Makes:10 to 12 servings
This fall dessert has plenty of wow factor without a lot of fuss. To make the caramel, melt butter with brown sugar and crystallized ginger in a cast-iron skillet. Arrange some pear halves in the caramel, then top with a cake batter full of warm spices. Bake and cool the cake, then invert it onto a serving platter to reveal the oozy caramel and baked pears. Serve with other seasonal favorites like pumpkin and apple pie for the holidays, or simply after a weeknight dinner of roasted pork tenderloin.
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped candied or crystallized ginger
2 pounds firm but ripe Bosc pears (about 4 medium pears), peeled, halved lengthwise, and cored
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoonbaking powder
1/2 teaspoonbaking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoonground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoonground ginger
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoonvanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Melt 1 stick of the butter in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and chopped ginger and cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is bubbling, about 4 minutes. Place the pears cut-side down in the skillet, arranging them in a circle with the stem ends pointing toward the center. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ground ginger in a large bowl to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.
Place the remaining stick of butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on medium speed until incorporated, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula.
Add a third of the reserved flour mixture, turn the mixer to low, and mix until the flour is just incorporated. Add half of the milk and mix until just incorporated. Continue with the remaining flour mixture and milk, alternating between each and ending with the flour, until all of the ingredients are incorporated and smooth. Stop the mixer, remove the bowl, and stir in any remaining flour streaks by hand, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.
Dollop the batter over the pears and smooth it into an even layer, leaving about a 1/2-inch border from the edges of the pan (the batter may not totally cover the pears). Bake until the top and edges of the cake are golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (test several spots because you may hit a pear), about 30 to 35 minutes.
Transfer the skillet to a wire rack and let it cool for 20 minutes. Run a thin knife around the perimeter of the skillet and invert the cake onto a large serving platter (if any pears fall out, just arrange them back into the cake). Cut into wedges and serve.