Honeysuckle. Red dirt swirling through the wind. My grandmother's perfume. Few smells bring instant nostalgia like these do. One whiff and I'm instantly transported back to my childhood in Oklahoma. Without even trying, and just for a moment, I feel like a pig-tailed little girl leaning my head out the window of my Pappo's truck on the way to his farm. I'm suddenly back in the living room of the house my Pappo built, playing with my mom's old Barbies and beating my Mammo at hand after hand of Old Maid. (It took her years to figure out that having a lamp behind her meant I could see through her cards.)
About ten minutes into baking, I decided to add these cakelets to my list of nostalgic smells. I didn't grow up in a house where we baked fresh gingerbread every year to make a gingerbread house from scratch, but I did grow up with a mom who is one heck of a good cook. The house was always filled with delicious aromas. The smells of fall and winter were always my favorites--especially Christmas. When these cakelets were baking, it was like having all the great smells of fall, winter, and Christmas at the same time. What a wonderful thing.
The original recipe calls for only pears, but I love apples and cranberries, too. I made half of the cakelets with pears and half with apples and cranberries. I've given the full amounts of fruit in the ingredients below, so if you want to split the topping like I did, just use half the amount of each. In addition, the original recipe make one nine-inch round cake. I've included those baking instructions, as well as my times for making individual cakelets.
Pear and Apple Upside-Down Gingerbread Cakelets
adapted from Jennifer Lindner McGlinn, Gingerbread
For the fruit:
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
3 medium Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-in. cubes (for cakelets) or slices (for cake)
2 medium Gala apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-in. cubes (for cakelets) or slices (for cake)
1/3 c. dried cranberries
For the cake:
1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. freshly-ground nutmeg
6 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/2 c. molasses, preferably robust
1 large egg
1/2 c. milk (not skim)
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees Farenheit. Prepare a muffin tin or nine-inch round cake pan with a generous amount of baking spray or butter.
2. To prepare the fruit, stir together the light brown sugar, cinnamon, and ginger in a small bowl. Spread the melted butter over twelve muffin cups or the cake pan. Sprinkle evenly with the sugar mixture and arrange the fruit on top.
3. To make the cake, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
5. Pour the molasses into the butter mixture and beat until smooth. Drop in the egg and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once.
6. Reduce the speed to medium-low and alternately add the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stop the mixer to scrape down the bowl, as needed. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until smooth.
7. Pour the batter over the fruit and set the pan on a baking sheet. For cakelets, bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakelet comes out smooth. For a cake, bake 40-45 minutes, until it is dark chestnut brown in color and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
8. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edges of the cake to loosen, then invert onto a baking sheet or serving plate. Carefully lift off the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.