Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Story of a Pan

This is the story of a pan.
A pan that inspired a recipe.
A recipe that became a legend.

A few years ago I came across a recipe for pear upside down cake and was instantly enchanted by the thought of warm cinnamon and cardamom scented butter cake topped with caramelised pears dripping their buttery coating onto a plate accompanied by ice cream.
The only problem in this whole fantasy of mine was that I did not own an oven proof skillet. Mum had never needed one in her own baking endeavours and so our house was devoid of any stove to oven cookware.
So that afternoon I went out and purchased the pan.
Yes, I invested hard earned university student dollars, about eighty of them, in a pan so that I could cook an as yet untested recipe.
A little crazy? Yes.
Did it work out? Absolutely.
When that first cake came out of the oven and took it's topsy turvy turn out onto a plate and the glistening pears radiated enough heat to turn creamy vanilla ice cream into a molten pool it instantly won fans in those attending the family dinner.
Ever since, this cake has become the default dessert at every family dinner when no other sweet course can be decided upon.
Once you make it, you will understand why.

Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake

You can make this with all apples, or all pears if you wish. The mix of fruit is nice though especially in the middle of winter.

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
14 tablespoons of butter, softened
2 firm apples, cored and thinly sliced
1 firm pear, cored and thinly sliced
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 1/3 cups caster sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2/3 cup milk


  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Cut a piece of baking paper to fit the bottom of a ten inch oven proof skillet*; set this aside.
  2. Place the skillet over a medium-high heat and add the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of butter and thinly sliced apples and pears.
  3. Saute until the pears and apples are fork tender and start to brown a little. This usually takes about 5-7 minutes and the smell will be divine. Remove from the heat and pour the fruit and juices into a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Clean the skillet.
  5. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and remaining spices.
  6. In the large bowl of a stand mixer beat the rest of the butter and the caster sugar until fluffy.
  7. Reduce speed to low and add eggs and vanilla essence and paste, beat until well blended.
  8. Add flour alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined.
  9. Place circle of baking paper in the bottom of the skillet and oil the sides if you do not have  non stick pan.
  10. Pour fruit and butterscotch-y juices into the bottom of the pan. Spoon the batter carefully over the fruit and smooth the top (or is that really the bottom?) with a rubber spatula.
  11. Bake cake until golden brown and a tooth pick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for ten minutes.
  12. Run a rubber spatula around the edges to loosen, invert cake onto a serving plate and remove paper (it usually takes two of us, Casey and I, to do this). 
  13. Serve cake with ice cream or whipped cream (or if you are my Dad, both).
Homely, but heavenly.
*Note: if you do not have an oven proof skillet you do not need to despair, or rush out and buy a whole new pan as I did. You can just sauté your fruit in a normal frying pan and then use a 10 inch cake tin to cook the cake in. In fact, this might be easier when it comes to the inverting / flipping stage.

Running Update.
Since my half marathon two weeks ago I have hardly run at all. I took a week off completely when I went to Melbourne and in the past week I have only run twice. I feared that maybe I had lost "it"; the motivation to get back out there and get some miles under my feet, the inspiration to start training for the next race that I have signed up for, the love of running just because. 
Yesterday, while out bridesmaid dress shopping for my sister's wedding (January next year!) I saw the new Runner's World magazine, that sacred publication for so many of us, and there it was; the little stirring within my soul to draw up a new training plan and get back in the saddle (or on the treadmill belt as it were). So while today's run was voided in favour of a sleep in and a kitchen session (both much needed) starting tomorrow I will be once again lacing up my sneakers and heading out with a plan. 
Ah, that feels better.
My little chickpea and I in Melbourne.


  1. aweeee that last picture is so sweet- both so beautiful!!

    mmm and this upside down cake is absolutely delightful!! :)


  2. trust me, we ALL have that same fear in the back of our minds that we've lost 'it' or that we might not be able to be as tough as we were in the last race/hard workout...but it's unbased fear. and u NEED to take a big break after a marathon, i don't care if it was ur first of u set a world record...the legs need a recharge! but now, break has been well deserved and u're itching to get back...that's a good sign because u needed that fire to be reignited. people need not just a physical break after big races but a mental one too because u've spent so much time pushing urself and focusing that u need some down time from that intensity too.

    that said, have a great run 2morrow, enjoy that mag, and holy moses will u come back me that cake??! :)

  3. We all deserve a break after a big race! Take your time and get back into it when you feel 100% ready!

    Good luck with the new training plan. Can't wait to hear all about it!

    Like Caitlin said...come bake me that cake!! Holy YUM!

  4. It looks like the pan was a worthwhile investment. Enjoy your break!