Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pear-Vanilla Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake

The lilacs are blooming! While feeding animals in the mornings now, I smell the fragrance of the lilacs, hear the joyful sounds of the barn swallows, see the lambs kicking up their heels in the orchard, and I can't help but pause and appreciate the wealth of all that we have here.

Monday is Memorial Day, the beginning of the season for grilling meat over the fire pit and eating outside under the old rambling lilac tree. Lilacs always remind me of my grandmother, charming homespun things, and old-fashioned cooking, like the foods in The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook.

Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing the famous and beloved Little House books when she was in her sixties. She was in her nineties when she died in 1957 in the Rocky Ridge farmhouse in Mansfield, Missouri where she lived most of her life, and which is preserved and maintained as a memorial to her and her life there. This cookbook is a collection of her recipes from a scrapbook she'd compiled, as well as photos of the preserved farmhouse with anecdotes of her life -it is absolutely charming!

Laura's famous gingerbread cooling on the counter (photo by Leslie A. Kelly)

The one recipe from this cookbook that I make over and over again is Laura Ingalls Wilder's Gingerbread -a favorite of hers (and mine!). Alongside the recipe is her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane's story of making this cake for the very first time. I personally adore gingerbread -plain, with ice cream, whipped cream, or (THIS is SO good!) with lemon frosting and a bit of minced candied ginger sprinkled on top. It occurred to me that it would also be AMAZING as an upside-down cake, and that pear-vanilla jam and gingerbread were really meant to be together.

Pear-Vanilla Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake

In 9 inch round cake pan, melt 1/4 c. butter (in preheating oven) and then add 1 c. Pear-Vanilla Jam (click here) and set aside to make gingerbread cake batter.

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Gingerbread

1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter or shortening

Add: 1 c. molasses

Mix together:
3 c. flour
1 t. each ground allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg
1/2 t. salt

Mix in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup:
1 c. boiling water or very hot coffee
2 t. baking soda

Add flour-spice mix and water-soda mix to creamed sugar and mix well. Pour gently over jam in cake pan (or a greased and floured pan if not making an upside-down cake). Bake 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick. Invert onto a large plate immediately. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

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