Moist, full of spices and the sweetness of maple syrup, this pear upside-down cake is too delicious to be fat-free and vegan—but it is!
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…
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.
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 upside-down cake may entice you to eat much more than you intended. Be sure to set aside a slice for someone you love.
More Vegan Holiday Desserts
For more sweet treats, be sure to check out 12 of my favorite holiday dessert recipes, including cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, and more.
Pear Spice Upside-Down Cake
- 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
- Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round non-stick baking pan with parchment paper cut to fit.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and stir well. Set aside.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes, testing by inserting a toothpick in the middle. It's ready when the toothpick comes out clean.
- 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.
- Allow to cool. Cut into 8 slices and enjoy!
Nutritional info is approximate.
Happy holidays to you all!
SandiDecember 15, 2017 at 10:32 pm
Hi Susan, just wanted to say that I am enjoying your recipes especially the pumpkin spiced bread. Made it 3 times now and gave the recipe to my daughter who has a little girl with allergies. Thanks for all your sharing. And I will be making the pear cake over Christmas. Sandi.
ColleenDecember 30, 2018 at 10:58 am
This might be my new favorite cake! I made it as a last-minute dessert last night, and we finished it for breakfast this morning. It’s not too sweet, and it was totally forgiving of me not having as much maple syrup as I thought I had. (I dissolved some brown sugar in water to make up the difference, and it was totally fine.) The spiciness is really nice and perfect for winter, and the slight crunch of the pears adds a pleasant bit of texture. It’s wonderfully moist, with a deliciously sticky top. It turns out pears shrink a LOT when cooked, so I may pack more on the bottom/top next time, I’ve made many of your recipes over the years, Susan (although I only made the complete switch to vegan a few months ago), and I haven’t been disappointed yet. This is another excellent recipe, thank you!
Susan VoisinDecember 30, 2018 at 7:41 pm
Thank you for such a detailed review! I’m so happy you liked it!
RylandNovember 27, 2019 at 2:16 pm
Cake turned out phenomenal! Doesn’t take very long, whole-foods based, and spiced perfectly! Very pleased
Susan VoisinNovember 27, 2019 at 3:47 pm
I’m so glad you liked it!
EllisDecember 27, 2019 at 11:52 pm
This turned out very well. I used spelt flour because I didn’t have whole wheat and arrowroot for the cornstarch. I also used an 8 inch cake pan because I don’t have a 9 inch. I also used a light maple syrup because I think that the darker maple syrup tends to overpower baked goods. I was surprised that the cake rose so high, and that it didn’t collapse once I took it out of the oven! In fact, it pulled away nicely from the pan as it cooled. And best of all, the cake isn’t dry or gummy as other vegan baked goods can be. Perfect!
JoanFebruary 14, 2020 at 9:47 pm
This looks great! Wondering if cut up dates could bd used to bd able to decrease the maple syrup? I don’t like to use that much syrup.
JeananneMarch 24, 2020 at 2:54 pm
I found this recipe awhile ago & finally made it today. Delicious.
I’ve shared the love on FB on my page and in a couple groups. <3
NuwanMay 28, 2020 at 1:28 am
I made it and cake came out nice. But i did a blunder using more cloves because i didn’t have nutmeg and its too spicy..cake is good if i haven’t done the blunder
Thanks very much
LauraJune 24, 2020 at 10:35 pm
Can you use AP flour??
Susan VoisinJune 24, 2020 at 11:15 pm
Yes, but you may need just a little less liquid.
AKOctober 14, 2020 at 11:39 pm
I have switched to low fat no added oil vegan diet and have had trouble finding good dessert recipes besides blended frozen banana and cacao powder :). This was really good and loved the idea of blending the pear to use as the “oil” Thank you!
SarahNovember 8, 2020 at 10:07 pm
SOOOOO good! Hubby loved it, I added crushed walnuts (lot of them haha). Thank you! Will be taking this to parties!
KimJanuary 6, 2021 at 6:39 pm
perfection, Susan! I loved it!
Ann SchuttFebruary 28, 2021 at 5:57 am
Delicious! I was distracted and forgot to include the lemon juice and vanilla. So it will be even more delicious next time! This is definitely a dessert/coffee cake to share with guests.
BetsyJuly 8, 2021 at 2:44 pm
Oooo love it!
What is the fat content per serving?
Susan VoisinJuly 8, 2021 at 6:11 pm
Less than a half gram of fat per serving.
Paula HeitmanAugust 14, 2021 at 2:02 pm
We love this cake especially the no oil option, I have a friend visiting that can’t have potassium – could I switch out the pears for apples?????
Susan VoisinAugust 14, 2021 at 5:01 pm
Yes, apple is a great substitute. Enjoy!
ElaineMarch 23, 2022 at 1:00 pm
I made this with mangoes!! Left out some of the spices. So good. Thank you Susan.
H.S.July 31, 2022 at 8:57 pm
Just made this recipe… I was a little anxious because I had to make a few substitutions (omitted nutmeg and cloves as I don’t have any, and also had to use plums for instead of apples or pears for purée as I realized last minute I didn’t have many pears. All this to say that the recipe is very versatile and takes well to changes. This definitely goes into my holiday menu rotation. Thank you for creating excellent healthy recipes.