Gingerbread and pear cake offers a slice of Christmas

There is no subtle way to say this. This cake screams Christmas.

To start with, it’s gingerbread, the aroma alone of which is embedded in the definition of this holiday. That aroma, of course, is paired with an ultra-rich, moist cake that is at once dense, but also light.

Then there is the sugar crisp caramelized sides of the cake, which build to the tender, sweet lemony pear slices that crown the cake.

Lemon pear upside-down gingerbread cake

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

1/2cup white wine

3/4cup packed light brown sugar, divided

3large pears, peeled, cored and sliced

1/2cup golden raisins

3/4cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

3/4cup granulated sugar

1/3cup molasses

1tablespoon dry ground ginger

1teaspoon cinnamon

1/4teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2teaspoon ground allspice

1teaspoon baking powder

1/4teaspoon baking soda

1/4teaspoon salt

2eggs

1/2cup milk

2 2/3cups all-purpose flour

In a skillet over low heat, combine the lemon juice and zest with the wine and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar. Add the pears and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the pears are just tender. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the raisins.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a tube pan with baking spray. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar in the bottom of the pan. Arrange the pears, slightly overlapping, over the sugar.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, granulated sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl between additions. Add half the milk followed by half of the flour, mixing before adding the remaining half the milk and flour. Spoon into the prepared pan over the pears.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then place a large overturned plate or platter over the cake. Invert the cake so it is standing on the plate. If any of the pears stick to the pan, carefully remove them and return them to their place on the cake.

Makes 16 servings. Per serving: 300 calories; 90 calories from fat (30 percent of total calories); 10 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 50 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 29 g sugar; 4 g protein; 105 mg sodium.

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