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Friday, November 25, 2011

Another Opening, Another Show

The day has finally come.  "Inspecting Carol" opens tonight, after a complicated (to put it nicely) rehearsal process.  We had our first audience on Wednesday night for a preview, and they had a great time.  On Thanksgiving morning, we had our last rehearsal, which went well.

Fingers crossed (and wood knocked) for a great opening tonight. 

The only good thing about rehearsing first thing on Thanksgiving morning was that the cast and crew had the rest of the day to enjoy the holiday.  Among the other things I was thankful for yesterday was the fact that I didn't have to clean my house and host Thanksgiving.

Our friends Warren and Diane invited us over, and all we had to do was bring a vegetable, a salad and a non-pumpkin dessert.  Piece of cake (literally).

In my humble opinion, the problem with many Thanksgiving desserts is that they're just so sweet.  This cake has a light sweetness with a hearty crunch from the polenta, and is just as suited to breakfast as dessert.  I've adapted the original Bon Appetit recipe to provide more of the wonderful amber-colored caramel topping and a retro garnish of maraschino cherries.

Pear Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, November 2011

9.5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. coarse polenta
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 lb. ripe medium pears, cored and cut into 1/8" slices lengthwise
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup whole milk
3 good-quality maraschino cherries or 3 whole cranberries

Whipped cream for the garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter an 8-inch round cake pan.  Add a parchment round to the bottom of the pan and butter that as well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, salt and baking powder.

Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar and 4 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  Once it does, increase heat to medium-high and boil the sugar syrup.  Brush down the sides of the pan occasionally with a wet pastry brush and swirl the sugar syrup, but do not stir it.  The syrup will be done when it reaches a dark golden color;  at that time, remove it from the heat.

Add one and a half tablespoons of the butter to the sugar syrup and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Pour the caramel immediately into the prepared cake pan and swirl to coat the bottom of it.

Take the pear slices and arrange them in a fan shape over the caramel in the bottom of the pan, overlapping to fit them all in.  You may have some left over.  In the center of the pan, place either the maraschino cherries or cranberries.

This didn't look quite as perfect as I had hoped (and nowhere near like the magazine's), but that's nothing to get stressed over.
Using a hand mixer, mix the remaining sugar, butter and the vanilla in a medium bowl on medium speed until the butter is pale yellow and fluffy.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating between each addition.

You will then add the flour-polenta mixture in three installments, alternating with half the milk, beginning and ending with the flour.

Using fresh beaters and a fresh bowl, beat the egg whites with the hand mixer on medium speed until they reach the soft peak stage.

Fold a quarter of the egg whites into the rest of the batter until combined;  then add the rest of the whites and fold to combine again.

Pour the batter over the pears in the cake pan and smooth with a spatula to level.  Bake for thirty minutes and then rotate the pan, then bake for another thirty minutes or until a cake tester in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cake pan on a wire rack for thirty minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen the cake, then invert the cake on the serving dish and remove the parchment.  Serve with a garnish of lightly sweetened whipped cream if desired.


Serves 10 to 12 people.

*The original recipe calls for peeling the pears;  I like the color contrast of the peel and skipped this step.


  1. I have not had the pleasure of using polenta yet, but this pear tart looks delicious. I'd love to try this and taste it for myself. You did an excellent job!

  2. I've had pineapple upside down, but not pear. I never enjoy pears as they are never ripe - but maybe I need to bake them. Thanks for the post.

  3. That's just gorgeous! Nice to see non-pumpkin treats around. Break a leg!

  4. Wow! What a stunning dessert! I'm cheering for you today! I'm sure you'll knock 'em dead! Best of luck and let us know how it goes!

  5. Very simple way of sharing this recipe and I sure want to make one since its so lovely to look. Hope everything will go on well and best of luck.

  6. Best wishes to you and the play!! I'm sure it will be fantastic. :) This cake is a real looker... I love the addition of polenta into the batter. Very interesting!

  7. Wow, that's a gorgeous looking cake - I just love the pear slices peeking through! :)

  8. That is one delicious looking cake! Love the ingredients in the recipe, well done! I'm off to look in my kitchen now, you've made me hungry lol Enjoy the rest of your weekend =]

  9. Hope everything went well on opening night! This cake looks delicious!

  10. That's a great looking upside-down cake, it reminded me of the cake my mom used to bake often, using pineapples. Great post! Wishing you all the best on opening night!

  11. Beautiful, tasty dessert! Love what you did here, delicious sounding recipe for sure!!!

  12. We love upside down cake..never tried with pears though. It looks really inviting!

  13. What a beautiful dessert. A nice change of pace from all of the pumpkiny [is pumpkiny a word? lol] desserts out there. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I hope your show went well! This cake looks so beautiful and so yummy!

  15. I've heard of pineapple upside down cake, but never pear! This sounds a LOT tastier; I hate pineapple!

  16. Oh my goodness I want this now!!!