The it’s-not-chocolate? upside-down pear cake (egg-free)

I was hooked when the creator of this cake said her boy thought the caramelised sugar was chocolate. Could I fool my entire extended family? Not quite, but they all agreed it looked like chocolate, and it was just as satisfying. An unexpected and almost perfect result.

This version of this cake contains no egg and has slightly less sugar. It took quite a few goes to get the perfect combination: the first had a strange after taste (too much bicarb/vinegar in lieu of egg), the second was a fantastic sweet dessert (pear puree + lots of sugar will do that), and the third was more cakey and good for morning tea. Both the second and third versions are in the recipe below.

Gooey with chocolatey-looking caramel: the upside-down pear cake

Gooey with chocolatey-looking caramel: the upside-down pear cake

The it's-not-chocolate? upside-down pear cake

  • Servings: 12 slices (it's quite rich)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


For the caramel and topping

  • 3-4 heaped tablespoons of muscavado sugar
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of butter, broken into small pieces
  • 3 small pears, peeled, cored & thinly sliced

For a sweet dessert cake

  • 1 cup of self-raising flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • 2-3 cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • ¼ packed cup of light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup of caster sugar
  • 1 large pear, finely mashed or pureed
  • 100g butter


  1. For the caramel: Sprinkle the muscavado sugar on the bottom of a well-greased cake tin, then distribute the butter evenly across it. Bake in a 180 degree C (350F) oven for about 10 minutes (it’s done when the butter and sugar have melted into a nice, gooey sludge). Take it out of the oven and arrange the slices of pear so they cover all of the now-hot caramel.

    Arrange the pear slices across the top of the melted sugar and butter

    Arrange the pear slices across the top of the melted sugar and butter

  2. For the spices in the cake: Grind the cloves in a mortar and pestle and scatter over the sliced pear. Then separately grind the coriander and salt to add to the cake mixture at the right time.
  3. For the cake: Melt the butter, then whisk in 4 rounded tablespoons of the mashed pear. Add the sugars and mix in well. Then add the vanilla, salt and ground coriander. Fold in the flour. Add some milk if you think the mixture is too dry (it should be smooth and easy to dollop into the tin when you are ready).
  4. Dollop the cake mix over the pear and caramel, and spread it out so it evenly covers all the pear. Level it out with a spoon (or whatever it is you are using to do the dolloping).
  5. Cook at 180 degrees C (350F) for 30 to 40 minutes, or until you can poke a skewer into the cake and it comes out clean.
  6. Take the cooked cake out of the oven and leave it to cool down for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Invert the cake onto a plate. It’s easier than you think: put a plate on top of the cooked cake, then flip the whole thing over so the cake tin is sitting on the plate. Gravity will do the rest for you, and the cake will slowly come away from the tin. (If the cake has stuck to the side of the caketin in the cooking, then just run a plastic knife around the inside of the tin first.)


Grinding spices: You can use bought ground spices if you don’t have any way of grinding them yourself. For cinnamon and nutmeg, I prefer the pre-ground version in cakes because I never can get the whole versions ground to a fine powder (and nutmeg is so hard, anyway). But it is worth grinding the coriander seeds and cloves if you can: it does make a difference to the cake.

How to mash or puree pear: The easiest thing for this cake is to just core and peel a pear and toss it in a small blender, You could also hand mash it with a fork. If the pear isn’t completely overripe, you might find it easier to mash if you soften the pear (peeled, cored and chopped) for a couple of minutes in a microwave oven first.

Not all pears are equal: Some are sweeter than others. Our best results have come from Beurré Bosc pears.

To make it cakier for a morning tea cake: To the existing recipe, add ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, an extra ¼ to ½ a cup of flour, and only ¼ cup of castor sugar.

Source: Shivay Delights’ original creation, Caramel Pear Upside Down Cake Flan, was the inspiration for all this. It did take a few tries to work out what best to use instead of the two eggs in her original (hint: there’s mashed pear in this one), but she’s given us another winner for the boy-who-won’t-eat-cake.

Gooey with chocolatey-looking caramel: the upside-down pear cake

Gooey with chocolatey-looking caramel: the upside-down pear cake


This fits well into this week’s WordPress Writing Challenge theme of Great Expectations. Here are some of the other writings that I thought were a good read:


6 thoughts on “The it’s-not-chocolate? upside-down pear cake (egg-free)

    • You’re right about that. It was an accident of fate: we had some left from another dish and I thought it might be interesting to see how it went. Really yummy, as it turns out.


    • I hadn’t thought of that. We just happened to have some ground coriander seed on hand (left over) and thought it might be worth a try. And it was! I love cardamom. A bit of that ground up and infused with the sugar/butter/pear could be interesting.


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