2½ firm pears (preferably Bosc)
½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter
¾ cup light brown sugar
2½ cups All-Purpose Flour
1½ tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 tsp ground Ginger
½ tsp ground Cloves
¼ tsp salt
1 cup Molasses (preferably mild)*
1 cup boiling Water
1 stick (½ cup) Unsalted Butter, softened
½ cup Light Brown Sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
* There are three types of molasses: mild or barbados (also known as “first molasses”), dark (or “second molasses”), and blackstrap (sold as a health supplement and also used as an ingredient in cattle feed). The mild variety has the most sugar and is the grade most commonly used in baking. While not all mild varieties are listed as such, the fine print should indicate whether it’s what you’re looking for.
A well-seasoned 10-inch skilled or a 12-inch nonstick skilled, deep (handle wrapped with a double layer of foil if not ovenproof).
Peel and core pears and cut each into 8 wedges.
Melt ½ stick butter in skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Reduce heat to low, then sprinkle ¾ cup packed brown sugar over bottom of skillet and cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes (not all sugar will be melted). Arrange pears decoratively over sugar and cook, undisturbed, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Whisk together molasses and boiling water in a small bowl. Beat together butter, brown sugar, and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes, then alternately mix in flour mixture and molasses in 3 batches at low speed until smooth.
Pour batter over topping in skillet, spreading evenly and being careful not to disturb pears, and bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.
Cool cake in skillet on a rack 5 minutes. Run a think knife around edge of skillet, then invert a large plate with a lip over skillet and, using potholders to hold skillet and plate tightly together, invert cake onto plate. Replace any pears that stick to skillet. Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
A Final Thought
Though the recipe claims to serve 6, for once I’d raise that — to 8. Man-sized appetites notwithstanding, this is a big cake with big flavor. In other words, there’s plenty to go around. Happy fall.