Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake

I have to admit I made this a few weeks ago, but it’s a pretty busy time of year and I made several recipes in one week so that I could keep up my goal of doing weekly posts on this blog. This is a great cake on a variety of levels. First, it’s a heck of lot easier to make than it looks, second it takes no time to put this together (most of the work involves pealing and slicing the pears) and third you wind up with a cake that looks professionally made.

So let’s talk maple pear walnut skillet cake…

PearsLesson Learned 1 – The right amount of pears to use is not an exact science: This recipe is made in a ten inch cast iron skillet. When I made it I used pears from my neighbor’s tree which were smaller than ones you buy in the store. I think I used about 6-8 pears for the decorative top. If using larger pears, I think you could get away with using no more than three. I would err on the side of too much rather than too little. If you have four pears on hand and you only need three you have one to enjoy later. And remember, if the pears look like they’re starting to oxidize and turn brown before you put them in the pan, just sprinkle a little lemon juice over them and that will help keep them looking good.

Lesson Learned 2 – Even with a seasoned cast iron pot a few pears might stick to the pot when it comes time to invert it: No worries here. Even though a couple of my pears stuck, they easily peeled off the bottom of the pan and I could place them back in the spots they’d vacated on the cake. Judging by the pictures you’d never know that happened. I just felt compelled to let you know that even the best of cooks have to make these types of adjustments from time to time. As Julia Child used to say, “Whose to know…”

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet CakeLesson Learned 3 – Always remember, cast iron retains heat for quite some time: When you go to invert the cake, the cast iron skillet will still be very hot! Remember to use oven mitts when you do this part of the process. You will not be able to handle the skillet without some type of protection from the heat at that point.

This cake couldn’t be easier, especially for how dramatic it looks. You layer the pears on the bottom of the pan, spoon the cake mixture over the pears and carefully spread it out to the sides of the pan making sure not to disturb the pears in the process. Then you bake it, flip it, (do any final fixes if you need to) and you’re done. Take a walk on the wild side and try this one. Even though it may look intimidating, it really is easy and oh so delicious!

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

Pear Topping:

4 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup good maple syrup

Pears (3-4 large, 6-8 small)

1/2 – 3/4 cup walnut pieces (this will be your preference)

Cake:

1 1/4 cup flour, plus 1 Tbs. for high altitude

1 1/2-2 tsps. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup good maple syrup

2 extra large eggs, room temperature

DIRECTIONS:

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a seasoned ten inch cast iron skillet, melt the 4 Tbs. of butter. Spread the butter out to cover the skillet making sure to include the sides of the skillet. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup and whisk until dissolved. Remove from the heat and arrange the pears on top of the butter-sugar-syrup mixture. Sprinkle with walnuts and set aside.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In another bowl mix together the yogurt and vanilla. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add maple syrup and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients and the yogurt mixture, alternating between the two and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Do not over mix.

Carefully drop the batter by large spoonfuls all over the pears. Spread batter out to the edges of the pan being careful not to disturb the pears.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly. Cool the cake for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack.

Run a knife along the edges of the skillet. Carefully invert the cake on to a plate. (Be careful, the cast iron skillet will still be very hot). If any pears stick to the bottom of the pan, peel them off and place them back on top of the cake.

The Pears And Walnuts At The Bottom Of The Skillet

Pears And Walnuts Arranged At The Bottom Of The Skillet

Drop The Batter In Large Balls On Top Of The Pear Mixture

Batter Dropped In Large Clumps Over The Pear Mixture

Spread The Mixture Over The Pears

Batter Spread Over The Pear Mixture

Right Out Of The Oven

Right Out Of The Oven

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake

Fresh Pear Compote…

Last year my neighbor’s apple trees produced in abundance. This year it was the pear trees and so I eventually got a bushel of pears. Off I went in search of pear recipes I might adapt to my needs and tastes.

I’ve always been a big fan of warm fruit. There’s nothing better than a piece of hot apple or cherry pie with a big dollop of vanilla ice cream. This time, I was not in the mood to make a pie. I found a great recipe for making an upside down pear cake that I adapted and will post later. But what I really wanted to make was a pear compote.

Garden Pears

A compote is basically fruit cooked in water and spices. This particular compote is cooked in butter and lemon juice along with sugar and vanilla. Now doesn’t that sound good. So let’s talk fresh pear compote…

Lesson Learned 1 – All the tedious work is in the prep: To make this compote you need to peel and slice the pears. The pears I got from my neighbor were, on average, smaller than the ones you buy in the grocery store. So I had to spend more time peeling and slicing. Keep in mind that pears, like apples, will turn brown (oxidize) when peeled and exposed to air. To slow down that process until you’ve got everything prepped, just sprinkle a little lemon juice on the pears. That will prevent oxidation until you’re ready to cook them. Every time you slice another pear and drop it in the bowl use your hands to toss it in with the others so that some lemon juice gets on it. There’s no need to add additional lemon juice every time you add another sliced pear to the bowl, unless you’re doubling or tripling the recipe. You really need only a small amount of lemon juice, a tablespoon or so.

Also make sure you slice the pears thinly. They will cook more evenly and will mash thoroughly if you slice them thinly before you cook them.

Lesson Learned 2 – Don’t be afraid to add the ingredients to taste: My recipe requires very little sugar due to the sweetness of the fresh fruit  Most compote recipes I read called for less than one teaspoon of cinnamon. The beauty of this recipe is it’s very adaptable. Once you mix the ingredients, taste the pears before you cook them. If you feel you need to add more sugar or cinnamon, add it. I also love the taste of vanilla extract in the recipe but I found that a little vanilla goes a long way. But those are my tastes. Make this recipe work for you. Just remember to err on the safe side as you can always add more but you can’t take it away once you’ve added it.

Lesson Learned 3 – This compote can be served hot or cold: Although traditionally compote is designed to be served hot, this compote tastes divine hot or cold. I would make a bowl of hot oatmeal and put some chilled compote on top and it was an insanely delicious combination. You can serve this warm with a cheese platter, or put it on crusty bread. Anyway you choose to serve it, this recipe is a winner.

It’s amazing to me how simple this recipe is. After I made pear compote I used the same recipe to make apple compote and it was fabulous. I certainly hope that you try this one.

[recipe: title=”Fresh Pear Compote…” time=”45-50 Minutes” servings=”6-8″ difficulty=”Easy”]

INGREDIENTS:

6 large pears

1 medium sized lemon, juiced and zested (plus an additional tablespoon of juice to put on pears while slicing them)

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon (start with 1/2 and add more to taste)

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 tsp. cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:

Peel the pears and slice them thinly. (coat them with a little lemon juice to prevent oxidation before you’ve completed pealing all the pears). Once pealed, combine pears with all of the ingredients except the butter and cornstarch.

Melt the butter in a deep sauce pan. Add the pear mixture and cook for at least five minutes on medium high heat, or until the pears are tender and can be mashed.

Remove the pears from the heat. Mash them inside the same pot. After mashing them stir in the cornstarch. NOTE: Add the cornstarch a little at a time to avoid clumping.

Put the pears back on the stove and simmer covered for an additional 20 minutes. Serve warm or chilled.

[/recipe]

Pears

Fresh Pear Compote