This recipe was a hit at our house, too, and my friend was right on another count- it made the house smell amazing as it baked. If you can scrounge around a few pears, please-oh-please make this soon. The cake is moist and spicy (but not overly so). The gooey pear top is warm and sweet. Pear and gingerbread, it turns out, are an absolutely lovely couple.
If you don't have access to pears, I think apples would be delightful, too. There are several steps to this recipe, but they're all very easy. I made this cake in a 9-inch round baking pan. This was a good choice size-wise, but some of the syrup baked out a bit onto the bottom of my oven. Place a cookie sheet on the rack below to catch any spills. Also, the recipe suggests you combine the first set of ingredients in your baking pan and then microwave it. Since I wanted to bake in a metal pan, I used a glass bowl for this first step and then transferred it to my pan.
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. water
2-3 large ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp.baking soda
1 tsp.ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. each of ground nutmeg, ground allspice and salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses or honey (I used mostly molasses and a little honey)
1/2 cup buttermilk
Combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, sugar, 1 tbsp. butter and water in a glass bowl and microwave on low until the butter melts. Stir to combine. Pour into a greased 9-inch round baking pan. Layer prepared pears on top of the syrup. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine both flours, the baking soda, spices and salt. Set this aside, too. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat 1/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and beat again.
In a small bowl or glass measuring pitcher, combine the molasses (or honey) and buttermilk. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the molasses mixture to the butter mixture until all are well combined. Pour and spread batter over the pears. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the upper half of the cake comes out clean.
Let cool a few minutes, run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a plate. If some of the pears stick to the pan (some of mine did) just transfer them to the top of the gingerbread. No one is going to mind. I promise. Serve warm. Once it cools, it refrigerates nicely.