I am so excited to share this walnut pear upside-down cake recipe with you. The spiral pattern from the pear slices are mesmerizing and make this cake is an absolute show stopping centerpiece. But, don’t be too quick to judge a book by its cover. This cake has much more to offer than just its looks. This cake has depth, layers and texture and tastes just as good as it looks.
The brown sugar and honey caramelize with the chopped walnuts and spiced pear slices to create a symphony of flavor and texture on top of the cake. The caramel seeps into the sides of the cake as it bakes creating a texture reminiscent of the insides of a cinnamon roll. I also add finely chopped walnuts to the tender buttermilk cake batter so you get a nice crunch and toasted nutty flavor in every bite. I also add warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and allspice to give the cake more depth and complexity. This cake seriously has everything and more going for it.
I often get asked what I do with all the baked goods I make. Do I throw them out? Do I eat them all? No. My fiance brings them to work. In my mind, his co-workers serve as my personal focus group and sounding board (although they don’t know it) because I always get feedback and hear about the baked treats that are a hit… and the misses that still have leftovers at the end of the day. So when my fiance brought this cake to work, he texted me and told me he caught his co-workers hiding the cake from everyone else. He said that by 11:00 am his two co-workers had already eaten 3 slices each. So if that isn’t proof enough that this cake is delicious, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Buttermilk Walnut Pear Upside Down CakePrint Recipe
For the walnut pear caramel topping
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (½ stick), melted
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ripe but firm Bosc or Bartlett pears, peeled, halved and cored
- ½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (sprinkle over top of arranged pear slices)
For the spice mixture (½ for pears, ½ for cake)
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
For the buttermilk walnut cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup walnuts, toasted and finely ground
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 350F and generously grease a 9-by-3 inch round cake pan. (Note: You want a deep 3” cake pan because this cake is quite tall)
For the spice mixture
- Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside. We will use half of the mixture for the pears and half of the mixture for the cake.
For the walnut pear caramel topping
- Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan over the stove. In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, honey, and melted butter and mix until incorporated. Transfer the brown sugar mixture to the bottom of a 9-by-3 inch cake pan and set aside.
- Peel and core the pears. Cut in half and then cut each half into quarters. In a bowl, toss the pears with half of the spice mixture. Transfer the pear slices to the cake pan and arrange the pears into a spiral shape around the perimeter of the cake pan.
- Toast 1 cup of the walnuts in a saute pan over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes. Roughly chop ½ cup of walnuts and sprinkle over the top of the pear and caramel topping. Continue chopping the remaining ½ cup until it resembles the size of coarse sand.
For the buttermilk walnut pear upside-down cake
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground walnuts and the remaining spice mixture together. Stir to make sure all ingredients are combined. In another small bowl, crack the three eggs and measure the vanilla extract.
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy, for 3-4 minutes on medium-high speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
- On low speed, add one egg at a time making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl and paddle once more and turn mixer back on low speed.
- Next, we will follow the muffin method: dry, wet, dry, wet, dry. On low speed, add ⅓ of the flour mixture and beat until almost (~85%) fully incorporated. Add ½ of the buttermilk and stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle. Turn mixer back on low speed and add another ⅓ of the dry mixture until almost fully incorporated and then add the last ½ of the buttermilk and mix until combined.
- Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and scrape down the bowl and paddle. Then mix the remaining ⅓ of the dry mixture by hand with a rubber spatula until fully incorporated. This will ensure the cake is not overmixed and will keep the crumb tender when baked.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan over the pear, walnuts, and caramel topping. Spread evenly with an offset spatula and smooth it out to make sure it is level and evenly distributed.
- Bake the cake for 60-70 minutes until the cake is golden brown, the middle springs backs, and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cake sit in the pan for 5 minutes and then carefully invert the cake onto a cooling rack and let finish cooling upside down. Put any pear slices back into its place and serve with ice cream or creme fraiche.