Friday, 15 August 2014

Pear & Double Ginger Upside-down Cake

Ginger in all its forms is one of the most amazing ingredients. It can be used fresh; dried and ground or preserved and crystallised in sugar. I also love to use stem ginger preserved in syrup in my cooking. The great thing about ginger is that it imparts a spicy warmth to those dishes in which it is used and has something to contribute to both sweet and savoury recipes. Ginger is frequently used in Chinese, Indian and Thai cookery where achieving a balance of flavours is so important; but it frequently crops up elsewhere. I find that ginger helps achieve a balance between the sweet, salty, hot and sour elements of a dish and when used in its fresh form adds a zingy freshness which really excites the taste buds.

For me, I think that ginger in all its forms is the perfect ingredient for autumn. There is something warm and comforting about eating foods which contain it but because it has a lively character, it excites the palate.

In Ireland and the British Isles, ginger has long been used as an ingredient in baked goods. Historic cookbooks give many recipes for biscuits, breads and cake which include ginger mainly ground as a spice. I think my first experience of eating ginger was in highly flavoured and very hard to bite into commercially made Gingernut biscuits. For those so inclined, I think that there is nothing better to dunk in a cup of tea than a hard Gingernut, because they can withstand a certain amount of added moisture without crumbling into a soggy mess. Whilst I have made my own version of Gingernuts, I still have a deep love for the commercially made variety and often buy a packet or two to enjoy with a cuppa. In recent years, since I became the mother of three children, I have become particularly adept at quickly mixing up some gingerbread dough which I then stamp into various fantastical shapes using the embarrassingly large cookie cutter collection which I own. After baking, I sometimes decorate these with melted chocolate or a little royal icing; my children absolutely adore them. That recipe can be accessed here

I have always been partial to any cake that includes ginger and sticky ginger cake (thickly sliced and liberally spread with butter) takes some beating on the comfort food front.

Another great thing about ginger is that it complements and goes with so many other flavours and ingredients. Favourites of mine include ginger paired with lemon or pears. This recipe is for a fresh pear and ginger cake. It is a staple bake in my house coming into autumn and is perfect served as a dessert.


250g self-raising flour
3tsp ground ginger
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g golden syrup
50g treacle
1tblsp syrup from jar of stem ginger
125g butter
4 balls of ginger preserved in syrup drained and chopped into small pieces
125g dark muscovado sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
240ml milk
4 pears, peeled, cored and cut in half


1. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Line a 22cm square cake tin with non-stick baking parchment and set aside. Sift the flour, ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
2. Place the golden syrup, the treacle, the syrup from the jar of stem ginger, the butter and sugar into a medium sized saucepan over a moderate heat. Once the butter and sugar have melted add the chopped stem ginger and bring the mixture up to the boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for one minute, stirring all the time. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
3. Whilst the syrup mixture is cooling, arrange the pears cut-side down in the prepared baking tin.
4. Pour the syrup mixture into the dried ingredients along with the beaten eggs and the milk and using a wooden spoon mix everything together, making sure that there are no little pockets of the dry ingredients remaining. Pour this mixture on top of the pears and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, until well risen and a thin skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in tin before upturning on your serving plate.
NOTE: due to the large proportion of syrup in the cake batter, the cake may dip a little in the middle, but don’t worry about this as you will be turning it upside-down.
Serves 8-10.