Pear-almond upside-down cake

Cake

3/4 cup (3 oz) blanched almonds

1 cup granulated sugar, divided

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 large eggs

1/4 cup orange juice

Pears

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2-3 medium pears (Anjou work well)

Pear-almond upside-down cake

Serves eight.

Heat the oven to 350° F.

Spread the almonds out in a small sheet pan and toast in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until fragrant and light golden brown. Let cool. Grind the almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor until they resemble coarse flour (don’t go too far, or you’ll end up with almond butter). Combine the almonds with the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

Using a hand or stand mixer on medium, beat the butter until it’s smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar until the mixture is thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure the first is incorporated before adding the second. Turn the mixer to low and beat in the flour mixture and orange juice just until combined.

Put a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet (the bottom should be 9 inches across) over medium heat.

While the pan is heating, peel and core the pears, and cut them into 1/4-inch slices.

Melt the butter in the pan. Add the brown sugar and stir to dissolve it. Cook until bubbly, about 2 minutes.

Add the pear slices in a single layer and cook until both sides of the pears are lightly browned, 1-2 minutes per side (be careful syrup does not become too dark). Remove skillet from heat; let cool 3 minutes.

Arrange the pears in a pleasing pattern. Pour the batter carefully over the pears, spreading to cover them.

Bake in 350°F oven 25 to 35 minutes or until skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven. Let cool in skillet 10 minutes and invert onto cake plate.

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