This cake impresses people. When I went through the car wash and this cake was riding shotgun, the man taking my money said he'd take the cake in exchange. Considering that shelling out $10 for just a car wash makes my stomach turn, I would have taken him up on his offer. As luck would have it, I think he was kidding and I really wanted to savor some of the cake when I got home.
Cut to pre-Christmas. My friend Ann & I got together to cook some dinner and wish each other a Merry Christmas before I left for Michigan. That, and I honesty couldn't remember the last time we hung out so saying we were overdue is an understatement. We made a chicken tajine, sautéed cauliflower and for dessert, you guessed it, this cake. The rosemary contests nicely with the slightly more blunt flavor of cornmeal; I just couldn't stop thinking about it! I was able to take a nice big wedge of it home with me and I knew I needed to make it as soon as I got back from Michigan.
If you'd be so kind to press fast-forward on your handy dandy remotes, we'll jump to the last night of 2010. After working a long shift at work, I rushed home and immediately got to work on baking. Julie was hosting the New Years Eve party and my sole job was to bring some bubbly and dessert. Naturally I didn't plan well and left the baking to right before I needed to be at the party. You really don't want to see me when I'm baking and simultaneously getting gussied up, it doesn't mix well. My BCBG dress (that I got for $20 on ebay!!) made it out of that battle alive, but don't think that I didn't show up to the party without some rosemary in my hair or butter on my face. I was in such a rush that I made my date take the bus to the party because I didn't have time to pick him up. Erm… oops... At least I made one cake too many and was able to take the extra one home with me. I didn't plan it like that or anything... I don't know what you're suggesting.
But this cake makes everything ok. All was well when this cake enters the scene. My only qualm with it, that is completely my fault, is that it doesn't work well with coarse ground cornmeal. I found that out the hard way. I realized I only had coarse ground on hand, semi-successfully tried to grind it finer in the blender and made it work as best I could. I also didn't (but NOW I do!) have a cast-iron skillet so I used a 9-inch cake pan and it worked wonderfully.
This message is for my sister (but you can read it too if you want): Caroline, I wanted to let to know that my next three posts will be using the lightbox you got me for Christmas! Keep an eye out for it! Love, Sis
Roasted Pear Rosemary Upside Down Cake
Adapted from Ger-Nis Culinary & Herb Center, Brooklyn, NY
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 1 cup sugar, separated into two 1/2 cup portions
- 3 medium pears, skins on, cored and cut into wedges
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
- 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped finely
- 3/4 cup medium to fine ground cornmeal
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet (or in my case, a normal skillet) over medium heat, making sure to coat the sides. Add ½ cup of the sugar and cook until the butter starts to melt and turn golden brown—about 3 minutes. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, transfer mixture to a 9" cake pan.
- Add pear wedges forming a circle pattern covering the entire bottom of the pan. Sprinkle rosemary leaves on the pears evenly. Place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes or until the pears are tender. Set aside.
- While pears are in the oven, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, chopped rosemary leaves and salt. In a separate bowl beat the remaining butter on medium-high speed and the other 1/2 cup of sugar, until fluffy. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of bowl as you go along.
- Add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated taking care to not overwork the dough. Finish by adding vanilla extract and almond milk. Batter should be on the thick side.
- Drop spoonfuls of batter over the pears in the pan, coating the pears evenly. Bake until golden brown and a tester comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.
- When done, let stand for 10 minutes, run a knife around the cakes edges and invert onto a large cutting board or platter.