Thursday 14 November 2013

Pear & Caramel Pudding Cake

In the middle of making this cake for the first time, my mum's Kenwood Major died.

It was eighteen years old, bought when I was six. Mum taught me to bake with it. I can't begin to count the number of memories it features in.

It had been going slowly wrong for the past year or so, and finally gave up as I scraped down the sides of the bowl, declining to turn on again to finish creaming the butter and sugar. It went without a whimper or a bang, quietly, in great contrast to the racket it had started to make whenever you managed to twist and push the dial just so to make it turn on.

A few days before the mixer's demise, I came across this caramel apple cake. As I hadn't made anything with pears this autumn I decided to try making a upside down caramel pear cake. That recipe and most other similar cakes I've seen start with a brown sugar mixture on the bottom. I wanted to make one with proper caramel, lightly salted - a sort of tarte tatin/cake hybrid.

I adapted the cake mixture from my Pear and Chocolate Loaf as it's one of my favourites and I already knew it went well with pears. I tried three different types of pear: Bosc, Conference and Comice. Bosc was the best.

Despite the emotional loss of the mixer (and having to do the rest by hand), the first cake came out beautifully.

But then can you really go wrong with buttery salted caramel, tender pears, fluffy cake, caramelised edges and a spoonful or two of thick crème fraîche?

Finally, a quick little guide to fully lining a tin. I rarely think it's necessary to fully line (usually it's just the Christmas cake and similar things) but for this cake I wanted to make sure the caramel didn't leak out.

1.   Take your tin apart and roll out some baking parchment. Use a pencil to draw around the bottom circle of the tin. Cut it out.

2.   Align the side part of your tin with the edge of your roll of parchment paper. Roll the tin along the paper until you have a small overlap then mark the spot.

3.   Cut a strip of paper that's a bit wider than the height of your tin up to the mark - for this, mine was about 4"/10cm wide as my tin is 3"/7.5cm. On the edge that was the outside of the roll (as this is always straight) cut little slits into the paper that are about 0.5-0.75"/1.5-2cm deep all the way along.

4.   Flatten the paper and fold the tabs formed by the slits up on the side that was outwards on the roll (if the paper is put in the same way as it was rolled, it curls inwards). Curl it into the tin so that the tabs are flat on the bottom, then secure it with the circular middle.

Pear & Caramel Pudding Cake

For the top:
100g caster or granulated sugar
30g double cream
2 pinches fine sea salt
2 pears, just ripe, preferably Bosc

For the cake:
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
75g caster sugar
50g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
135g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of fine sea salt
2 tbsp unsweetened plain yogurt (or milk)

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Fully line an 8"/20cm* tin (as above).

Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the bottom of a large, thick-bottomed pan. Turn the heat up to medium-high and watch carefully - after a few minutes, the sugar will start to liquify at the edges. Don't stir it - you can flick some of the crystals onto a liquid bit, but don't fiddle too much. Once it's nearly all melted and starts to caramelise, swirl it all together. Keep heating until you have a deep golden-bronze colour. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream and sea salt. Quickly scrape into the case and spread out carefully so that it covers as much of the base as possible. It will become hard once it has cooled.

Peel the pears, then chop in quarters and core. Slice each quarter into three. Arrange on top of the hard caramel in a fan shape.

Cream the butter and two sugars together until pale and fluffy, scraping down occasionally - this takes about 5 minutes. Beat the eggs together in a jug. Weigh the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. When fully creamed, start adding the eggs, bit by bit, beating all the time (I keep mine on 6 on my KA). About half way through adding the egg, add a tsp of flour, then again towards the end, scraping down each time. Sieve the flour bowl into the mixer bowl then mix together on a low speed. When it has come together, add the yogurt and mix until combined.

Dollop the cake mixture on top of the pears then spread out into an even layer - it won't seem like much mixture but it's fine. Bake for 20-26 minutes until deep golden brown and a toothpick or tester can be removed cleanly from the middle. Place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes then remove the side of the tin and the side paper. Flip onto a serving plate and remove the bottom part of the tin and the paper.

I think this cake is much better when warm or hot, so I recommend either eating it immediately or reheating it just before. Best on the day it's made, keeps two days overall. Serve with crème fraîche.

(Serves around 6-8)

Edit 24/10/15: I've changed the caramel to a cream caramel which solves the problems some were having in the comments below (which means the photo above is incorrect for the recipe, sorry). I've also changed the milk for yogurt in the cake.

*I've also started making this in a 9" tin - either is fine, though 9" tends to cook in more like 20 minutes.

Three more posts that involve making caramel:
Salted Caramel Brownies
Choco-Caramel Sundae Sauce
Cider Caramel, Sautéed Apples & Cinnamon Ice Cream


  1. Warm Vanilla Sugar15 November 2013 at 00:16

    This cake looks absolutely perfect! LOVE!

  2. Oh, How I can relate to your story. My mum also had Kenwood stan mixer she brought over from her country when she first immigrated to Australia. After 17 years of loyal service it broke down and many home job repairs; it broke down. I a little part of you is so sad when this happens.
    This cake looks delicious I love the combo of pears and chocolate. Even better that it is upside down cake; so it is instantly beautiful!

  3. Oh isn't it fun lining cake pans with parchment? I find that it takes me longer than the cake itself!

  4. A gorgeous cake! Love the pear and chocolate combo and don't even get me started on that caramel :)

  5. This looks amazing! Caramel and pear is such an delicious combination. Sorry to hear about your mixer though:(

  6. So pleased you like it :)

  7. How lovely - mum's taken hers to Switzerland and back to the UK and then back to Sw too. I have my grandma's Kenwood as well - it was a wedding present in 1954 and still works!

    I'm afraid - much as I love the combination - there's no chocolate in this! Just pears and caramel and cake.

  8. It is quite enjoyable, yes - especially if it ends up nice and neat!

  9. I'm afraid there's no chocolate in the cake! Much as I love the combination, there's only salted caramel + pears + cake.

  10. Glad you like it. It is sad, though my own mixer is fine and mum has just bought a new one - so it won't stop any baking...

  11. Sad times! My Mum and Granny never had stand mixers and we always used to do everything by hand (my mum didn't even have an electric whisk, very old school!) but I feel your pain - it's awful when things stop working mid-bake and so much worse when there are so many memories attached to it.
    This cake looks delicious. I've only ever made mango and banana upside down cakes - pear sounds right up my street.

  12. Elizabeth@thebackyardlemontree15 November 2013 at 09:59

    My beautiful vintage Sunbeam mixer died a few months ago and it's impossible to get it repaired. I've got a hand mixer now and still can't bear to replace my old stand mixer. Your process photos are so beautiful I don't know how you do it, I can barely get it together to photograph the finished product let alone while I'm making it.

  13. There is a place on the internet that will refurbish your old Kenwood with a nice new motor, and you can even get it re powder coated. I'm still saving up to have mine day :) I do love my old Kenwood!

  14. Tina @foodfortina15 November 2013 at 12:03

    DELICIOUS!!! and thanks for the tip with the baking paper to line the cake tin :)

  15. Your cake looks delicious! Has anyone tried almond flour in this recipe?

  16. TheRoamingKitchen15 November 2013 at 13:46

    The cake looks divine. It seems like an ideal contribution for a holiday party. I love the combination of salty caramel and caramelized pears, sunk into a tender cake. I'm looking forward to trying this one the first excuse I get.

  17. What a beautiful cake! My husband loves pears, I may have to make this even though my kitchen is still in almost overwhelming disarray from our recent move. I am sorry to hear of the loss of your friend... I firmly believe our tools, be they mixers, automobiles or houses or whatnot, take on a spirit over time and it's difficult when we lose them... kind of like losing a pet. We recently gave away a vehicle we had had for over 320K miles. Even though it was necessary, and she went to a good home who needed her remaining miles or years of service, I still grieve the loss.

  18. this looks absolutely fabulous!!!

  19. :-O I'm so sorry to hear about the mixer breaking! I'd be devastated!
    In other news this looks all sorts of delicious. My dad used to make something similar to this with pineapple when I was younger (but much less sophisticated :P)

  20. I was refering to the pear+chocolate loaf you had adapted from - sorry, should have made the clearer! xD Love caramel just as much so can't complain about the substitution :)

  21. That makes more sense! Glad you like it.

  22. That makes more sense! Glad you like it.

  23. This is a gorgeous cake! Pear and caramel sounds like a divine combination. This just might make an appearance at one of my holiday feasts this year!

  24. anna @ annamayeveryday16 November 2013 at 17:41

    So sorry to hear about your Kenwood. Thought of poires au chocolat last week when I made poires belle helene, I had it in mind for a Christmas holidays pud but neither of my children liked it - couldn't believe it!! I shall try this caramel pear pudding cake instead!

  25. Stunning, Emma! I have a 1970s Kenwood Chef waiting for me in Cambridge - moving countries is not Kenwood-conducive, but I've promised myself we'll be reunited in Norway in 2014 :)

  26. That looks great, and so easy to make.

  27. A restrained and noble end for the Major. RIP old chap. Doing what he did best right to the end. What a great cake to finish on. I hope my Kitchen Aid lasts that long.

  28. I love the sticky pear-caramel topping to this cake; it looks wonderfully addictive.

  29. May the poor Kenwood rest in peace - at least it went out doing it's best. Looks like the cake was a roaring success anyway. The idea of lightly cooked pears and salty, sticky caramel has my mouth watering.

  30. Thank you, Emma. You read my mind. Pears and cake and caramel. And upside down too. And I agree heartily with your decision to salt. I wonder if almonds would be a good addition so that the cake becomes more puddingy over time? 'Discuss'...! Sophie

  31. I just started your recipe and my kitchen smells divine and I love the citrus-y taste. I don't live in the UK so no ready made mixed spice. I just made it myself and reduced the quantity a bit as I freshly ground the spices.

  32. I am really sorry but this did not work . I have tried 3 times by following recipe to letter and the caramel top is impossible to do and not separate. It does NOT come out as recipe suggests. Disappointing to say least

  33. Looks fabulous!

  34. Hi - I was directed to your site by a friend when we were discussing homemade mincemeat. I have used Delia's original recipe for a couple of years and we are currently using some made a year ago BUT it is very bitter! Can I rescue it in time for Christmas this year? I thought of stirring in some mixed berry jam.....

    Mine also has a more creamy, slightly pasty look compared to yours.

    Any suggestions great fully received.


  35. Hm, I'm not sure - I've never have any go bitter on me. Did you use suet? Maybe that's why it looks different. I guess the jam would sweeten it but it would change the flavour - maybe heat it with some extra brown sugar? To be honest I think I'd make another batch though.


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