All it took for me to stop blogging was the beginning of the fall yoga session and getting the outside of the house painted and repaired while the sunshine lasted. September was noisy, messy, and complicated by schedules that hinged on class times and when someone could be home for the painter and carpenter. Oddly, out of all that, I found my own comfort dessert: an upside-up torte to match your upside-down cake.
Just after Thanksgiving weekend, Kevan, the painter, brought a bag of prune plums from his place on Gabriola Island. I love prune plums, and think of them as one of the consolations of fall. I used to make plum crisps, and I still keep a bottle of Slivovitz, Polish plum brandy, in the liquor cabinet, to macerate the fruit with, just in case. But I’m off crisps at the moment. Just between us, they bore me.
So I went looking for a prune plum dessert, and found a very simple torte, which, like your upside-down cake, is infinitely variable.Once I followed an online suggestion and added more plums, inserted sideways instead of place face down. It came close to doubling the number of plums, and reversed the ratio of fruit to batter. Excellent!
Next I made it with some grapes from a friend’s vines, a little sour for eating, but surprisingly good in a torte. And then last Saturday we made the pear and ginger version: four Bartlett pears, sliced thin, the slices inserted vertically into the batter, the top scattered with a generous amount of thinly sliced candied ginger.
It’s the perfect homey dessert recipe: based on fruit, quick and easy, and so simple you can put it together from memory. It can adapt to any season: a peach or berry torte in the summer, a pink grapefruit torte, or even a banana torte in the depths of winter. For bonus points, it freezes well. If you happen to have a glut of fruit, you could make two or three, and bring them out later in the fall.
I so understand baking as a psychic anchor. My Mom baked all the time – odd that your Mom didn’t. There’s something sunny and uplifting about flour, sugar, butter and eggs. You get to create an edible, often beautiful, treat. It has a moment of glory, and then it’s eaten and disappears: joy to minimalists everywhere.
I found this recipe, originally from Marian Burros’s Elegant But Easy cookbook, on Epicurious. It’s worth looking at the link for the story of the recipe, and for the helpful reader comments. I’m reprinting the recipe here for the pear and ginger topping, and to correct what may be a typo in the original. It calls for an ungreased pan. That’s not a good idea. Grease it.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- Pinch salt
- 4 medium-sized ripe pears, sliced thin
- 2 to 4 tablespoons candied ginger, sliced thin
- Whipping cream or ice cream, optional
- Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In an electric mixer, cream the sugar and butter. Add the flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt and beat to mix well.
- Place in a 9-inch greased springform pan. Cover the top with the pear slices, arranged vertically, pushing them down into the batter. Scatter the candied ginger over the pears.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the center tests done with a toothpick. Remove and cool to room temperature or serve warm.
- Serve plain or with whipped or ice cream.