A celebration of autumn pears was the occasion for this recipe from Mary Ellen Rae of The Times Test Kitchen. Buy green cardamom pods, then remove and grind the seeds for the freshest cardamom flavor.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (from about 6 to 8 pods)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature, divided
3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
2 firm-ripe Anjou pears
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1. Heat the oven
to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-by-1 1/2-inch round cake pan.
2. Sift the flour
salt and baking powder together. Stir in the cardamom and set aside.
3. Melt one-fourth cup
in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sugar has melted and combined with the butter. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan, spreading it to reach the sides.
4. Peel the pears
cut in half and remove the core and stem. Cut each half crosswise into one-fourth-inch-thick slices. Arrange the pear slices in a slightly overlapping circle around the cake pan, starting at the outer rim. Finish with several slices in the center. Sprinkle the pears with the lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
5. Beat the remaining
one-half cup butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, beating after each addition just until combined.
6. Gently spoon
the cake batter on top of the pears, smoothing out to the edge of the pan and making sure the cake batter fills in around the pears.
7. Bake until
is a deep golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Place the cake on a rack to cool for 5 minutes in the pan.
8. Run a small
or knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a cake plate, leaving the pan on the cake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.