Recipe: Pear Gingerbread

updated May 1, 2019
Pear Gingerbread
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(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

I dreamed of this cake before I ever figured out how to make it. I could taste it and see it in my mind, and I was sure there must be a recipe out there somewhere. It was, after all, just gingerbread and pears.

For an entire fall, I made every pear gingerbread, pear-ginger upside-down cake, and classic gingerbread with pears. I’d never loved gingerbread before, and yet, I loved the idea of the cake I craved. And one by one, each recipe made a delicious gingerbread that just wasn’t mine. It seemed that my dream cake really didn’t exist, at least, not yet.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

I confessed my sad search to a friend, who promptly picked up the book laying on my kitchen table.

“And this isn’t it?” She waved the little paperback book in air. “Because Laurie Colwin’s got two gingerbreads, and they’re both perfect.”

I should have known the secret to my gingerbread was on my cookbook shelf all along. Laurie Colwin’s “Damp Gingerbread” was indeed the answer, and the key was to ditch the molasses in exchange for Golden Syrup. That recipe, which Laurie Colwin had found in another book I love, Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes, was light and velvety, spicy and sexy, and the top made a crust that tasted like crème brûlée. It provided the inspiration for this cake, which truly is my favorite gingerbread.

I’ve reduced the sweetness, upped the spice, and added a pinwheel of pears on the top. This is especially good with coffee on cloudy fall afternoons, and I always include it in our Thanksgiving dessert spread, too. This cake is great on day one, but even better on day two or three. Serve with whipped cream, crème fraîche, or just on its own.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Tester’s Notes

I’m so glad I happened to have a bottle of Lyle’s Golden Syrup in my pantry that was begging to be used up. This cake was not too sweet, but packed a nice hefty punch of spicy ginger. I made it in a 9 1/2-inch springform pan, and it turned out beautifully. Note that if you make it in a springform pan, check on the cake earlier than the time called for just in case it’s ready.

Christine, November 2015

Pear Gingerbread

Makes 1 (9-inch) cake

Serves 8

Nutritional Info


  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick/115 grams) unsalted butter, plus additional for the pan

  • 1/2 cup

    (120 milliliters) Lyle's Golden Syrup or honey

  • 1/2 cup

    (110 grams) packed light brown sugar

  • 2 cups

    (240 grams) all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 2 tablespoons

    ground ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cloves

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    grated nutmeg

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 cup

    (225 grams) plain whole-milk yogurt

  • 2

    Bosc pears, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square or equivalent pan.

  2. In a small saucepan, melt together the butter, syrup, and brown sugar over low heat. Gently stir to combine as the mixture melts. Set aside.

  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture and combine with a few strokes of a wooden spoon, taking care not to overmix.

  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and yogurt. Add the egg mixture to the batter, and gently combine. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

  5. Lay the pears on top of the batter in a pinwheel shape. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the cake, 30 to 35 minutes.

Recipe Notes

  • Store tightly wrapped at room temperature. This cake gets better on the second and even third day.

Reprinted with permission from The Homemade Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure by Alana Chernila, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

(Image credit: Jennifer May)

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