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Pear and Parmesan Upside Down Cake

This light moist cake recipe, with notes of warm spices topped with sweet caramelized pears and parmesan-coated walnuts, makes a crowd-pleasing dessert and is best served with a dollop of whipped ricotta cream.

Prep Time:  20 minutes

Cook Time:  40 minutes to 1 hour 20 mins  

Serves:  Party Size

Yield:  two 9-inch round metal cake pans (at least 2 inches tall) or one 13-inch oven-safe metal or cast iron skillet




  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 pounds (about 4) ripe pears (such as Bartlett or D’Anjou) cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1 (5-ounce) package Frigo® Shredded Parmesan Cheese


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cup white granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • **or substitute 1 ½ cups milk mixed with 1 ½ tablespoons white vinegar

Whipped Ricotta:

  • ½ cup Frigo® Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoon white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning


Make the topping:
Cut one stick of butter into slices and place it and the brown sugar in the cake pan. Set the pan over a medium-high burner. Stir as the butter and sugar melt together and continue to cook until the mixture is bubbly, swirly when stirred, and toasty brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in walnuts and set aside to cool slightly.
Arrange the pear wedges in the cake pan in an even pattern and sprinkle with Frigo® Shredded Parmesan.

Make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground nutmeg. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or large bowl if using a hand mixer, beat 1 cup butter until it gets lighter in both color and consistency. Add the sugar and beat until well blended and fluffy. Slowly beat in the egg yolks (set the whites aside in a medium bowl) and vanilla until incorporated.

Slowly add half the dry ingredients until mixed in. Stir in the buttermilk until completely smooth and then add the rest of the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the egg whites until shiny with soft peaks. Gently, but thoroughly, fold the whipped whites into the batter with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter over the pears and gently smooth the top.

Put the cake in the oven and cook at 350°F for 45-55 minutes for the 9-inch pans, and 50-65 minutes for the 13-inch pan, or until cooked through and the center springs back to touch and a toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a cake rack for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge, invert a plate on top of the pan and carefully, but quickly, flip it over. Tap the bottom of the pan if the cake doesn’t fall onto the plate on its own. Lift the pan away from the cake and replace any pear slices and walnuts that may have stuck to the bottom.

Make the whipped ricotta:
When ready to serve, combine all the ingredients for the whipped ricotta in a large bowl. Whip until thick and fluffy, but still soft. Slice the cake and serve each wedge with a dollop of whipped ricotta.