Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake

This boldly spiced upside-down pear gingerbread cake combines your favorite holiday spices with juicy pears, brown sugar caramel sauce, and cool whipped cream. Serving warm brings out the flavors AND makes this a quick holiday dessert.

Slice of upside-down pear gingerbread cake

I’m convinced you need no other cake this holiday season.

Today I’m serving you boldly spiced gingerbread with buttery brown sugar soaked pears and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. There’s plenty of ginger, plenty of cinnamon, plenty of pears, and absolutely zero apologies. Ready to indulge?

Upside down pear gingerbread recipe

I have the pleasure of working with Harry & David on two recipes this holiday season– both highlighting their hand-picked Royal Riviera pears. These buttery pears steal the attention no matter which dish, dessert, or spread they’re in. Cranberry Pear Crumble Pie, shared just the other week, is no exception. The cranberries and brown sugar crumble are both fantastic, but the high quality pears win 1st place. Their texture is unbeatable and dare I say that pie beats all other Thanksgiving pies!! Even you, pumpkin pie.

Pears literally as good as gold. ↓↓

Harry & David Royal Riviera Pears

Box of Harry and David Pears

How to Make Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake

I carried a similar flavor profile into my 2nd recipe for Harry & David. I’m especially excited about this recipe because I used my gingerbread snack cake as the base, both a personal and reader favorite.

There are 3 parts to Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake.

  1. Pears
  2. Brown sugar caramel sauce
  3. Gingerbread

Peel and slice your pears, then tightly line them up in your cake pan. Don’t skimp on pears here– they’ll cook down, so the more the better. We’ll layer a brown sugar butter sauce on top. Melt butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon together on the stove, then pour all over the pears. This will be the TOP of your upside-down pear gingerbread; consider it the cake’s built-in frosting. 😉

How to make upside-down pear gingerbread recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

The gingerbread cake is soft, moist, and robust– the virtual opposite of any dry or bland gingerbreads you’ve had before. It’s made with the best ingredients in your pantry: molasses, brown sugar, ginger, cloves, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. If this cake doesn’t scream HAPPY HOLIDAYS, I’m not sure what does.

A Sticky Situation!

One special note about this gingerbread batter: hot water. It’s an odd ingredient in cake, but there’s a reason for its addition. Molasses is very thick and very sticky. Its consistency makes it very difficult to seamlessly mix into cake batter. When mixed with hot water, its viscous consistency loosens. Problem solved, cake success.

Spread the gingerbread batter over the pear topping.

Gingerbread cake batter

Upside-down pear gingerbread with whipped cream on sallysbakingaddiction.com

You can bake this gingerbread in a variety of cake pans. My directions for varying pan sizes are in the recipe notes below. Whichever size pan you use, the trick to upside-down cakes is to let them cool for only 10-15 minutes before inverting over. Once flipped over, lift the baking pan straight up to reveal all those luscious pears. A topping is so good, it glistens!

I recommend serving upside-down cakes warm. Serving warm not only brings out the flavor, but it cuts down on the total time this dessert takes. QUICK is always welcomed when you’re entertaining. Compared to most holiday desserts, this is literally a cake-walk.

Serve the upside-down gingerbread cake with either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Cool and creamy always balances warm and spiced. Plus, you can’t have holiday dessert without an accessory on top. 🙂

Upside down pear gingerbread recipe

Pear Gingerbread in summary:

  • best pears on the planet
  • spicy, moist, flavorful gingerbread
  • brown sugar caramel sauce
  • QUICK cake compared to others
  • whipped cream!!
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Slice of upside-down pear gingerbread cake

Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 9-12
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This boldly spiced upside-down pear gingerbread cake combines your favorite holiday spices with juicy pears, brown sugar caramel sauce, and cool whipped cream. Serving warm brings out the flavors AND makes this a quick holiday dessert.


Ingredients

Topping

  • 4 firm medium pears
  • 1/2 cup (115g; 1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Gingerbread Cake

  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) unsulphured or dark molasses
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) hot water (about 100°F (38°C))
  • 1/2 cup (115g; 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (67g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • for serving: whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Instructions

  1. Prepare the topping: Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Peel, core, and slice pears into 1/8-inch thick slices. Tightly layer the pears in the prepared pan, as pictured above. Set aside.
  2. Whisking constantly, heat the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once butter has melted, vigorously whisk to ensure the butter is not separating from the brown sugar. Once it comes together (it will, keep whisking!), pour evenly over pears.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  4. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together. Set aside. Whisk the molasses and hot water together. Set aside.
  5. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. Turn the mixer off and add the dry ingredients and molasses/water. Turn the mixer on low and mix just until combined. The batter will be a little thick.
  6. Carefully pour/spread batter on top of pears. Bake for around 35-45 minutes or until the cake is baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If you notice the edges or top browning too quickly, tent the cake with aluminum foil.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then invert cake onto a serving plate. Cake will be moist! Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.
  8. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.


Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare the topping in the baking pan, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. It’s best to serve this cake right away; not ideal for making ahead.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Peeler | Square Baking Pan | Rainbow Whisk
  3. Variety of Cake Sizes: 9-inch square pan, 9-inch deep dish round pan (2 inch depth at least), 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet, or an 11×7 inch baking pan. Bake time is around the same. Do not use a springform pan– topping will leak.

67 Comments

  1. Ugh I love chocolate. I really, really do. But ultimately I AM a fruity dessert person. I have to make this sometime this holiday season. Pears are so underrated in the dessert world & I agree they pair so well with ginger spices!

  2. I love Harry and David!! I love to send it as a gift and I love to receive it as a gift. There are lovely pears in my local market. If I can find molasses this will be a cake I will make!

  3. Dear Sally,
    this cake is a dream! I hope I manage to make it, but I doubt it – our weekends are so packed for the next weeks…

    And that little trick, mixing molasses with hot water: I do this often when I use molasses in cakes or quick bread (I like a 1/2 teaspoon or so in my banana bread…), it makes things so much easier. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi Sally,
    I love your recipes, but this one I can’t use because I live in Belgium, and can’t get molasses! Is there anything I can use as a substitute? I’m dying to make this cake, but I can’t get past the molasses hurdle.

    1. Hi Kasia! Unfortunately, molasses (and ginger of course) is the main flavor in gingerbread. I recommend making my spice cake instead and using this pear topping. You may need a couple more pears since that recipe yields a 9×13 inch baking pan. The amount of brown sugar caramel sauce is enough. (The 1 Tbsp of molasses in that recipe is optional.)

  5. When I saw the recipe title in the newsletter, my day paused a moment because I had a recipe to peruse. This will definitely be made very soon!

  6. This looks so delicious. Fresh pears are one of my most consistent and strong pregnancy cravings so this is over the top! I just want someone to make it for me though!

  7. I love both gingerbread cake and pear cake so combining them both sounds like a fabulous idea. Can’t wait to try it.
    If i wanted to cook it in a 13 x 10 inch pan then could I just double the recipe?

    1. Hi Amnah! I recommend making the batter twice and combining them for your size pan. Working with double the amount of batter risks over or under mixing, ruining the cake’s texture.

  8. Hi Sally 🙂
    I just made this, it had an amazing texture and so moist! I had never baked with pear before but I loved it! The molasses flavour was a little strong for us, do you recommend decreasing the quantity of molasses? If I do that, do I need to replace the missing amount of molasses with another liquid ingredient?

    P.S. This was my first Christmas bake of the season 🙂

    Thank you!! 🙂

    1. Hi Kaitlin! To decrease the molasses intensity, I suggest using a mild molasses instead of a dark molasses. 🙂 Or you can reduce the amount and replace with some maple syrup.

  9. This looks amazing! Quick question since it’s best served warm would you recommend chilling the batter until ready to bake/serve or just reheating this before serving? Thank you!

  10. This looks fantastic! I really love intense ginger and want to incorporate fresh grated ginger somehow — do you think I could do that in this recipe? Either in the cake or in the caramel sauce?

    1. Hi Amy! Sure can. I recommend 2 teaspoons finely chopped/grated fresh ginger. You can slightly reduce the ground ginger or leave it out completely.

  11. I made this cake a few days ago and it is so delicious! My family and coworkers loved it! The flavor is so deep and warm from the molasses and the pears add a sweet freshness to balance it out. I used Bartlett pears and a 9 inch pie plate and that worked well.

    This is definitely a cake for people who love molasses and it reminds me of my father who absolutely LOVED it. Like eat it with a spoon loved it. I have been missing him lately as it is the first holiday season without him, so this cake really warmed my heart as well as my belly.

    This Thanksgiving I am thankful for Sally’s Baking Addiction as I am starting to bake all my holiday treats. It is nice to have a place to go to get recipes that you know are going to be delicious. Thank you Sally and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  12. I can’t wait to try this recipe! If you don’t mind me asking, what tip did you use to pipe the whipped cream on top? I love the shape!

  13. I made this to serve at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Every other recipe I’ve gotten on this website has been amazing, but this one was a total flop. The molasses taste is absolutely overwhelming. We ended up throwing the entire cake out. I would not recommend making unless you’re REALLY in to the flavor of molasses.

    1. Hi Jessie! Molasses is a strong flavor, you’re absolutely right. This is an intensely flavored molasses and ginger cake. Thank you for trying it!

  14. I have made a similar recipe to this with mixed results. I will definitely try this in the autumn. Could you use tinned pears?

    1. Hi Kylie! One reader tried this recipe with canned pears and loved the results– I personally have not tried this upside-down gingerbread with anything but fresh pears.

  15. I just made this and it is delish. I had some cans of pears in my pantry that I did not know what to do with. This inspired me! Cheated and used the canned pears. Came out incredibly moist. Will be making this for every xmas party!

  16. This was incredible (and super easy)! The cake was so light and fluffy, deliciously moist, and a perfect blend of flavors. The pear-ing of the spiced gingerbread and pearfectly caramely pears made all 8 people at my dinner party happy.

  17. Hi Sally. I’m trying to figure out how I can make this on a weeknight when I really have zero time except for the actual baking-in-the-oven part. What if I prepared the pears and made the topping, and get those in the pan, and put them in the fridge for a couple days; then prepare the cake batter and keep it in the bowl in the fridge separately; then on the day of, pour the batter on the pears/topping and bake? Do you think that would that work? Or would the batter and/or topping spoil or separate in the fridge?

    1. Hi Lorelei! Here is my recommendation if you’re in a time crunch and need to partially make this cake ahead of time. I recommend preparing the topping + adding to the pan, covering tightly and refrigerating for up to 3-ish days. (No longer.) Prepare cake batter 1-2 days ahead, cover tightly and refrigerate, then bring to room temperature and spread on top of the cold topping. Then bake. Should be just fine!

  18. Hi Sally! Since here in Italy is difficult to find Molasses, can it be switched with corn/maple syrup? What about The dose? Because maple syrup does not need water, I think.

    Thanks
    Virginia

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