Pear and Pecan Flip Cake


From A New Turn in the South by Hugh Acheson

This has been a staple of mine for years, and I never tire of it. I love the baked pears and the pecans together. Pecans litter the ground around here for about two months from September until November and my kids have always been pretty savvy to find a rock and crack them open. I remember Beatrice doing that when she was two years old outside her daycare. That makes a lot of sense when you realize the word “pecan” derives from an Algonquin term for “nut you open with rock.”

I use a melon baller to scoop out the seed area of the apple and pears. Tricks of the trade.

This would rock with some homemade sorghum ice cream.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
4 pears, peeled, scooped of seeds and cut into ¼-inch slices
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 teaspoon grated fresh peeled ginger
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped seeds only
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Cake Batter:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped seeds only
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F

2. Melt butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the pears and orange zest and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the orange juice, ginger, vanilla seeds, and sugar, and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the pears are tender but still have a bite. Remove the pears from the liquid with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3. Increase the heat to medium high and continue to cook the liquid until it’s thickened to a caramel-like state, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Allow the liquid to cool for a few minutes.

4. Arrange the pears in a desired design on top of the reduced sugar mixture. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans.

5. Make the cake batter: In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla seeds, and cinnamon with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.

6. Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, add the buttermilk, and whisk to combine. Slowly add the egg mixture to the butter mixture, stirring gently to combine.

7. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry mixture to the wet all at once, turn on the mixer, and mix for about 30 seconds. (This batter can also be baked on its own and served with a fruit compote, homemade ice cream, or used in pineapple upside-down cake.)

8. Spread the cake batter over the top of the pears. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake springs back just slightly when touched. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

9. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and unmold by carefully flipping the skillet onto a large serving plate. Serve warm with homemade sorghum ice cream.

Makes one 9-inch cake; Serves 8 to 12.