1/2stickunsalted butter, in 6 pieces, (4 tablespoons)
1/2cuppacked light brown sugar
8ounceswhole fresh or frozen cranberries, (about 2 cups)
2large, ripe, buttery pears (such at Bartletts), peeled, cut off the core, sliced lengthwise 1/4" or thinner
1/4cupvegetable oil (such as sunflower)
2tablespoonspeeled and finely grated fresh ginger (I like to use a microplane), (1 ounce)
1/4cupunsulphured, blackstrap or dark molasses
1cupplus 2 tablespoons flour
1/4teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
lightly sweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche, for serving
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º.
Grease the sides of a 9" round cake pan with a bit of the butter, then place the rest of the butter pieces in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar and the salt evenly over the butter, and place in the oven until melted and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Dump in the cranberries (they should almost completely cover the bottom), then carefully arrange the pears over the cranberries. Set aside while you make the batter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, grated ginger, sugar, molasses and egg to combine. Whisk in the milk. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, powdered ginger, cinnamon and pepper. Whisk the flour mixture into the oil mixture until smooth. The batter will be runny. Pour the batter over the pears.
Bake the cake until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 - 45 minutes (some readers reported baking this for 60 minutes or longer, so give it as long as it needs!) rotating the cake halfway through baking. Run a thin knife or small, offset spatula around the perimeter of the cake to loosen it. Invert a large plate over the cake. Wearing oven mitts, grasp both the plate and the cake pan and flip them over. Carefully lift the pan off. If some cake has stuck to the pan, you can scrape it off and spackle it back on (or just eat it - it IS the best part, and none will be the wiser).
Serve the cake warm or at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche. The cake is best the day it is made, but you can store it in an airtight container at room temp for up to one day, or in the fridge for several days.
Be sure to use ripe pears for this cake. They should smell fragrant and have a hint of give when pressed.Nutritional values are based on one of eight servings.