Cardamom-Pear Upside-Down Cake


The earthy fragrance of cardamom to me is what the scent of macaroni & cheese is to most Americans. It is entwined in my childhood memories of my dad sipping on piping hot Turkish coffee, gingerly holding the miniscule glass cup between his thumb and index finger and making loud slurping sound, followed by a content sigh. Along with ginger, cardamom is a dominant spice in Hawayej; a yemenite mixture of strong flavors used to season coffee and sometimes, tea. Coming home from school on rainy and chilly days, my mom would make us coffee with Hawayej (yes, I was raised on drinking coffee, not milk…). The spices would expand our airways with heat while our stomach would expand and relax with their warmth. Somehow, I always associated cardamom with Middle Eastern cuisine and considered it uniquely mine.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that not only eastern cuisines, such as India, exalted cardamom, but even Scandinavian cuisine! Minnesota opened the door to taste Lefse, Krumkake and ginger snaps (I stay away from Lutefisk!). When I bit into that first Swedish Christmas cookie, my eyes welled up at the instant (and unexpected) familiarity of that beloved cardamom flavor!


So, then I seek to marry flavors that reside in my memory with new discoveries, like upside-down cake. There’s something about that AHA! moment of “the big reveal”, when that cake is flipped over, that caramelized fruit is exposed and the scent of sugar and spice fills my kitchen. I feel like a magician in the kitchen! This cake is simple enough to put together and the result is just right for a dinner party or your holiday table, especially the fall holidays!

And yes, I will share the magic trick secret with you! Just follow the recipe below and you too will create a show piece, fitting for Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving and more! Now, if that sounds a bit intimidating, I will be teaching this recipe along with a few others centered on cardamom at the Norway House in Minneapolis this November and December, run by Ingerbretsen’s. (For details, look under the Classes tab)

Happy baking and Shanah Tovah!