Sunday, December 9, 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen: Please Start Your Mixers

Today is Raj’s birthday, and that means only one thing around here: there will be cake. At one time that meant Mom’s Mystery Cake, which was about as simple as a homemade dessert could get and delicious when served with copious amounts of whipped cream. There are many more complicated variations of “fruit cocktail cake” out there but if yours looks more like a traditional cake with identifiable chunks of fruit in it you’re not doing it right. It should be more of an amalgamated pudding like creature.

mystery cake

Mom’s Mystery Cake


    1 (16 ounce) can fruit cocktail in heavy syrup

    1 egg

    1 cup sugar, white

    1 cup flour

    1 teaspoon baking soda

    1⁄2 teaspoon salt

    1⁄2 cup chopped nuts

    1⁄2 cup brown sugar


  1. Drain the fruit, beating the juice with the egg till creamy.
  2. Add the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
  3. Fold in the fruit.
  4. Pour into a greased 8 x 8 inch pan. Top with nuts and brown sugar.
  5. Bake for 35 minute at 350.

But I ran across a recipe for an Upside Down Pear Gingerbread cake one year and thought that might be a nice change up since Raj is a big fan of both gingersnaps and pineapple upside down cake. We’ve never looked back. It’s a prelude to the sweet, spicy tastes of Christmas and perfect for an early December birthday. Delectable on its own, it has the added advantage of being even more so when served with those copious amounts of whipped cream. Needless to say we shouldn’t be eating this, but…birthday!

I’d never make it as a millennial as my snapchat food photography skills are sadly lacking. I know I should have dabbed this with a bit of melted apple or apricot glaze before its photo-shoot and placed it on a contrasting color background under a pinpoint light, but the truth is I came to bury Caesar not praise him, so to speak.

jo's upside down pear gingerbread.2jpgI haven’t even begun this year’s cake, this is from a year or so ago.

I’ve discovered any firm pear will work but Boscs seem to make the prettiest whirligigs.  

Pear Upside Down  Gingerbread Cake



3 tbs butter 1/3 c firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 ripe, firm Bosc pears



1 ¼ c flour

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground cloves

1 large egg

½ c firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/3 c unsulphured molasses (Behr Rabbit dark, preferably, but Grandma’s seems more available)

½ c. milk mixed with 1 tbs white vinegar

4 tbs butter melted




Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides of a 9 inch round cake pan


For topping: melt 3 tbs butter in a small pan, add brown sugar and stir together until blended. Scrape into cake pan and spread evenly.


Peel pears and core. Slice each pear into slices. Arrange slices evenly around the cake pan to resemble a whirligig.


For cake: Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a large bowl. Set aside. Beat egg, brown sugar, molasses, sour milk, 4 tbs melted butter together. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth.


Spoon batter over pears carefully without disturbing the pattern. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes; place a large plate over the pan and invert onto plate. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream – although I highly recommend warm. Individual slices can be warmed in a microwave for 10-15 seconds.

When I was growing up the 8th of December was a holy day (feast of the Immaculate Conception, probably the most misunderstood of all the Catholic holy days) as well as the unofficial kickoff of the Christmas cookie making. As we all had the day off from school my mom needed some way to keep us occupied as there was generally not any snow to go play in yet, so we did assembly line cookie making. Today is close enough: I hereby declare December 9th the official kickoff of this year’s national Christmas baking season.

Baking homemade Christmas cookies

In the event your diet or energy level prohibits the real deal, please do so vicariously and post pictures of your virtual creations. And with that, ladies and gentlemen: please start your mixers!

jamie oliver giant kitchen aid