blackberry-pear upside down cake

blackberry pear upside down cake on
blackberry pear upside down cake on
blackberry pear upside down cake on

Hello friends,

I’m going to keep it short and sweet this week. I was hoping inspiration would hit and I’d be able to send you all a positive message of unity and hope before Thanksgiving. But today, I got nothin’.

It’s been pretty dark in this corner of the world for the past two weeks. The weather, shorter days and post-election mood have conspired to leave me feeling more than a little bit upside down.

So today, upside down cake it is. 

blackberry pear upside down cake on
blackberry pear upside down cake on

I have faith that, as with so many things that seem undeniably bad at the outset, some good will come of our current political situation. Hopefully, the results of this election will spark a demand for greater equality and inclusion in this country and beyond. Yossy from Apt. 2B Baking Co. has put together a fantastic list of some things we can all do to turn our anger and frustration into action. So get to it.

In the meantime, cheer yourself up with a slice of cake.

blackberry pear upside down cake on
blackberry pear upside down cake on
blackberry pear upside down cake on
blackberry pear upside down cake on
blackberry pear upside down cake on

Blackberry-Pear Upside Down Cake

  • 1 ½ cups (10 ½ oz.) superfine sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ cup (7 oz.) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
  • 3 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 scant cup (4 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 ¼ cups (7 oz.) hazelnut flour (or almond flour)
  • 2 firm-ripe pears
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 3 tablespoons apple jelly

Rum Whipped Cream

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream

  • 1 ½ tablespoons superfine sugar

  • 1 ½ tablespoons dark rum

*Notes: I used Bob's Red Mill hazelnut flour for this recipe and I love how it turned out. (I have no connection to Bob's Red Mill, BTW. Just love this hazelnut flour!) Store-bought nut flour works best in this recipe because its finer grind gives the cake a lighter texture. If you're in Seattle, Dilaurenti carries an amazing (but pricy) Italian hazelnut flour that would be perfect in this cake. Another great alternative is Trader Joe's almond meal since it's quite finely ground. 

- You can also make your own hazelnut (or almond) flour by placing toasted and cooled nuts in the bowl of a food processor or blender and processing until they form a fine meal. You will be able to get a finer meal in the blender. Adding a tablespoon or two of sugar will help keep the nuts from turning to nut butter. If you go this route, your cake will be a bit more crumbly than if you use store-bought nut flour.

- I call for superfine sugar because it makes for an easier caramel and yields a finer textured cake. If you can't find it (or don't want to buy a box just for this recipe), you can make your own following the directions here

- If you use frozen blackberries, don't thaw them before baking. Raspberries or boysenberries would also be great in this cake.

blackberry pear upside down cake on

Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan with 2 1/2-inch sides. Line the bottom of the pan  with a round of parchment paper and lightly butter the parchment.

To make the caramel, bring ½ cup (3 ½ oz.) of the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, do not stir or your caramel could seize up on you. Boil, swirling the pan occasionally, until the caramel turns pale amber. Remove the caramel from the heat and add the butter. Swirl the pan until the butter melts into the caramel. Carefully but quickly pour the caramel into the cake pan, tilting it to coat evenly. Whatever you do, do not grab your pan by the bottom as it will be very hot! Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the remaining 1 cup (7 oz.) sugar until just combined. (You can also use a hand mixer or even do this by hand if your butter is soft enough.) Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the zest. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and work until just combined. Set aside.

Peel and core the pears and slice them about ¼-inch thick. Fan the pear slices over the caramel, leaving a bit of room for the berries to show through. If you need to, save some slices back to leave space. Pour the blackberries over the pears. Arrange any remaining pear slices over the berries and pears.

Gently spread the batter evenly over the fruit. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Remove the parchment  paper if it sticks to the top of the cake.

Just before serving, heat the jelly and  water in a small saucepan over medium-low until melted. Brush the top of cake with the apple glaze. Whip the heavy cream, sugar and rum together by hand or using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature accompanied by the whipped cream.

Makes 6-8 servings.

cardamom-roasted plum sundaes

cardamom-roasted plum sundaes //
cardamom-roasted plum sundaes //

We had  a dinner party last week to celebrate my friend Sanda being in town with her family. For those of you who don’t know her, Sanda is a talented photographer and a fantastic cook. Oh, and she happens to be the voice behind the beautiful food and lifestyle blog Little Upside Down Cake. No pressure.

I invited several Seattle friends to join us, including other accomplished cooks and food aficionados, and set about crafting my menu. 

cardamom-roasted plum sundaes //

I knew that there were several food allergies and restrictions to take into consideration. It was only when I tallied them up that I began to doubt the genius of my plan. Between the 10 of us, there were half a dozen major dietary restrictions.

Full disclosure: I am an inveterate omnivore. There is nothing I don’t or won’t eat. (Well, tripe and I have some issues, but that’s another story…) I know there are LOTS of people who don’t or can’t eat various foods these days. But somehow I don’t really have any of them in the circle of friends I cook for often. And so I’ve been sailing along cooking and eating whatever I please and not thinking twice about anyone’s special dietary needs.

Until last week. 

cardamom-roasted plum sundaes //

I’m a little embarrassed to say that working out a menu without wheat or dairy or corn or oats or pork or alcohol that was at least kid-friendly-ish was more of a challenge than I expected. Perhaps no one knows this better than Beau, who had to listen to me whine and moan about it for at least a week beforehand. (Have I mentioned what a good husband I have?)

I was jolted awake late one night by thoughts of dinner party disaster and proceeded to spend the next several hours “brainstorming”. Beau found me at 6 the next morning, huddled under a pile of cookbooks on the couch muttering vaguely about gluten-free desserts and how to put together an appetizer course without charcuterie. He pried the cookbooks from my hands and ushered me back to bed. 

cardamom-roasted plum sundaes //
cardamom-roasted plum sundaes //

Eventually, I decided I was being ridiculous (even by my own weird and obsessive standards) and that I needed to stop freaking out and just do my best and hope the dinner would go over well. 

I think it went over just fine. I ended up making dishes from all over the Mediterranean--lamb with pistachio-mint pesto, roasted beets on white bean hummus with fresh herbs, heirloom tomatoes with a currant-pine nut vinaigrette. And for dessert, I decided to keep it as simple as possible and came up with these Cardamom-Roasted Plums. 
I halved ripe plums from the farmers market and tossed them with brown sugar and a little fresh orange juice to highlight their sweet and sour character. Then I added a cinnamon stick and some ground cardamom because plums + cardamom = deliciousness. I finished with a drizzle of olive oil to ensure a silky texture and roasted the plums in a hot oven until they released their juices and made a gorgeous jewel-toned sauce. I spooned the warm plums and sauce over vanilla ice cream for the dairy lovers and this really delicious frozen cashew cream for those not so into dairy. 

They were my favorite part of the meal. 

Besides the company, of course. And the reminder that challenges often yield the sweetest rewards.

cardamom-roasted plum sundaes //

Cardamom-Roasted Plum Sundaes

  • 1 ½ lbs plums, halved (or quartered if large) and pits removed
  • Juice of one large orange
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar (loosely packed)
  • Pinch kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Vanilla ice cream, to serve

*Notes: You can use any kind of plums or pluots you like. Feel free to mix for variety of texture and flavor.

- Don't stop at ice cream. Roasted plums are delicious on yogurt, fresh ricotta, oatmeal, rice pudding... And if you add a bit less sugar, I bet they'd be quite nice on roast pork or duck, too.

cardamom-roasted plum sundaes //

Preheat the oven to 450° F. 

Place plums cut-side-up on a parchment-lined rimmed sheet pan. Pour the orange juice and water over the plums. Sprinkle the brown sugar, cardamom and salt over the plums. Nestle the cinnamon stick down among the plums and drizzle the olive oil over the top.

Roast in the preheated oven until the plums are soft (you want some to be falling apart) and their juices have thickened slightly, 15-25 minutes. The time will vary depending on the size and ripeness of your plums.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

To assemble the sundaes, scoop the vanilla ice cream into bowls or cups. Top with warm plums and sauce and serve immediately.

Makes enough plums for 8 sundaes.

cardamom-roasted plum sundaes //

bourbon-peach fizz

bourbon-peach fizz //

I don’t know what’s happening where you live, but in Seattle fall is in the wind. As we round the corner into September, summer has pretty much decided to call it quits. 

Amazingly, I don’t mind at all. We’ve had the summer-of-all-summers here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m talking a glorious, sun-filled, resplendent season fit for picnics and sunbathing and plunging into the surf. 

Also, the hardcore-nerd piece of my brain is permanently programmed to love back-to-school season. A chill in the air will forever trigger dreams of pristine notebooks and the smell of freshly-sharpened pencils and hours spent hiding away in the library. 

bourbon-peach fizz //

There’s one thing I’m sad to be saying goodbye to though: the unbelievable peaches we’ve had all summer. I’ve never in my whole life tasted peaches as good as these. They are the platonic ideal of a peach: downy-skinned, juicy, heavy in the hand and with the lingering smell of peach blossoms still about them. Perfection.

These, I will miss.

So in these last days of the season, as the afternoon shadows get longer and we transition to sweaters and boots and bags heavy with books, I’m going to hold onto a little piece of summer with this peachy bourbon fizz. 

bourbon-peach fizz //

The classic combination of bourbon and peaches is jazzed up with a subtle cardamom syrup and brightened with fresh mint and a little lemon. The soda keeps it light. It’s my perfect summer-into-fall cocktail.

Mix one up this weekend and let me know what you think in the comments!

Happy almost-Friday!


bourbon-peach fizz //

Bourbon-Peach Fizz

  • ¼ ripe peach, thinly sliced, plus additional to garnish
  • 4 teaspoons cardamom simple syrup (recipe below)
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 dash bitters
  • ½ cup chilled soda water, or to taste
  • 1 sprig fresh mint

*Note: This drink is pretty light. If you're in the mood for a boozier cocktail, add a splash more bourbon. 

In a heavy pint glass, muddle the peach slices. Add the simple syrup, lemon juice, bourbon, bitters and ¼ cup of the soda water. Stir for 10-15 seconds then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with the remaining ¼ cup soda water (or more, if desired). Garnish with a peach slices or two and the mint sprig.

Makes 1 drink.

bourbon-peach fizz //

Cardamom Simple Syrup (double-strength)

  • 3 green cardamom pods

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup water

Place the cardamom in a mortar and pestle and pound just to break the pods open and crush the seeds a little. Transfer the seeds to a small saucepan. Add the sugar and water and bring to the boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. When the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is clear, turn off the heat. Cool to room temperature then strain.

Since this simple syrup is double-strength, it will keep for up to 6 months covered and stored in the fridge.

Makes 1 cup.

bourbon-peach fizz //