Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

Serves 12-16

Fall is my favorite season. Spring has its charm, but there’s just something extra special about throwing on a sweater for crisp outdoor walks, colorful leaves, outdoor markets with an abundance of delicious produce. The pears that inspired this recipe actually came right off a tree in my daughter’s yard; sure can’t beat that for freshness! The cake will be equally successful with whatever is growing in your neighborhood…apples, figs, grapes, peaches? Pecans can be replaced with almonds, walnuts, pistachios or pine nuts, to name a few. Maybe you prefer ginger or cardamom in place of cinnamon. Grab your sweater, choose your favorite combo and make this your fall specialty.

4-6 small pears
1 cup pecans
3/4 cup butter (12 Tbsp, to be divided)
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed (to be divided)
3 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup medium-grind yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I prefer Vietnamese but any good quality will do)
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream

Remove butter and eggs from refrigerator about 1 hour before starting recipe, then…
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 10-inch round cake pan with 1 Tbsp soft butter.
Roughly chop pecans.
Wash and dry pears. Halve, remove cores and cut each pear lengthwise into 8 pieces. Lay pieces decoratively in buttered pan; sprinkle with chopped pecans.
Place 4 Tbsp butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a small to medium saucepan; set aside.
Place remaining 7 Tbsp butter in a large mixing bowl with granulated sugar and remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar; set aside.
Whisk together AP flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl; set aside.

Place saucepan with butter & brown sugar over medium heat. Stir until butter is melted; add heavy cream and bring to a boil. Stir to blend well. With silicone spatula, scrape sauce from pan while carefully pouring over pears and pecans.
In the large bowl, beat butter & sugar with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy (about 3 minutes), scraping sides of bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
Gradually fold flour mixture into butter mixture alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold just until combined after each addition…do not over-mix. Fold in sour cream. Carefully spread batter over pears & pecans.
Bake on center rack in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the baking pan for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife blade around the pan’s edge. Place serving plate top-side-down on the pan and turn over to release the cake (fingers crossed!)
Let cake cool completely and serve with plenty of lightly sweetened whipped cream or sour cream.

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