NPR Taste Test: Upside Down Cake To Turn Your Holiday Party All The Way Up

Dec 19, 2016
Originally published on December 18, 2016 7:39 pm

We met up with pastry chef Aggie Chin again this past week to bring you her recommendation for a family-style dessert perfect for a holiday dinner: pear upside down spice cake.

She cooked this delectable one in a kitchen with NPR's Ailsa Chang.

Listen to their conversation at the link above, and check out the recipe here.

Pear Upside Down Cake Recipe

2 pears

2 oz sugar


1 oz butter

1/4 tsp Vanilla

2 oz butter, at room temperature

4 oz brown sugar

4 oz sugar

2 oz canola or grapeseed oil

1 oz yogurt

1 egg

6 oz apple sauce or pear sauce

6 oz all Purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp cardamom


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and line a 9" cake pan with parchment paper.

Peel and core pears. Slice them about 1/4 inch thick, and arrange the slices on the bottom of the cake pan.

If you want to cover the pears with caramel, combine 2 oz of sugar with a little water in a saucepan to make a slurry. Cook over medium high heat until the sugar caramelizes. Add the butter and stir to combine. Add the vanilla and then pour the caramel over the pears. Set aside.

Sift all the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light in color. Add the oil and yogurt and mix until well incorporated. Add the egg. Once fully mixed, add the pear or applesauce.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated, finishing by hand to ensure it is not over mixed.

Spread the batter evenly over the pears and bake until it tests clean and pulls away slightly from the sides of the pan. About 30-45 min, depending on the oven.

Let it cool for about 15 min before inverting onto a plate or cake stand.

Serve with lightly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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Hey, Aggie. How's it going?

We met up with pastry chef Aggie Chin again this past week to bring you her recommendation for a family-style dessert perfect for a holiday dinner, pear upside-down spice cake.

AGGIE CHIN: I love pears and apples and those types of, like, white fruits for the holidays, just because they can kind of take on whatever flavor that you're cooking with.

CHANG: Oh, I never realized that. It's like the tofu of fruit (laughter).

CHIN: Right, kind of - exactly. I mean, the flavor itself is really nice. But if you think of apple pie, a lot of times, like, you think of, like, the cinnamon and ginger and the spices, and so that's kind of similar with this cake.

CHANG: OK. So you're - are an expert peeler.

CHIN: So (laughter)...

CHANG: Look at her go.

CHIN: So I'm just peeling it along the length of the pear. You'll probably need between one and a half to two pears for each cake, depending on the size. This is a 9-inch cake so it's good for, you know, up to 12 people.

CHANG: These pears are so spotted. They're, like, super ripe.

CHIN: You know, my family doesn't really like things terribly sweet. So the riper the fruit, the less sugar you have to supplement with.

CHANG: So you're arranging them like a big sunburst, like a pear flower almost.

CHIN: Right.

CHANG: All right, so that's the bottom...

CHIN: Right.

CHANG: ...Of what will be the top of an upside-down cake.

CHIN: Exactly.


CHIN: And so now for the cake - in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, you just want to put the butter and sugar. We're going to cream this until it's, you know, light and fluffy.


CHANG: Once the butter and sugar reach that light and fluffy consistency, Aggie added an egg, then some vegetable oil and yogurt. Then she pulled out a little ramekin of a sauce I couldn't quite identify.

CHIN: This is a little bit of pear sauce that I made. When you're cutting the pears, if you have extra you can use that, or you can just use applesauce bought from the store. The dry ingredients are flour, baking soda, salt and then ground cinnamon, ground ginger and cardamom ground.

CHANG: Can you use fresh ginger or you...

CHIN: You can. You can definitely use fresh ginger. And you can always swap these spices depending on what you like and what your flavor preferences are.

CHANG: Then Aggie spooned the batter carefully over the pears arranged in the pan and smoothed the batter with an offset spatula.

CHIN: So then we'll stick this in the oven at 350 for - check in in about 30 minutes. When it's done, the sides will kind of pull away...


CHIN: ...From the edge of the pan. And you can test it with a toothpick or a cake tester, and it'll come out clean.


CHIN: That's it.

CHANG: So why did you choose to make this cake - 'cause we asked you...

CHIN: Right.

CHANG: ...Aggie, bring in something that's, like, great for a family.

CHIN: Family, yeah.

CHANG: What is it about this cake that's great for a family?

CHIN: Well, I think it's great for a number of reasons. A, it's very easy to make, and it's fast. So if you're cooking a big meal, this doesn't have to be an added point of stress.

CHANG: Yeah. Yeah, that's important.

CHIN: So it's very easy. Yeah. This is delicious when it's warm straight out of the oven. It's also great the next day when it's - once it's cold. My dad actually prefers this for breakfast.

CHANG: Really?

CHIN: Yeah (laughter). Whenever I make dessert, he rarely eats it that night after dinner.

CHANG: Maybe he's too full.

CHIN: Yeah. So he'll always wait. And he'll say, I'll have this tomorrow. So he'll have the piece or two pieces the next day either for breakfast or with coffee as, like, a mid-morning, mid-afternoon snack. To me, these spices and these flavors kind of represent the holidays. It's comforting to me...

CHANG: It is comforting.

CHIN: ...Like, the flavors and the texture also. It's like a warm blanket in a dish.


CHANG: That was pastry chef Aggie Chin. She'll be back again next week with recipes for a festive New Year's Eve dinner.

(SOUNDBITE OF VINCE GUARALDI TRIO'S "SKATING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.