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Upside-Down Pear Cake and Upside-Down Friendships

Walt Whitman once said, “I have learned that to be with those I like is enough” and that is probably one of the truest quotes I have heard in my entire life. It is absolutely possible to still feel empty even when you have numerous text messages waiting in your inbox every time you check your phone and a monumental and growing number of Facebook friends. While it always brightens my day when I find sweet text messages waiting for me or amazing people leaving lovely posts on my Facebook wall, friendship is about finding people who you truly feel connected with and who appreciate you in your entirety.

A truly wonderful friendship that is Casablanca-ending-worthy is rare and precious. So why should we settle for classifications like “BFF” and “Soul Sister” when we know that the relationships we have with certain people are not based on really “liking” each other? I have “friends” who want me to be their therapist and “friends” who want to be my therapist (um no thanks). I have “friends” who belittle my quirks (what, you don’t like my abrupt rambling and bursting into song? Fine) and “friends” who only stick with me because my quirks are attention-grabbing.

Why do I spend so much time interacting with “friends” when the actual friends with whom I feel completely comfortable and amazing with deserve all of that time? Recently, Jimmy Kimmel announced something he called “National Unfriend Day” for deleting Facebook friends who really don’t mean anything to you. Now actual friendship of any sort (regardless of whether or not there should be quotation marks around the friend part) should not be deleted just like that. The whole point of my abnormally serious and emotional post is that we need to learn to re-evaluate our friend-related priorities in life. We must focus on those who truly love and appreciate us.

But let’s set aside the drama-queen-side of things for a moment, shall we? Let us think about what is to come and smile and marvel:

  • I have wisened up so I will spend my spare time with people who I can imagine myself walking away with like Humphrey Bogart at the end of Casablanca.
  • I will buy Christmas gifts and imagine how people’s faces will light up when they open their gifts.
  • I will celebrate my dog’s belated 5th birthday.
  • I will turn another year older in a week.
  • I will hope that a very dear friend K– who has recently moved in with her boyfriend (Congratulations! You two are so amazing!) will be able to spend time with me come Winter Break.
  • I will hope that I will not be so blind-sighted by “friends” and make time in my life for the valuable friendships I have managed to hold on to and rekindle those which I have so mindlessly let go of.
  • I will not hold so many grudges.
  • I will take final exams and at the end of it all throw my hands up in the air and say “Ay-yo, I’m done with finals!”
  • I will listen to Christmas music and dance around with my cup of peppermint hot chocolate.
  • I will tell you guys how to make an amazing upside-down pear cake.

Upside-Down Pear Cake (From Bon Apetit)

Ingredients

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided, plus more
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 medium pears (about 1 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Whipped cream or caramel gelato (optional)

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Butter pan; line bottom with a parchment-paper round. Whisk four, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Stir 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high. Boil syrup without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until sugar turns dark amber, 8–10 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add 1 tablespoon butter (caramel will bubble vigorously) and whisk until smooth. Pour caramel into prepared cake pan and swirl to coat bottom.
  • Peel, halve, and core the pears. Place flat on a work surface and cut lengthwise into 1/8″-thick slices. Layer slices over caramel, flat side down, overlapping as needed.
  • Mix remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 8 tablespoon butter, and vanilla in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occassionally scraping bowl. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  • Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites on low speed in a medium bowl until frothy. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until whites form soft peaks. Fold about 1/4 of the whites into cake batter. Add in remaining whites; gently fold just to blend. Pour batter over pears in pan; smooth top.
  • Bake cake, rotating pan halfway through, until top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few small moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of pan to release cake. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
  • Invert cake onto a plate; remove parchment paper. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or caramel gelato, if desired.
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About Natalie C.

A college graduate in molecular biology eagerly awaiting the commencement of my quest for the luxurious yet completely impractical hood that one receives at a Doctorate graduation ceremony.

5 responses »

  1. Great post. What you said about friendship is true for people of any age. Respects for the recipe!

    Reply
  2. You’re so amazing for realizing these things at such a young age. One of my biggest mistakes as a young adult would definitely be my inability to distinguish between a friend and a “friend” as you so aptly put it. Well done!

    Reply
  3. Wonderful post with a resounding message!

    And delicious looking cake!

    Reply
  4. i like how you wrote about a really deep sentimental subject and just interspersed random food pictures in there. haha. you’ve gotta teach me how to bake at our next family dinner.

    Reply

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