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Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake

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Sometimes you make a recipe just once, either because it’s elaborate and time-consuming, or because it simply wasn’t very good. Other recipes are bake over and over again because the results are too fantastic not to make again. The latter category is where this cake falls. I first made it one evening after dinner when Alex requested a post-dinner snack. (A long run will do that to a person.) I immediately thought about a “French apple cake” because it’s very quick and the kitchen was already clean. My search led me to this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. The only elaborate part is the apple topping (to which I added pears), but the batter comes together quickly.

I used pears the first time I made it. They were there and turning brown, and for whatever reason I hadn’t gotten around to poaching them like I had initially planned. While I can’t pick out the pears in the topping, I want to believe that it adds more flavor than just apples alone.

Most recipes I found, including this one, slices the apples, but after trying it that way once and trying it again with cubed fruit, I prefer the cubes. Besides being easier to slice, the cubes caramelized more evenly than the slices.

Half of the chopped fruit gets caramelized briefly in butter. I tend to add the apples first as they are firmer than the pears.

Finally, the remaining fruit, along with brown sugar and lemon juice, are added and cooked until the topping gurgles and thickens slightly.

Springform pans scare me. Why, you ask? Because it’s not a solid pan, there’s always a chance that liquid will seep out no matter how tight the two pieces are latched together. That is you see happened here. I quickly took a similar sized cake pan out from under the cupboard, buttered the inside, and poured in the apple-pear topping, noting that it came about halfway up the sides.

The topping is tasty, but it’s the cake that really does it for me. This quick cake is easy to prepare, adding to the simplicity of this recipe. But for being so quick to put together, the taste is incredible. There is brown sugar, butter, and sour cream. Although the sour cream doesn’t taste noticeably tangy, it gives the cake a moist, velvety texture that’s incredibly good. The caramel notes from the brown sugar ties into the apple topping and gives it even more flavor.

Back to the pan… There is a reason why the recipe calls for a 2-inch deep cake pan. There was no going back, so I placed the cake pan on a baking sheet and hoped for the best. Fortunately, it didn’t spill over at all!

This is fall in all it’s glory, people. If you can get in-season apples, please do so. I suggest making this cake anytime you find yourself craving a dessert without all the hullabaloo of a regular cake. Perfect for lazy weekends or time-crunched evenings. Perfectly tasty.

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Apple Pear Upside Down Cake
Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

Serves 8

Ingredients -

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
2 Granny Smith apples (about 1 pound), peeled and cored
2 firm pears, peeled an cored
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions -

  1. FOR THE TOPPING: Butter bottom and sides of 9-inch round, 2-inch-deep nonstick cake pan; set aside. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut apples into 1/2-inch cubes; set aside. Cut the pears into 1/2-inch cubes; keep separate from apples. Heat butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add apple cubes and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times, until apples begin to caramelize, 4 to 6 minutes. (Do not fully cook apples.) Add pear, brown sugar, and lemon juice; continue cooking, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and apples are coated, about 1 minute longer. Transfer apple mixture to prepared pan and lightly press into even layer. Set aside while preparing cake.
  3. FOR THE CAKE: Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk granulated sugar, brown sugar, and eggs together in large bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter until combined. Add sour cream and vanilla; whisk until combined. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly over fruit. Bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
  4. Cool pan on wire rack 20 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Place wire rack over cake pan. Holding rack tightly, invert cake pan and wire rack together; lift off cake pan. Place wire rack over baking sheet or large plate to catch any drips. If any fruit sticks to pan bottom, remove and position it on top of cake. Let cake cool 20 minutes (or longer to cool it completely), then transfer to serving platter, cut into pieces, and serve.


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