top of page

Pear Desserts

Updated: Mar 11

By Luci

It’s almost Spring. Our food desires turn from dishes that satisfy our stomachs with heft, warmth and calories to those that are lighter and brighter, suggestive of warmer weather and the bright colors of Spring. Pear desserts are the perfect expression of a dessert midway between Winter and Spring. 

Pear cakes are wonderful, always beautiful, moist and so flavorful they make your mouth sing. I fell in love with pear cakes many years ago when Billa served one. So much more flavorful than apple sauce cakes; indeed, I have several times substituted processed pears for applesauce in a recipe that otherwise caught my attention.

We think of pears as a cold weather fruit, yet pear desserts can be warm or cold, hefty enough for the end of a cold-weather dinner or light and pretty to signify Spring. Here are three desserts: a beautiful bundt cake, especially good on a chilly day that can be served warm or room temperature, a lovely upside-down cake, also great served warm or room temperature. The third describes poached pears, quite popular because they are delectable and versatile. All three can be made as much as two days ahead and the cakes take well to freezing.

Bundt Cake With Glaze

This cake is one of my favorites. It’s beautiful, super delicious and can be made two days in advance. The recipe is a variation of one published by Gourmet, using different spices, dried fruit and nuts.


For cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon coriander

½ teaspoon cardamom

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 Bosc pears (about 1-1/2 pounds), cut into pieces and processed to smoothness of apple sauce

1 cup dried cherries or cranberries

1 cup chopped pecans

For glaze:

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 (3-inch-long) cinnamon sticks

½ teaspoon coriander

Pinch of salt

You will need a 15- cup Bundt pan

Cake preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter cake pan.

  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.

  3. Beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla until combined well.

  4. Gently mix in flour mixture. I prefer to incorporate the mixture by folding it in.

  5. Gently mix in pears and cranberries

  6. Spoon batter into pan.

  7. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

  8. Cool in pan for 5-10 minutes, then place on a rack and cool completely. If you are going to refrigerate or freeze the cake before serving, place the empty bundt pan over the top of the cake for a tight fit that is easy to remove. Add glaze before serving.

Glaze preparation:

  1. Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, cinnamon sticks, coriander and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, then simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

  2. Cool glaze 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon sticks, then pour glaze over cake, letting some drip down sides.

Upside Down Cake

This is the first time I prepared an upside down cake with pears, following exactly a recipe ( I made a few mistakes to which I alert you.


  1. Pick the pears carefully. Choose pears that are symmetrical and the same length so all slices will be the same size. As you can see in the photo, I did not pick the pears with those thoughts in mind.

  2. Do not make the slices too thin, as I did. I suggest 10 slices from a large pear and 8 from one of medium size.

  3. For mixing the topping, choose a pan with plenty of space above the ingredients. When the mixture boils, it will foam up and overflow a pan that is too small. If your mixture comes close to the top of the pan, remove it from the heat, turn down the heat and return mixture to stove.

Ingredients for topping

3 tablespoons butter

¾ cup maple syrup

¼ cup packed brown sugar

3 to 4 pears, peeled, cored and thinly (see note above)  sliced

Ingredients for batter

8 tablespoons butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

1½ cups flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

Preparation for topping

  1. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a pan over medium heat. Add maple syrup and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. 

  2. Bring to a boil and cook for another 2 minutes; remove from heat and set aside. 

  3. When mixture has cooled a bit, pour it into a 9-inch baking pan and arrange pear slices in an overlapping circle on top.

Preparation for batter

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Beat remaining 8 tablespoons butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

  3. Add vanilla and eggs, one egg at a time, continuing to mix until smooth.

  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

  5. Add flour mixture to butter/sugar mixture in three batches, alternating with milk; do not overmix.

  6. Carefully spread batter over pears, using a spatula to make sure it is evenly distributed.

  7. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and edges begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 45 to 50 minutes; a toothpick inserted into center should come out clean. Let cake cool for 5 minutes.

  8. Run a knife around edge of pan; put a plate on top of cake and carefully flip it so plate is on bottom and pan is on top.

Poached Pears

Poached pears make a great dessert. They’re pretty and  quite delicious even made with a plain poaching liquid. Add interest and extra deliciousness with any of a variety of flavors that can match the season or your meal. They are light and therefore perfect after a heavy meal. They can be paired with many yummy sweets - cake, cookies, ice cream - if you would like the dinner to end with tummy satisfying, gratifying richness.

Basic preparation

Prepare the poaching liquid. How much will depend on size of pears. I do have one cardinal rule. Poach pears in a liquid that is half pear nectar and half water or what you selected for flavored liquid. This brings out the “peariness,” producing a more intense and superior pear taste. Add enough sugar to sweeten the mixture. 

Some popular flavoring ingredients:

Orange peel and juice

Spices including ginger, anise, cardamom, coriander, ginger and cinnamon

Extracts such as vanilla, almond or peppermint. 

Wine - a sweet white such as a late harvest riesling or a red wine that will  produce a lovely red color. Substitute the wine for half of the water.

Match the ingredients to season. For example, warm spices are great for Fall, peppermint would be appropriate for Winter and vanilla perfect for Spring.

You will need one pear for each person. For poaching, many prefer Bosc. Choose pears that are straight and symmetrical. 

Peel, leaving the stem. Cut a thin slice from the bottom so that pears will stand upright while being poached. 

Place the poaching liquid in a pot that will hold all pears with spaces between pears and sides of pot, enough to cover pears. Bring to a gentle boil, gently lower the pears into the liquid, lower heat and very gently simmer for about 20 minutes, depending on size of pears and their firmness. Allow pears to cool in the poaching liquid. You may refrigerate pears in their liquid for as much as 5 days. You may also remove pears from their liquid and boil the liquid down to a sauce to pour over the pears.

Especially when you want a dinner with stand-out, visually impressive dishes, decorate the pears to match the occasion, the season or simply for fun.

Christmas pear

Easter pear

Winter pear

Halloween pear

If you are going for knock-out gorgeous, beautify your pears with drizzles of colorful sauces. If you are going for fun, choose a shape appropriate for your dinner. Note that the Easter pear would make a perfect end to an Easter dinner. The photos above illustrate both concepts. A full description of their preparation is found at :


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page