Maple Pear Upside Down Cake

Evan Sung for the New York Times

This is one of those desserts that looks fancier than it is (especially if you take a little time with the pear arranging), which I think is often what you want on Thanksgiving: something impressive that’s not going to kill you. It’s also great at room temperature, so you don’t need to stress about any last-minute timing.

Makes: 8 to 10 servings
Time: 90 minutes


  • 11 tablespoons butter

  • ¾ cup maple syrup

  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar

  • 3 to 4 pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 ½ cups flour

  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • ½ cup milk


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium heat; add maple syrup and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook for another 2 minutes; remove from heat and set aside. When mixture has cooled a bit, pour it into a 9-inch baking pan and arrange pear slices in an overlapping circle on top.

2. With a handheld or standing mixer, beat remaining 8 tablespoons butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one egg at a time, continuing to mix until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with milk; do not overmix. Carefully spread batter over pears, using a spatula to make sure it is evenly distributed. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and edges begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 45 to 50 minutes; a toothpick inserted into center should come out clean. Let cake cool for 5 minutes.

4. Run a knife around edge of pan; put a plate on top of cake and carefully flip it so plate is on bottom and pan is on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe published in The New York Times (Photo: Evan Sung)