To start with, it's gingerbread, the aroma alone of which is embedded in the definition of this holiday. That aroma, of course, is paired with an ultra-rich, moist cake that is at once dense, but also light. Then there is the sugar crisp caramelized sides of the cake, which only build to the tender, sweet lemony pear slices that crown the cake.
Pair this cake with a mug of hot cocoa, coffee or (to be totally indulgent) a frothy glass of eggnog.
LEMON PEAR UPSIDE-DOWN GINGERBREAD CAKE
Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes (40 minutes active)
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar, divided
3 large pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 tablespoon dry ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
In a skillet over low heat, combine the lemon juice and zest with the wine and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar. Add the pears and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the pears are just tender. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the raisins.
Heat the oven to 350 F. Spray a tube pan with baking spray. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar in the bottom of the pan. Arrange the pears, slightly overlapping, over the sugar.
In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, granulated sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl between additions. Add half the milk followed by half of the flour, mixing before adding the remaining half the milk and flour. Spoon into the prepared pan over the pears.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then place a large overturned plate or platter over the cake. Invert the cake so it is standing on the plate. If any of the pears stick to the pan, carefully remove them and return them to their place on the cake.
Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories; 90 calories from fat (30 per cent of total calories); 10 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 50 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 29 g sugar; 4 g protein; 105 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Alison Ladman is a recipe developer for the AP. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CrustAndCrumbCo