Bakery, Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

8 Comments 21 September 2011

One day we’re going to attempt a layered cake – duh duh duuuuhnnnn! Maybe with, you know, two layers. But for now, I love these kinds of cakes, the singles. They’re a great way for cake novices to slide into their groove. Practice makes perfect, and even though the original recipe wasn’t perfect, nor were our results, this is still a great, simple cake that is full of moist, chocolatey goodness. What more does a person need in their cake?

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

First you need you some pears, people. I can never leave well enough alone, and must use different types if possible. The grocery selection that day was limited though, so we went with Bartletts and Red Bartletts.

After you’ve sliced these your first real step is to make a caramel, and that’s where the imperfect part of the original recipe comes in. And I wouldn’t be so hard on it if it hadn’t been published in a cookbook. That I purchased. But…

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

…when you follow the directions and this is what you get for a caramel? Um – NO. We’ve not made caramels too much here yet, but anyone can see that this isn’t a caramel. It’s more like rock candy from hell.

It took a while to get this crap out of my pan. I prepared to write the authors or publisher to ask for reimbursement for the pan, but eventually we got it unstuck. So I went online and followed advice I found here and here

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

Now that’s what a caramel should look like! And it required no water unlike the original recipe and for the life of me I can’t figure out why the water was needed, or why their directions were so vague (for instance, there was no estimated time it would even take to make their caramel). This is the second recipe we’ve tried from this book, both of which had aspects that did not work out for us.

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

But moving on, once the caramel hardens in the cake pan, arrange the pear slices on top of it. In retrospect, we probably could have used more pear slices. Just do what you prefer in this step. More, less, it’s your choice.

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

Mmmm, hello, lovelies.

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

The cake batter comes out so thick and chocolatey it almost looked and tasted like frosting. I think this means we’re in for some awesome cake.

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

Just-baked and out of the oven, this little fella looks so innocent. Kind of ordinary, really.

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

But what’s really the case is this – an amazingly moist, almost spongy cake that has been bathed in caramel, the pears pretty much perfectly cooked down. We did have some stick in the pan, but we just carefully slid a butter knife under them and placed them back on the cake. Hey, Julia Child said we could, right?

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

The recipe suggested serving this with whipped cream or ice cream, and we definitely recommend this too. The cake itself is very rich, and the mildness of the cream helps cut that a little and just compliments it so well.

Aside from our caramel fiasco, this was a lovely little cake that stays very moist and flavorful days after it’s made. Enjoy it with a few friends and just call it a day with its killer chocolate tones.

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson

Fruit Topping

  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 3 firm but ripe pears, peeled, cored, and each cut into 12 slices (1 pound prepped)


  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (1 ounce) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Butter a 9-inch round baking pan.

To make the caramel layer, sprinkle the sugar in a large skillet and shake the pan to distribute the sugar into as even a layer as possible. Over medium heat, allow the sugar to dissolve without stirring until the edges begin to melt and turn a caramel color. Gently pull those areas toward the middle of the pan, again without over-stirring. The sugar will continue to melt and turn an amber color pretty quickly. As it does, begin to swirl the pan to get all the sugar incorporated and melting. In about five or so minutes, you’ll have a finished caramel that should be a nice, dark amber color (you will need to watch it carefully this whole time as you don’t want it to burn). At this point, you can either add a little unsalted butter, 1-2 tablespoons, to make it a little richer, or just pour it as is into the cake pan. Allow it to harden, which takes roughly 15 to 20 minutes.

As mentioned above, if you’d like some further advice on making a simple caramel, we recommend checking out a post by David Lebovitz and a handy video tutorial by Chef Gordon Ramsay. Our caramel instructions are a mix of each.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the cake, place the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat and melt, stirring occasionally. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl. Transfer the melted chocolate to a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and add the sugar. Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the milk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cake bounces back slightly when touched. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, run a sharp knife around the edge to help loosen, then invert the cake onto a plate, leaving the pan on top of the cake for 5 minutes before you remove it. It might be necessary to tap on the cake bottom a little to further loosen the cake. Serve the cake warm, topped with a small dollop of Chantilly cream or a scoop of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Enjoy!


As we’ve said, but it bears mentioning again, we’ve not had a whole lot of experience making caramels, and maybe you can get a nice one following the original recipe, but we felt that the directions were just too vague and unhelpful to a newcomer. I was pretty excited to get the cookbook Rustic Fruit Desserts, and there’s so much in it that we want to try, but now I feel cautious about the entire book after experiencing problems with the two recipes we’ve tried so far. I think that a lot of recipes are merely guides that are fun to play with and adapt in different ways, but it just seems to me that making a caramel via a published book should have been fool proof.

When we went to remove the cake from the pan, we went ahead and ran a sharp knife around the edges and it definitely wouldn’t have come out if we hadn’t. Again, something basic that seems as if it should have been advised in the original. It was also necessary to tap the cake pan a little on the bottom to help loosen it further.

Again, if some of the pears stick to the cake pan, just slide a butter knife under them and place them back on the cake. No harm done!

You might have some left-over pear slices. Enjoy munching on those while you cook.

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- who has written 347 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

Wife, mom, indulgent reader and Day Job Do-er, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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8 Comments so far

  1. compostingathome says:

    The cake turned out so moist and rich. I thought the pears were perfect with it, too.

  2. Amani says:

    Thank you for this informative piece! I would like to bake this lovely cake, but I was wondering if your alteration prevents the caramel from hardening after the cake has cooled down. Every recipe I’ve seen for a turn-over cake so far people have complained that the caramel on top turns really hard when the cake cools down, which makes it rather annoying and it has to be served immediately. Does this not happen if I follow your steps? 🙂

    • KMont says:

      Hi, Amani! We did not have the problem of the caramel hardening after the cake cooled down. It remained very moist even after a day or two. And still tasted goood. ;D I wouldn’t want a hard caramel on top of this kind of cake either!

      • Amani says:

        Why thank you, K! That’s excellent news. Now I’m excited to bake this cake. Have you used this caramel recipe with other cakes? I shall try it with this one first, but I’d like to also use it for my banana cake. Actually, I keep dreaming of making 2 9-inch banana cakes. One of them will be lined with banana slices and caramel and I will use it as the ‘filling’ when I place the layers over each other. For the frosting, I’m thinking of making a carmel-espresso ganache. Yes, I’m that excited.

      • Amani says:

        Hahaha I sound like such a creep, “I keep dreaming of baking so and so cakes”.

        • KMont says:

          You don’t sound like a creep lol! Your enthusiasm for baking is great!

          We haven’t used this particular caramel with another cake, no. I say definitely try it for your banana cake at least. The caramel on our cake kind of melted silkily into the chocolate, hence why it was sooo moist. Very yummy! Good luck with your variations, they sound wonderful!

          • Amani says:

            Thanks hehe 🙂 Okay I’ll bake it soon, and I’ll let you know how it goes. I think I’ll bake this one and my banana cake as well.

            Spread the love around.

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