Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Upside Down Pear Cake

Does anyone know when Great British Bake-off is due to start again?  Anyone?  I'm getting withdrawal symptoms.  I miss that marquee, the benches, the flour coated foreheads as the pressure rises and the rain pounds down outside.  Anyone would think I had actually been there! 
I was at home, on the sofa with a cup of tea late at night watching a re-run of one of the earlier episodes when I got hit by an enormous craving for cake.  It is one of the hazards of watching a baking show but normally I can ignore that craving.  This one just got worse and worse until I could finally stand it no longer and had to have cake and soon.
I had all the ingredients for a simple sponge, but decided to up it slightly by going for that 80's classic, an upside down cake.  Normally upside down cake is made with pineapple but at 11pm at night, I wasn't about to nip out to the 24 hour Asda on the other side of town when I had some beautifully ripe pears just sat there.
The other lure of this cake is how quickly it is ready, which was one of the vital requirements.  It was less than an hour from turning the oven on to heat up until I was sat on the sofa scarfing down 1... (ok 2)... slices.  This is a lovely little tea time cake and the sticky glaze which is hard and crunchy in places and beautifully treacly in others, is the perfect finishing touch. 
For the cake
200g self-raising flour
10g baking powder (for some extra oomph)
Pinch of salk
115g unsalted butter, softened
130g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated
120ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)

For the topping
Couple of ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced evenly
60g melted butter
70g dark brown muscovado sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease your baking pan

Melt the butter in the bottom of a heavy pan over a low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until it is dissolved. Pour into the base of your baking pan and swirl to coat the bottom; remove from heat, and cool. Arrange the cut pears in a pattern over the brown-sugar mixture, making sure that the base is completely covered and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy then add the vanilla and beat it to combine, followed by the egg yolks one at a time, again beating to combine them.  Gradually add the flour mixture and the milk to the creamed butter and sugar until you have a light batter that is just combined. 
Beat the reserved egg whites until they are just starting to get stiff peaks and then fold them gently into the batter.  Pour the batter over the pears and caramel, being careful not to dislodge the pears.  Bake until a skewer comes out clean (about 30-40 minutes).
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