The third in a comfort food collaboration with Kate Flower; my recipe for Upside-down Gingerbread.
A wonderful blast from my past, this unassuming-sounding dessert cake is definitely comfort food in my book! Pears and walnuts join hands with brown sugar and butter to form the crowning glory atop a darkly spicy and intensely flavoursome cake. A warm hum of grated fresh ginger and the slightly bitter liquorice flavour of black treacle are also major players, ably supported by other spice notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.
This soon-to-be-your-go-to dessert is sophisticated enough for a dinner party (does anyone do that any more?), and easy enough to make just because you want a treat.
It was a fascinating exercise to hand over my food to a fellow food stylist – we have very different styles, and I loved watching Kate build this gorgeous shot!


120g    flour
½ tsp   baking soda
½ tsp   salt
2 tsp    ground cinnamon
¼ tsp   grated nutmeg
pinch   ground cloves
2 tsp    grated fresh ginger
1           egg
120g    soft brown sugar
90g      black treacle
120ml  milk, soured with 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar
60g     butter, melted & cooled

60g     butter
120g    soft brown sugar
3-4       ripe pears, peeled and quartered
50g      fresh walnuts, roughly chopped (I used Omega Walnuts)

Preheat oven to 170ºC.
Grease a 22cm round cake pan and line the base with baking paper.

For the topping:

  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the brown sugar and stir for 1-2 minutes over gentle heat.
  • Pour into prepared cake tin.
  • Arrange the prepared pear quarters around the tin, then scatter over chopped walnuts.

For the cake:

  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and dry spices.
  • Mix together grated ginger, egg, brown sugar, treacle, soured milk and cooled butter.
  • Stir into the flour mixture, beat together by hand until smooth.
  • Pour cake batter over topping.
  • Bake for 55-60 minutes, until the sides are coming away from the tin and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool for a few minutes.

To serve:

  • Turn out onto a serving plate while still warm – see notes.
  • Serve with crème fraíche, mascarpone or whipped cream.


  • canned pears work just as well if pears aren’t in season.
  • If you delay turning the cake out, the sticky topping may set, gluing the cake into the baking tin.

Recipe development & photography:  Harriet Harcourt

Food styling:   Kate Flower Food