Upside-Down Cranberry Pear Gooey Cake with Orange, Maple Whipped Cream

Autumn, Sweet Recipes • 19 Nov 2012

This year my family will spend our holiday at my maternal-grandmother’s home.  Her once proprietary Thanksgivings are now a communal effort, her kin begrudgingly appointed the au courant torchbearers.  While the holiday table was once decorated with the food that narrates her story, the kindred all bring individual experiences to our cooking, each dish woven together lovingly to create a new tableau, a culinary mosaic. 

As I prepare my contributions to my grandmother’s table, I reflect on my husband’s family, who will be absent from our holiday. With this cake, I honor his beloved grandfather Kurt, a professional baker by trade, our young son’s namesake, and the man at the epicenter of countless family tales. He remains a veritable legend, living on in stories and in his recipes.

An updated version of Kurt’s warm, homey strawberry and cranberry upside-down cake, tart cranberries and paper-thin seasonal pear slices are sprinkled with aromatic orange zest, baked until rich and gooey and topped with a billowing dollop of maple, orange whipped cream.  A somewhat embellished version of his classic, much-loved recipe, but it retains its heart and its essence.

This time of year is filled with much reflection, gratitude and hope. But also yearning for loved ones far away and for those no longer of this fickle earth; yearning for the past, which kindles desire for a bright future. We gather with those that warm our souls to honor tradition and to exalt cherished family recipes. We sit among loved ones, our cheeks flushed from hours of preparations, and we taste the past, the present and the future intermingling on our tongues. On Thanksgiving, we humbly feast on the flavors of life.

Upside-Down Cranberry Pear Gooey Cake with Orange, Maple Whipped Cream

1 stick butter melted, plus 1 tablespoon, cold, for greasing pan
Flour for dusting pie pan
1 12-ounce package cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 Anjou or Bosc pears, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon orange zest

Maple Orange whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 or 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Rub bottom and sides of an 11-inch pie pan or a springform pan with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Dust lightly with flour.

3. Arrange pear slices in a pinwheel pattern at the bottom of the pie pan. In a medium bowl mix together walnuts, cranberries and brown sugar and spread evenly over pear slices.

4. In another bowl, whisk together melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Fold in flour, sugar, cinnamon and orange zest.

5. Pour batter over fruit and spread evenly. Bake on middle rack for 45 minutes.

6. Remove cake from oven and let rest for about 10 minutes. Loosen edges and invert carefully onto a pie plate or remove sides of springform pan and invert onto a plate.  Let cool to room temperature before serving and top each piece with a dollop of whipped cream.

Maple Orange Whipped Cream:

Whip cream in a standing mixer or with a hander mixer until soft peaks form. Add maple syrup and orange zest and whip until firm.

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