make the upside-down cake
- In a large bowl, combine the sugar, butter, flour, almonds, baking powder, eggs, and orange zest. Use an or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to beat until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.
- Carefully spoon the cake mixture over the pears, taking care not to disturb them. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 50 to 65 minutes.
- Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack. Enjoy warm or cold.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This beautiful pear and cardamom caramel upside-down cake delivered on both taste and texture. Perfectly cooked pears nestled on top of a chewy crust and a custardy center, with strong notes of orange and a touch of cardamom this makes for an impressive dessert.
I bought four Bartlett pears two days in advance to give them the opportunity to ripen before baking. I fit 3 1/2 pears (with some careful trimming) into a circle. After 10 minutes out of the oven and running a knife around the edges, I flipped the cake upside down and it slid easily out of the pan.
Served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, this would be a great dessert for the holidays.
I was so excited to try this recipe for pear and cardamom caramel upside-down cake because it’s pear season and cardamom is my favorite spice! The brightness of the fresh pear and the warmth of the cardamom were wonderful together.
The cake had more of a moist crumb than I am used to in an upside-down cake and I grew rather fond of it with each bite. I really enjoyed the hint of orange as well. Keeping the pears in halves was my favorite part. Taking a bite of the cake with a big slice of pear was so satisfying. This is a beautiful and unique cake that I will definitely make for special occasions!
This pear and cardamom caramel upside-down cake is a fabulous autumnal dessert that isn’t too presumptuous. This cake can stand alone or pair nicely with a sea-salted caramel drizzle. The warm cardamom-dressed pears sit on top of a beautiful orange zest sponge cake full of moisture and flavor.
Originally published November 14, 2021