This post isn’t just a recipe. It’s also an ode to my favorite cast iron skillet.
Larry and Ellyn gave it to me for my birthday in 1981, before Lauren was even born. He got it at the local hardware store, and I think he paid something like 8 dollars for it. I can still remember how excited Ellyn was when I was ripping off the wrapping paper.
As do most kids, she loved giving presents and being part of the surprise. Though, only a few months earlier, she had over the course of a couple days, told me all my Christmas presents, because Larry let her watch while he wrapped them. The highlight of that Christmas was a copy of “Joy of Cooking”. Obviously he was setting himself up for a lifetime of good meals. Which I am pretty sure he would agree, he has enjoyed. He is my chief taste tester after all. And, Ellyn got better at keeping secrets after that.
But – back to the cast iron skillet. When he gave it to me, it fit in perfectly with the long haired hippie, Mother Earth News*, live off the land thing we had going. It was an essential bit of gear, and I swear I cooked most of our meals in it for years. We kind of got away from that lifestyle for awhile, but the skillet stayed. Now, we are back to trying to raise more of our own food, and if not exactly living off the land, we are getting closer. And though my kitchen is far more well-equipped than it was in 1981, I still use this pan a few times every week. It has some company now – a bigger skillet, a griddle, and a number of porcelain-over-cast iron pots, but it remains my favorite.
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet of your own, the first thing you should do is go and buy one immediately. Check out the selection on Amazon: Cast Iron on Amazon.com. When the world is coming to an end, you are going to want one – no matter the apocalyptic circumstances, you will still be able to throw together a tasty meal if you have a cast iron skillet. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t intend to let such events keep me from cooking something delicious – I’ll be prepared with my trusty skillet.
Still – buying one now won’t help you with this cake, because a new cast iron pan will not have the patina to prevent things from sticking, so in the notes of the recipe, I have included instructions on how to bake this in a 8 x 8 inch pan. If you have a nicely seasoned iron skillet already, you are all set – and I hope that you do, because this cake is definitely best in a skillet.And if not, it is still very good, and well worth making, so don’t let that stop you.
- 3 medium ripe, but firm pears
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons soft butter
- ⅔ cup light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
- 1 & ⅓ cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ cup buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 400º
- Peel the pears, and cut each one into quarters.
- Place an 8 or 10 inch cast iron skillet over a burner set to medium.
- To the skillet, add the first amount of butter and allow it to melt.
- Add the first amount of sugar and ginger to the butter in the skillet and stir to mix, until the sugar mostly melts into the butter.
- Raise the heat slightly and arrange the pear quarters evenly in the butter mixture, and allow to simmer in the pan, while you prepare the cake batter. You want them to get a bit of color on the bottom sides and begin to get soft. They will give off some juice and that is fine - just let them keep cooking.
- Cream together the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs, and then the vanilla.
- Whisk the dry ingredients together in another bowl.
- Add the flour mixture to the butter/egg mixture in 3 parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and alternating with the buttermilk.
- Remove the skillet from the heat, and spoon the batter over the pears as evenly as possible. It may seem like it won’t be enough, but it will puff up and cover the fruit as it bakes.
- Bake at 400º for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted just into the cake comes out clean - the top will be nicely browned and the edges should be bubbly.
- Cool about 10 minutes in the pan, and then, using care, invert the cake onto a large plate. The pan will be very hot still.
- Cut in wedges and serve warm with whipped cream. Refrigerate leftovers.
Look at that – the edges get a sort of chewy-crisp thing happening.
It looks so pretty on the plate.
And prettiest of all on your plate!
*And yes, we still read Mother Earth News – it goes really nicely with a slice of juicy, sweet and spicy pear cake!