Pear Spice Upside-Down Cake

by on December 19, 2015
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Pear Spice Upside-Down Cake: Vegan and Almost Fat-Free

I fell in love with the looks of a Pear and Almond Upside Down Cake that someone shared in one of the groups I belong to on Facebook. I loved the pattern the pears made on the top of the cake, so I decided to try to make my own version with a design somewhat in the shape of a Christmas tree…or the leaf design on a cup of soy latte. I was a little ambivalent about the look I wanted, and I was unaware that pears are not the most accommodating art medium–they tend to move around and shrink when baked. So while my cake didn’t look exactly how I’d dreamed, all in all, I was pretty happy with its appearance. Now as for the flavor…

Pear Spice Upside-Down Cake: Vegan and Almost Fat-Free

It was fantastic! Instead of using almonds, I decided to revamp one of my apple spice cakes to use pears. And I also ditched the refined sugar and used maple syrup instead (well, I had to supplement it with a little agave nectar because I ran out of syrup.) My husband, who doesn’t like pears, loved it. It’s incredibly moist and has just the right touch of spiciness. Pears are a little grittier than apples, so there’s a slight hint of crunch to the texture, but I think it adds something, makes it seem almost sugary.

Pear Spice Upside-Down Cake: Vegan and Almost Fat-Free

Between the two of us, we ate half the cake in one night, but we’re saving the rest for E, who gets home from college late tonight. So be careful: This fat-free, refined sugar-free, whole wheat cake may entice you to eat much more than you intended. Be sure to set aside a slice for someone you love.


Pear Spice Upside-Down Cake: Vegan and Almost Fat-Free

Pear Spice Upside-Down Cake

You will not believe that this richly spiced cake has no oil or nuts and is sweetened only with maple syrup. Since good maple syrup is expensive, feel free to replace part of it with agave nectar or your favorite liquid sweetener.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 167 kcal
Author Susan Voisin, FatFree Vegan Kitchen



  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves


  • 3 large pears I used Bosc
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • applesauce if necessary


  • 3/4 cup maple syrup or combination of agave and maple syrup divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round non-stick baking pan with parchment paper cut to fit.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and stir well. Set aside.
  3. Peel the pears. Cut one of them into thin slices about 1/4-inch thick (avoiding the core). Chop the other two into large chunks (again, no core).
  4. Arrange the sliced pear in the prepared pan in any design you wish. Don't worry about using all the slices--just as many as will fit or fit your idea of the design. Pour 1/4 cup of the maple syrup over the pears. Reserve the rest.
  5. Put the extra slices and the pear chunks into the blender with 2 tablespoons water. Blend, stopping if necessary to push down any stray pears, until it's about the consistency of applesauce.
  6. Measure out 1 2/3 cups of the pear sauce. Reserve any extra for another use (it's good on a fruit salad or in a smoothie). If there's not enough, add applesauce until you have 1 2/3 cups.
  7. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the 1 2/3 cups of pear sauce. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of maple syrup and the other liquid ingredients. Stir until combined but don't over-stir. Carefully spoon the batter over the pears so that you don't move them and change the design.
  8. Bake for 35-45 minutes, testing by inserting a toothpick in the middle. It's ready when the toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen any stuck on parts of the cake. Place a serving dish over it and invert. Tap lightly to dislodge the cake from the pan. Loosen all the edges of the parchment paper and then slowly peel it back, using a knife or your fingers to push back into place any pieces of pear that want to stick to it. If there is glaze left on the paper, scrape it off with a knife and smooth it onto the cake.
    Peeling back the parchment
  10. Allow to cool. Cut into 8 slices and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Note that the maple syrup is divided--1/4 cup is poured over the pears but the rest is mixed into the batter.

Nutrition Facts
Pear Spice Upside-Down Cake
Amount Per Serving
Calories 167
% Daily Value*
Sodium 312mg 13%
Total Carbohydrates 39g 13%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Sugars 19g
Protein 3g 6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Pear Spice Upside-Down Cake: Vegan and Almost Fat-Free

Happy holidays to you all!


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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Werner December 19, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Phenomenal photograph! Will definitely be trying this during the holidays. College homecoming is so exciting – all best to you and your family.


2 Patt K December 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Thanks, Susan! My birthday is tomorrow, so I’m going to make a birthday cake just for me. Yum!


3 Maria December 19, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Susan. this is gorgeous and spectacular! I really want to make it–as someone who used to have a pear tree with three different kinds of pears on it, I would say your choice of Bosc pears is an excellent on. They have a wonderful vanilla-type flavor that is perfect for something like this and are a little more dense than other varieties. I will make this with spelt flour. Woohoo!! And the photographs are mouthwateringly beautiful. Welcome home to E! (Nice of you two to save her some of the cake!) xoxo


4 Sheila December 19, 2015 at 2:32 pm

This is ‘just” the type recipe I’ve been looking for ! Can you give me any hints on making this gluten free ??? Otherwise I’ll have to serve it and not be able to have a bite myself :-(( Thank you !!


5 Maria December 19, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Sheila–try subbing the whole wheat flour with a 2 to 1 ratio of gluten free flour and starch. For instance, 1/2 cup of sorghum flour, 1/2 cup of millet flour and 1/2 cup of potato starch. A combination of quinoa flour and brown rice flour also works well with potato starch. I would also add a teaspoon and a half of baking powder along with the baking soda. I suppose you could also use a ready made gluten free flour mix, too. I just don’t have any experience with that. I make my own combinations and these are ones that work well. The potato starch seems to really give gluten free baked goods some heft and lift. Hope this helps. Happy Holidays!


6 Maria December 19, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Shella, here’s a link to my gluten free Sweet potato spice cake modeled after Susan’s applesauce bundt cake, to give you an idea of the proportions. There’s slightly more flour in this one because it’s going into a larger pan.


7 Sheila December 19, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Thank you so VERY much !! I’ll share the results with you.


8 Kathleen December 20, 2015 at 9:11 am

Our E is in college! I’ve been reading you so long and still think of her much younger! I feel a little teary and gratefull for what you have done here all these years.


9 Susan Voisin December 20, 2015 at 10:09 am

Thank you, Kathleen! I’m still a little surprised myself that she’s so grown up. It’s been a rough semester of transition for us all, and I’m so glad to have her back home for a while.


10 Usha December 20, 2015 at 9:29 am

Looks beautiful! Quick question: I have a lot of peaches (jarred). Think I could substitute peaches for the pears?
Have a wonderful holiday season!


11 Susan Voisin December 20, 2015 at 10:03 am

I’m sure peaches would taste good on the top (bottom) of the cake, but I don’t recommend using them in the batter and would suggest using applesauce instead. I do have a peach upside-down cake you can check out:


12 Usha December 20, 2015 at 10:11 am



13 laloofah December 20, 2015 at 10:42 am

What a beautiful, elegant looking cake (and gorgeous photos!) Pear season always arrive with perfect timing, since pears are reputed in studies to be especially beneficial to lung health and arrive just when upper respiratory infections are making the rounds.

Definitely going to be trying this cake, Bosc pears are on the shopping list for tomorrow!

How exciting that E will be home soon! Wishing you all delightful holidays together!


14 Claudia December 20, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Wow, I can hardly wait to get to the stores for some pears! I’m not sure anything can compare to your applesauce ginger cake, but I can hardly wait to find out!
Thank you so much for your wonderful recipes!


15 Susan Walter December 21, 2015 at 3:48 am

I made this yesterday and it turned out well. The spice and pear combo is good. The cake is rather squidgy, but not in a bad way. I made it in an 8″ square tin as all my round tins have removable bases and leak with this sort of cake. I used agave syrup.


16 Milda January 2, 2016 at 7:47 pm

I liked the taste and texture of the cake. However, I made a mistake of making this in the round form. So the maple syrup leaked before I thought of putting something underneath. So now the oven is damaged as I cannot scrub off the leaks. Would you have any ideas how to clean this sugary leaks off of the oven?


17 Poppy Booth January 22, 2016 at 5:02 am

Really hot water will dissolve anything with sugar 🙂


18 B. Frey December 21, 2015 at 9:13 am

Oh My, this will be my Christmas dinner dessert! It looks so beautiful and elegant., as well. I do have one question: I have some whole wheat pastry flour in the fridge, and it has been there for at least 2 years. Do you think it would still be OK to use?


19 JOEY COLTHART December 21, 2015 at 10:04 am

Hi Susan,
Thank you for all the lovely recipes you have sent during this past year.
The Pear Cake looks so easy & yummy, going to try in tomorrow.

Best wishes for the holiday season and a blessed 2016.
Kind regards.


20 Jill December 21, 2015 at 8:07 pm

Will this work in an 11 x 7 glass baking dish? I also have a 9 x 9 glass dish but I don’t have any round pans. The only ingredient I need to buy for this is pears (and maybe a pan!).

I love your plating and arty food.


21 Carolyn December 23, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Susan, saving this- love the pear wings!


22 Weisserose December 24, 2015 at 6:45 am

Looks so good! Thanks for your work. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Greetings from Germany,


23 Gena December 24, 2015 at 10:27 am

Gosh, I love upside down cakes. They’re just so simple to make, and easy to customize, and this festive version looks wonderful, Susan. Happy holidays! xo


24 Lamiaa Martel December 25, 2015 at 10:40 am

Wow I’m just loving it. Looking delicious and beautiful. Procedures are little long but easy and friendly. Definitely I would try it. Thank you so much for sharing such a delicious and nice recipe. 🙂


25 Christine (Run Plant Based) December 26, 2015 at 10:56 am

This is so beautiful and classy, can’t wait to try it. Thanks!


26 Theresa M December 27, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Thanks so much for this recipe!! I made it on Christmas! I was going for Christmas Tree-ish look but my boys thought it looked like a paleontologist dig and a dinosaur backbone. 😉 haha! Whatever works right? Regardless, it was AMAZINGLY good!!!!
Here’s the link to the pic of it:


27 kipp b December 28, 2015 at 2:40 am

Vegan question~

I own a donut shop and am thinking about offering a vegan donut from a vegan recipe.
I only have one fryer, and need to use the same oil for both regular and vegan donuts. Does that break a vegan rule?


28 Angela Curran January 17, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Hello Kipp B

It looks like no one else has replied, so here are my personal thoughts as a vegan for what it is worth! If I buy something labeled as a vegan donut, I would not expect it to be fried in the same oil from animal products. It would be more transparent to label the donuts in something like this way: “no animal-derived ingredients, but prepared in oil used for non vegan donuts” or something like that.

Good luck with your donut offering, and thanks for thinking about a vegan alternative!


29 Jackie December 29, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Hi Susan,
I just made the tofu mayo. I used firm because it was all I could get in Organic !
Thinned it down with water and it was fine…and yummy!
My question is what is the concern with the soy isolates ( correct wordage?!!)


30 Mae December 29, 2015 at 11:21 pm

Susan, This upside down pear cake was delicious! I made it during the Christmas holiday, and it lasted one day. My family could not believe it was fat free! I will definitely make this again. Thanks for this wonderful treat. M


31 Lee at Veggie Quest December 31, 2015 at 2:44 pm

That cake is gorgeous–I’m swooning over here! I could definitely eat the whole thing myself. 😉 I can’t wait to try a gluten-free version, although I’ll have to make it when hubby and I people over for dinner; I can’t be trusted alone in the house with something that looks that amazing! (I can resist anything but temptation, lol.)


32 Mikkel Magnuson January 5, 2016 at 5:29 am

Hello Susan! This is really awesome and looking delicious. I have never even think about this type of cake. This is completely new recipe for me. I will definitely go for this in the weekend. Big thanks to you for sharing this recipe.


33 Nicol January 11, 2016 at 7:13 am

These look so delicious !


34 Danielle January 25, 2016 at 2:21 pm

I made this two days ago, with the following changes: I folded 2 diced pears into the batter instead of blitzing two and slicing one… I made a mixture of water, soy milk, a little splash of applesauce, half a lemon’s worth of juice, a squirt of agave, vanilla and almond flavoring for the wet ingredients, I increased the flour measure by about 1/2 cup and the other dry/wet ingredients accordingly, I crumbled about 1/3 cup brown sugar into the dry ingredients, and baked it in a 9″ square pan.

It came out delicious! We both (husband and I) really enjoyed it. As you said, the pears are super sweet and seem quite sugary themselves. I probably could have gotten away with even a little less brown sugar, although I didn’t add much. It was just so delicious, and with pears so plentiful it’s the perfect time of the year to use them.

Since it was just a regular old Saturday and not a holiday, I ended up with a cake that was probably not as special (and definitely not as special looking!), but just as delicious in its own way.

Thanks, as always, for the inspiration! I really liked the flavorings you chose to add. Other than adding about 1/2 tsp of almond flavoring and not adding the cloves, I used your spice mixture. It complemented the pears without overpowering them.


35 Jessica January 27, 2016 at 6:20 am

Looks interesting, it seems to be low in calories. I think it is ideal for dessert. Great photos! 🙂


36 CarrieB February 1, 2016 at 6:28 pm

Hands down this is the best vegan dessert I’ve ever made (or eaten!). Thanks for another great recipe!


37 Donna February 2, 2016 at 6:35 pm

My husband and I agree… this cake is a wonderful treat! Spices are spot-on! Over-all taste is perfect! We ate 1 slice each but could have easily had seconds.


38 shwetakapur91 February 3, 2016 at 5:40 am

Who is looking fat free food, look this blog it looks fatty actually it is not. as well as it is delicious in taste. thanks for sharing.


39 Sue February 5, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Wow Susan! I’m impressed you had the will-power to eat only half the cake. What a terrific recipe!! 3 adults ate 7/8’s when it was still slight warm; I got the last little piece today. Everything about this is great. Only change I made was to omit the first 1/4C maple over the sliced pears and use 1/3C maple in the cake batter. My anjou pears were super-sweet. Thank you, thank you, thank you I don’t dare make it again too soon. 🙂


40 Malin Andersson March 21, 2016 at 6:20 am

I have tried this delicious cake and it was so delicious. I am a big fan of this cake I love it.


41 Laurina Roo June 8, 2016 at 4:18 am

I love this!! I’m so in to fat free baking (living the HCLF lifestyle) but still love my sweet treats! (Who doesn’t!!😉) I love pears and I love all those spices!! I can imagine the smell of your kitchen!! Mmmm


42 Darn Yell October 16, 2016 at 4:43 pm

Just WOW! I took it from the oven the other minute and just removed the parchment paper. The cake looks _e x a c t l y_ the same as on the picture!
It’s short before midnight here and the whole house is pervaded with the sweet smell of spices and warm pears. I think I’m gonna sleep very well… 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.


43 mary Tomlinson November 25, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Just pulled this out of the oven. Amazing!!! First, it looks just like the one on your web site and second it was Delicious. May add a few chopped walnuts next time. Love all your recipes. Your the best. Mary Lou


44 Gigi Carter December 31, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Delicious and easy! I made this with apples since my hubby doesn’t like pears. Also, I only had one good apple on hand (that I used on the top/bottom), I used apple sauce I had in the pantry for the 1 2/3 cup in the mixture. This recipe is definitely a keeper.


45 Dee-Dee January 1, 2017 at 3:11 pm

I made this last night for our New Year’s Day celebration. It was awesome! So flavorful and perfectly spiced! We warmed up our slices and served them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yummy! I will be making this every Christmas from now on!


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