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Warm Upside-Down Pear Cake With Tangerine Custard Sauce

If you were dining at the home of an aspiring Los Angeles hostess in 1930, you might have been served smoked salmon appetizers (strips of salmon rolled "around a midget sweet pickle in the form of a calla lily"), followed ... Read more

Total Time: 2 hours plus 2 hours chilling | Serves 8 to 10

Tangerine custard sauce

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • Grated zest of 2 tangerines
  • 1 teaspoon tangerine juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Step 1Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together in a bowl.

Step 2In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the half-and-half and zest just to a simmer; do not boil. Gradually whisk half the hot mixture into the yolk mixture. Return to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens and coats a spoon, about 5 minutes. Do not boil. Strain the custard into a clean bowl. Whisk in the tangerine juice and vanilla. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 large Bartlett or Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices

Step 1Butter a 9-inch round cake pan.

Step 2Stir the sugar and water in a nonstick skillet over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and simmer, without stirring, until the color is a deep amber, about 10 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally and brushing down the sides with a wet pastry brush. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan, tilting to coat the bottom. Overlap the pears in concentric circles on top of the caramel.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated tangerine zest
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons Cognac
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Step 1Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.

Step 3In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs and zest and beat until light and fluffy.

Step 4Combine the milk, cream and Cognac in a small bowl. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter mixture in thirds, stirring to blend after each addition. Stir in the nuts. Pour the batter over the pears.

Step 5Bake until the cake is golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, place a platter over the cake, and invert. Let rest for 1 minute, then remove the pan. Serve the cake warm, with the cold Tangerine Custard Sauce on the side.

Note: From "San Francisco Flavors," published by the Junior League of San Francisco in 1999. If tangerines are not available, substitute orange zest and juice.
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