Upside-down pear cake with vanilla bean syrup

5 April 2011
by Phuoc

It has been a very long time since I have written a recipe on this blog. Ever since coming back from my holidays, I’d have the urge to bake something but always would be puzzled about what to make. I mean, I have all these dessert cookbooks and still don’t know what to make! Does anyone else have the same problem or is it just me? I guess it’s just easier to find recipes online as you don’t have to search through the mountains of cookbooks to find something you want to bake.

With the end of Summer long gone and the leaves of trees starting to brown, we start to approach the seasons I’m not too fond of – I just dislike being cold and wet most of the time. Although the only good thing out of these seasons is the warm and comforting food it brings. Because I’m being in denial that we are actually in Autumn I decided to turn a cake that was originally summery into an autumn-ish one by using pears instead of mangoes.

I tweaked the recipe slightly from the original; mainly cut down on the sugar because my dad says that I use too much sugar and butter when I bake, but I think I would of gotten away with cutting it down to 1/3 cup since I did add in some of the remaining vanilla syrup. This cake has a light yet firm texture, similar to madeira cake, and isn’t insanely drenched in syrup as well. I absolutely love it!

EDIT: And I’d imagine you’d be able to substitute the pear fruit for this recipe; plums, apples, mangoes, peaches, oranges…


Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 55

Serves 8


1/2 cup (110g) white sugar

3/4 cup (180mL) water

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

2 pears, peeled, cored and quartered


4 eggs

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup (150g) plain flour

1 cup (120g) almond meal, sifted

1 tsp baking powder

150g unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

For the syrup

  1. Place the sugar, water, lime juice and vanilla in a saucepan over low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add the pears and cook for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove the pears and reserve the syrup.

For the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C (325F). Line a 11 x 21cm rectangle tin with baking paper.
  2. Place eggs, sugar, half the reserved syrup and vanilla in a bowl and beat for 8-10 minutes, or until thick, pale and tripled in volume.
  3. Sift the flour, almond meal and baking powder over the egg mixture and gently fold to combine.
  4. Add the butter and lime rind and fold to combine.
  5. Place the pear slices on the base of the prepared tin and pour the cake batter over the pears.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when tested.
  7. Allow cake to cool in tin for 10 minutes before turning out.
  8. Drizzle remaining syrup over cake before serving.

Print this recipe


  1. Isis-Rae

    Oh my, I saw this last night before bed and had massive cake cravings and now I’m at work and looking at this AGAIN! Why Why Why must you always make me so hungry!

  2. Chi Anh @ Door To My Kitchen

    ooo… first time I see an Upside Down cake in a rectangle tin. That makes it much more portable and easy to distribute! I should make this for office next time. We don’t eat much pears in Vietnam. Maybe I can do that with Apples instead… And yeah, I totally have the same problem with having too many cookbooks and still not knowing what to make! I normally would come up with what I want to make based on what I already have, then I google for the nicest recipe possible with those ingredients. Hence the Orange Cake I made last weekend. Hah.

  3. Deeba

    This is absolutely delightful. I fell in love with it the minute I saw it in my reader. It sounds really really nice, looks wonderful, and the almond meal and vanilla bean add oomph to it!

  4. Martyna (Wholesome Cook)

    Mmm.. looks declicious. And I like your Dad’s idea on using less sugar 😛 Now, I have a tonne of plums at home at the moment, do you think this would work with plums as well?

  5. DessertForTwo

    How gorgeous!

    Thanks for the sweet comment on my site 🙂

  6. Susan

    I have so many cookbooks that I never cook from, but I am trying to rectify this! I always find that I am drawn to chocolate recipes too, but this looks great and something that I would definitely like to make.

  7. Phuoc

    Isis-Rae: Next time you’re in the hood, tell me! I’ll bake a whole cake for you! xo

    Chi Anh: Yes! I’m sure you can use apples (or any fruit for that matter). I think I should change my ways and actually start baking things from cookbooks now or adapt recipes with whatever I have at home with recipes from cookbooks 🙂

    Deeba: Aww thanks! It is a good cake if I have to say so myself. I’m soooo loving the light afternoon tea cakes at the moment.

    Martyna: Yeah I don’t mind adjusting it if I know that it won’t affect the final product in the end – and it didn’t for this so all good! Yes! It would be beautiful with plums! I was going to make it with plums initially.

    Dessert for two: Thanks!

    Susan: Same, otherwise it would be a slight waste buying all these books all the time and not using them – although I just love looking at all the pretty pictures of delicious cakes. Thanks! Let me know how it goes if you get around to making it one day 🙂

  8. Sukaina

    I love pears in cakes. I made one too recently and ate it with custard….divine! And my father in law also thinks I use too much butter and sugar in baking!

  9. mademoiselle délicieuse

    I don’t like upside-down cakes much normally because they’re all syrupy but this doesn’t look like your typical upside-down cake! And I do like the squishiness of pears =D

  10. Helen (grabyourfork)

    Yum. This would be perfect for a picnic, or eaten warm with ice cream or cream. It looks deliciously moist too. Mmm…. moist…. lol

  11. Jayson James

    This is fascinating. I have never tried a pear cake before and from the looks of it, I think it’s worth a try. I will recommend this to my girlfriend and see how it turns out. Hopefully she gets exactly how you explained it. Thanks again!

  12. Lizzie (El Moorish)

    I love love love pear in cakes and puddings, and I also really love the texture of madeira cake…printing!

    I’ll also put my hand up to not referring to my (bookcase full of) cookbooks often enough. I blame the internet and it’s search engine siren’s call 😉

  13. Sarah Jo

    hmmmmmm yummy yummy looks delicious

  14. Phuoc

    Sukaina: There’s something about pears and custard that screams out “match made in heaven”!

    Mademoiselle délicieuse: I know what you mean with syrupy cakes, that’s why I love this cake; it has all the upside-down goodness minus the syrup. BUT of course, those who like syrupy cakes can also turn this one into one by pouring some of the vanilla syrup over the pears before the cake batter is added and gets baked.

    Helen: Definitely!!

    Jayson James: All the best for your girlfriend, let us know if she gets around to making it and what you thought of it! Cheers! 🙂

    Lizzie: Thanks! 🙂 Good to know I’m not the only one!

    Sarah Jo: Thanks 🙂 Just wait until you try it, oh so blisssful!

Leave a Reply