Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake

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

Slice of upside-down pear gingerbread cake topped with whipped cream

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?

Squares of upside down pear gingerbread topped with whipped cream

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.

hands holding a Harry & David Royal Riviera Pear

Box of Harry and David Pears

How to Make Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake

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. 😉

2 images of pears in the bottom of a square baking dish and cake batter on top of pears before baking

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 in a square pan

slice of upside-down pear gingerbread with whipped cream

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 10-20 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 this cake 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. 🙂

slice of upside down pear gingerbread with whipped cream on a white plate

Pear Gingerbread in summary:

  • pineapple upside down cake but with holiday flavor
  • 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 topped with whipped cream

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.

78 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. Other than Royal Eiviera pears, can you suggest what variety of pears could be used?

    1. Bosc or Bartlett!

  3. Would it be ok to use a bundt pan? If so, how long would you suggest for the bake time?

    1. Hi Ashley! There isn’t enough batter for a Bundt pan. I do, however, have a chocolate gingerbread Bundt cake if you’re interested in that!

  4. 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.

  5. Neloufar Papasmiris says:

    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!

    1. Thank you! Simply reheat before serving.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

    1. Hi Monica! I used the Ateco #849 closed star tip 🙂

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. Hi Sally, do you think this could be made with apples? I’m not a fan of pears but it looks absolutely delicious.

    1. Yes, definitely! No other changes necessary. Simply swap peeled apple slices for the pears.

  12. I made this for dessert today for Christmas and it turned out amazing! I’ve never made an upside down cake before. The flavors are amazing and everyone loved it! Even my husband, who claims he doesn’t like gingerbread!

  13. This was a delicious, less sweet option for Christmas dessert. I really liked the spice aspect of it. I did reduce the amount of molasses to 1/2 cup because another reviewer felt that 3/4 was too much. I really enjoyed the taste of it, so I might up it to the original if I make it again. Some tips though: don’t make this in a pan with a removal bottom because the butter/sugar mixture will leak out of the bottom and cause smoke in the oven and a whole slew of issues. Also, don’t put it in too deep of a pan because when you flip it, the height of the fall to the serving plate may break the cake. But you can smush it back together. Not that I have any experience with these things lol

  14. It was amazing! I halved the recipe and used a 9 by 5 loaf pan and it turned out perfect!

  15. Thanks for the delicious recipie! I used a 9×9 inch baking dish but my cake overflowed in the oven and made a big mess 🙁 Next time, I will definetely use a larger pan.

  16. I’ve made this twice now, once with pears & once with apples. I added pecans to the topping & a generous amount of shredded fresh ginger to the batter. It was wonderful!

    You definitely need a 9″x2″ pan for this recipe or it will overflow. Or you can pour the extra batter into some muffin cups, but since I will be making this again & again, I’m going to buy a taller pan. 🙂

  17. There’s no baking powder in recipe? Is that not needed for rise ?

    1. Use baking soda. Baking soda is most often used when molasses is present.

  18. Josee Marchessault says:

    I just made this cake. I used a round 9 inch pan. The only change I made is I added fresh grated ginger. 1/2 tbsp to the cake batter, 1/2 tbsp to the caramel. The cake looks amazing, the house smells amazing, and bonus I had leftover batter to make 4 small gingerbread cupcakes for my son who is not a big fan of fruit cakes. Will make again for sure!

  19. This is just as good and maybe better the next day!!

  20. Hi Sally, Can I make this in a bundt cake tin?

    1. Hi Sadia, There is not enough batter here for a Bundt pan and I haven’t tested it in a larger quantity to be sure!

      1. Thank you so much, Sally,
        for responding.

  21. Have you tried to stack this cake? I think that would be incredible!

    1. Hi Susan! I haven’t. The topping would be a little too slippery.

  22. this is amazing! It was a huge hit at a dinner I hosted, and its been added to my yearly Christmas baking list. It packs a great flavor!

  23. I want to make this for Christmas dinner but don’t want to have to whip it up during the festivities. I read your comment that you can make the topping in advance, so I will definitely do that. Can I prepare the cake batter a few hours before baking or will it deflate or something?

    1. Hi Jaclyn! You can, but I don’t recommend making it more than 1-2 hours before baking it. Best to bake the cake batter as soon after mixing it up as you can. You can, however, prep the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then combine them right before baking.

      1. Thank you so much for replying! I did just that: I mixed the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately earlier in the day and combined them just before baking. It worked out perfectly! Everyone loved it, so I will definitely make it again. It tastes just like Christmas, warm and comforting.
        Believe it or not there was a little bit left. I ate it the next day and it was still delicious, but I agree that it should be eaten warm. The next day it was a bit gooey from the topping soaking into the cake.

  24. Michelle Barboza says:

    Delicious! As luck would have it, I received a box of Harry & David pears and was looking for a Christmas cake to make. My family and friends raved.

  25. Made this last night for our holiday dinner and it was simply fantastic. Like others mentioned above, since it’s best served warm, I had a bit of a timing problem which I solved by making the cake right up to the point of baking and then set it aside for 2 hours. I put it in the oven right as we sat down for dinner and it finished at the perfect time to come out of the oven and then cool for a few minutes before serving. The cake itself was moist and flavorful and the pear topping had just the right of sweetness. Thank you for a wonderful recipe it was a great change and is one I will definitely come back to in the future.

  26. Made this on Christmas day and it was delicious!
    I was honestly worried about flipping the cake. But I waited 15 minutes, like you said, and it worked perfectly!
    Great recipe. Thank you very much!!

  27. I made it! And it was delicious! So light, moist, flavourful and most importantly for me, not overly sweet! Hubby was asking for more ginger flavour so I might go for fresh ginger next time. Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe.

  28. Joan Lockhart says:

    I made this cake earlier in the day and did not reheat it. It was delicious in flavor although VERY dense. Today, I reheated a piece in the microwave and it was fabulous!
    I used blackstrap molasses (dark) and it was a bit overpowering. I will try it with regular molasses next time. And I must have had my water/molasses mixture too hot because my batter was very runny. (Perhaps it melted the butter?) Anyway, will try again because the flavor was simply scrumptious! And I may add some finely chopped crystalized ginger to the pears for an extra “bite” of ginger.

  29. I baked this today in a BUNDT pan, because I didn’t have a 9″ pan. I also substituted a 50/50 blend of yogurt and cooking oil for the butter in the batter. It turned out AMAZING. (wish I could post a photo here, as I don’t use Instagram)) Thanks for the great recipe, Sally. You are my “go to” for baking.

  30. Great recipe. I’ve made this three times now and loved it. In a circular tin because we didn’t have a square one. Be careful when pouring the batter on top of the caramel to make sure the caramel isn’t all on the edges. That’s about all I’d suggest. Love it!

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