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Upside Down Pear Cardamom Cake (GlutenFree)

Gluten Free Pear Cardamom Cakes

Growing up, my brother and I did not have any kind of special relationship. We did not dislike each other but we did not like each other either. I guess you could say we had one typical brother-sister relationship. I had crushes on his friends just about every week and he found my friends a bit too Strawberry Shortcake for his taste. We had wrestling fights, screaming fights, pillow fights and he often hid in my closet to scare me before bedtime. Typical.

I often wondered if we would ever find some common ground. Some place of understanding. We did find it when our brother passed away. Right there, in front of me, stood a broken man. He was not this "my brother-this pain in the rear" boy anymore. He was in pieces. I was too. And we picked them up together. We held each other up and found each other then. There is no reason why things happen. They just do. And we knew what we had to do then. And we still do it. Our way.

Baking With Pears

We still don’t call each other that often. Or send cards. Or email. He knows I got his back and he’s got mine. He’s always smart with business and techie advice for me. He loves food and is an amazing cook. He gave me two beautiful and smart nieces.

While chatting on the phone the other day, we were catching up on each other’s work, progress, accomplishments and to hear him say that he was proud of me was the biggest validation of my life. Like Christmas had come in March. There was also a pause. Very unusual if you know the speed of my brother’s conversations. That’s when he dropped a line that I didn’t expect…

Gluten Free Pear Cardamom Cakes

"Hey, I really like when you write me a post on your blog for my birthday. I also really like when all your virtual friends come wish me a happy birthday." Silence on my part. A bit surprised that he would admit this. I laughed. Out loud. Then I apologized and promised that, yes, I would post something on his birthday. I virtually made him some (gluten free) Upside Down Pear and Cardamom Cakes that we quickly devoured last night.

As a kid, his birthday dinner would always include frog legs with tons of parley and garlic and a chocolate cake with walnuts and oranges that I was not particularly fond of. I did think about making it for him again as a wink to the past but my mom had brought over the new French Saveur and Elle a Table and I kept coming back to the article on upside down cakes in Elle a Table. So many variations from one simple base that it would have been difficult not to find one that suited everyone.

Gluten Free Pear Cardamom Cakes

I adapted the base recipe to make it gluten free and added some cardamom to the ripe pears I used in the cake. There is something about pears and cardamom that is almost magical once baked together. Instead of doing the cakes and the caramel with sugar, I used wildflower honey. I am really enjoying baking with sucanat, honey and maple syrup versus regular granulated sugar these days. So much more fragrant. So many more health benefits too.

The cake was moist from the millet and sweet rice flour, oozying with honey and vanilla bean caramel, and the smell permeating the kitchen was unbelievable. We quickly brewed some fresh coffee and sat down with some cake.

Gluten Free Pear Cardamom Cakes

So here’s to you Arnaud! Happy Birthday! Joyeux Anniversaire!

Upside Down Pear Cardamom Cakes, adapted from Elle A Table

Makes four 4-inch cake or one 8-inch cake. Serves 6-8

For the honey caramel:
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded

For the cake batter:
3 pears, peeled and thinly sliced
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (125ml) honey
1 1/2 (160gr) stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 1/2 oz (100gr) superfine sweet rice flour
2 oz (50gr) millet flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 350F. Line the inside of four 4-inch springform pans or one 8-inch pan with parchement paper. Place the pans on a baking sheet and set aside.

For the caramel:
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, place the honey, water and vanilla bean seed and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and let the syrup simmer down until thickened, should take 5-8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Divide the caramel among the prepared cake pans.

For the cake:
Divide the pear slices among the bottom of each cake pan and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs and honey on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Slowly add in the melted butter. Add the flours and cardamom and mix until fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Divide the batter in between the pans and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Unmold carefully over a plate. Watch out for the oozing honey caramel.

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Anne March 20, 2010 um 7:39 pm

Wow! This really looks wonderful…Nice job! Oh and….Happy Birthday Arnaud!

Lauren March 20, 2010 um 7:43 pm

Happy Birthday Arnaud! I hope that you enjoy your day, this year and your sister's creation =D.

Helene, this is stunning! I always love to see how you make recipes gluten-free, and those pears look sensational!

Helena Mattar March 20, 2010 um 8:09 pm

Wowww Looks gorgeous!! I could eat one right now! =)

Jaime March 20, 2010 um 8:13 pm

Very beautiful, Helen, and I LOVE that spoon in the last photo!

zebulon March 20, 2010 um 9:04 pm

How delicious and beautifully illustrated!
An excellent (read: yummy) reason to try alternative flours and cook gluten-free, if not for health reasons, at least for culinary ones.

Joyeux anniversaire à toi, Arnaud! Je suis sûr que tu n'en as pas laissé une miette 😀

Snooky doodle March 20, 2010 um 9:10 pm

nice cakes. pears and cardamon sounds delicious.Good you found common ground with your brother

Gabriela March 20, 2010 um 10:06 pm

Ma petite famille et moi voulons souhaiter un très Bon Anniversaire à Arnaud, et beaucoup, beaucoup plus! Le gâteau de poire semble positivement divin. Gros Bisous!

Anonymous March 20, 2010 um 10:06 pm

I love your personal story with the food. A kind of cooking personal essay. It gives the blog a deeper dimension than only recipes and beautiful photos.

Well done!

Y March 20, 2010 um 10:15 pm

What beautiful little cakes. Happy Birthday to Arnaud!

Cecelia March 20, 2010 um 10:24 pm

Beautiful photos, you really give the food justice with your images.

Bina March 20, 2010 um 10:51 pm

Happy Birthday to Arnaud!!

Lovely cakes and pictures, Helen!

Unknown March 20, 2010 um 11:16 pm

Happy Birthday Arnaud! The cakes Helen made in honor of your birthday look fantastic!

Sari @ Cook Your Dream March 20, 2010 um 11:29 pm

What a lovely post. So nice to read about your brother and you. The cake you made him looks delectable. I love the cardamon there! Happy Birthday to Arnaud! 🙂

Kathy March 20, 2010 um 11:37 pm

How would I convert to regular whole wheat or all purpose flour for these cakes. I would love to make them but do not want them gluten free. They look beautiful! Thank You!

marla {family fresh cooking} March 20, 2010 um 11:46 pm

Your story brought tears to my eyes.
"Like Christmas had come in March." that is so beautiful! The love you guys have for each other doesn't need to be posted everyday….it sounds like it is understood from within.
A great big Happy Birthday to your brother. We are all indulging in his birthday treat created by his loving sister!
(yes, sucanat, honey, maple syrup are great tasting additions to treats!)

marla {family fresh cooking} March 20, 2010 um 11:46 pm

Your story brought tears to my eyes.
"Like Christmas had come in March." that is so beautiful! The love you guys have for each other doesn't need to be posted everyday….it sounds like it is understood from within.
A great big Happy Birthday to your brother. We are all indulging in his birthday treat created by his loving sister!
(yes, sucanat, honey, maple syrup are great tasting additions to treats!)

Helene March 20, 2010 um 11:59 pm

Kathy: I am not sure about whole wheat but the recipe in French for all purpose flour stated 150 grams. Hope that helps.

Nisa-mom March 21, 2010 um 1:03 am

what a nice story,and I know you guys love each other with your own way 🙂 Happy Birthday Arnaud.

Happy Spring for you Helen, lovely picture too

sweetnika March 21, 2010 um 1:27 am

ooo this makes me dream of when I lived in Lyon … but the thought of it being gluten freeis simply wonderful!!!!!!!
Happy birthday to dear brother Arnaud!
wonderful blog! today is my first visit 🙂

Quinn March 21, 2010 um 1:59 am

Lol, Happy Birthday Arnaud! Hope you had a good one!!!!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) March 21, 2010 um 2:02 am

Happy birthday, Arnaud! I wish I had a sister who made such lovely cakes for my birthday.

hetelleb March 21, 2010 um 2:29 am

The upside down pear cardamom cakes looks absolutely divine! Anyway, I just want to thank you for the wonderful macaron recipe that I got from your blog. I tried many other online recipes and only yours seems to work for me. I finally made a successful batch of macarons. 🙂 Thanks again!

Sabrina Ko March 21, 2010 um 2:41 am

Bonne Anniversaire, Arnaud!

These upside-down cakes look delicious…

Phuoc'n Delicious March 21, 2010 um 2:46 am

What a lovely story. I have no brothers but I know what you mean by this type of relationship. Being the oldest of 6 girls in my fanily, it's an act of tough love.

The cake looks absolutely stunning! I can't wait to try it out. Happy birthday Arnaud from Down Under (Sydney)! 🙂 It's a gorgeous day here, and I hope you have one too!

Abby March 21, 2010 um 2:48 am

Happy Birthday, Arnaud!

(And Helene, these are SO beautiful. I love the pear halves!)

Pastrychefgrl March 21, 2010 um 2:58 am

Yum that looks tasty I love cardamom!!

Mona Monster March 21, 2010 um 4:41 am

Happy Birthday!

Ruth Ann March 21, 2010 um 5:15 am

Joyeux Anniversaire Arnaud de la Californie!
Beautiful, beautiful post. I love the last photo with the simple daisies, the texture of the background and of course the delicious looking cakes!

Melinda March 21, 2010 um 5:50 am

This sounds lovely. We just bought our first local pairs today at the farmers market in Seattle today. Such a shame we waited so long! I look forward to trying this.

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous March 21, 2010 um 8:54 am

Joyeux Anniversaire to Arnaud from Switzerland.

Helen, I love that you use honey in stead of sugar and gluten free flours in this recipe. I need to stock up on gluten free flours, but today, since I have some pears, I will try to use it with all purpose flour.

Thanks for your lovely blog.

Carolina March 21, 2010 um 8:56 am

Happy birthday Arnaud!!!
I love this post. It is so beautiful…

Have a nice day,
Carolina (Italy)

Johanna March 21, 2010 um 9:55 am

Wow, I've never taken me the time to read your posts, I've just looked at all your pictures. And I'm glad that I broke that habit today 🙂

Happy birthday to Arnaud from a sunny Sweden 😀

Unknown March 21, 2010 um 12:41 pm

Oh, brother, happy birthday

linda March 21, 2010 um 12:53 pm

it's quiet here…& i have tears streaming down my face…you touched an emotional chord helen, as this post is so tender & filled with love…with that i wish you dear brother a very wonderful birthday.

bunkycooks March 21, 2010 um 1:22 pm

Such a nice post to celebrate your brother's birthday. I think all brother/sister relationships soften with time.

I love the pear and cardamon combination. These look lovely. I do not need to eat gluten free, but may try these exactly as you made them.

jabreb March 21, 2010 um 1:49 pm

"happy birthday to you; happy birthday to you. happy birthday dear Arnaud…happy birthday to you"….and many more! Greetings from Texas.

Beautiful dessert – will definitely bake.

Happy Spring all…it finally arrived.

Anonymous March 21, 2010 um 1:59 pm

What a gorgeous treat!

stefania March 21, 2010 um 2:11 pm

Hi there, instead of superfine sweet rice flour and millet flour could I use normal flour? And which would be best plain or selfraising?

Jenn March 21, 2010 um 2:34 pm

MMMM…sounds like you guys had a great day!

Happy Birthday to your brother!

Cookin' Canuck March 21, 2010 um 3:03 pm

What a beautiful post about you and your brother and, fittingly, a beautiful celebration dessert.

Happy Birthday, Arnaud!

Kalyn Denny March 21, 2010 um 3:09 pm

What a lovely post. I think it's so heartwarming to see how our blog can impact our real-life relationships. And I'm happy to hear your brother is realizing what a talented sister he has too.

Happy birthday Arnaud!

Meera March 21, 2010 um 3:32 pm

Happy Birthday to Arnaud!!

Thanks for sharing!

Cher March 21, 2010 um 4:04 pm

A very Happy Birthday to your wonderful brother! And thanks for the great blog too!

astheroshe March 21, 2010 um 4:56 pm

My brother's birthday is 2moro. Like you we fought as kids, and the death of our mother made us very close. He has a fav cake she use to make us. Pistachio. A great idea to bake/post it :0

Happy Birthday, Arnaud!…from another sister who really loves her brother

Meagan March 21, 2010 um 5:43 pm

I can just taste this! Great job 🙂

linda March 21, 2010 um 6:52 pm

hi again!

i have to state that i found the photography of these beautiful cakes particularly exceptional…
i love the larger size…

i enjoyed seeing the tarts coming out of your oven & then cooling…
seeing the spring form pans & parchment paper was so great…so up front & personal…

the crust & filling actually "come alive"…& look so tempting!!

Jolette March 21, 2010 um 8:19 pm

What beautiful photographs (as usual)! A very happy birthday to your brother, and hats off to you for another gluten-free baking success.

Unknown March 21, 2010 um 10:31 pm

They are delicious as they look. No millet where I live in the Kentucky wilderness, so my daughter made the batter with an equal amount of supermarket cake flour. All agreed they were not too sweet, but nobody asked about the butter bomb.

Congratulations to Arnaud and your spouse.

D. March 21, 2010 um 10:59 pm

Joyeux Anniversaire, Arnaud! What a lovely-sounding treat. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices.

Anne's Kitchen March 21, 2010 um 11:29 pm

Ah, what nice pear tarte tatins, beautiful! Hang on, am I allowed to call these tarte tatins, or is there something different in the process of making them?

Cindy March 22, 2010 um 1:35 am

Beautiful pics – looks delicious!

Thank you for sharing the recipe.
Cindy (

Sue March 22, 2010 um 4:54 am

Well, I can relate! My brother and I did not get along AT ALL when we were kids, but as adults he is a confidant to me:) Anyway, this pear cake looks sooo beautifully delicious!!! Happy birthday to Arnaud!

Helene March 22, 2010 um 5:17 am

Stefania: you can use 150gr of all purpose flour.

Anne's kitchen: they can't be called tartes tatin as they are not tarts but cakes.

Thanks everyone!

Karen Wise March 22, 2010 um 6:20 am

Such a touching story!
Bonne anniversaire Arnaud, et je vous souhaite un bon an !

Helene, j'aime ton dernier photo avec les fleurs blancs 🙂
Kar en

Enila March 22, 2010 um 10:49 am

Cette petite tarte tatin aux poires est trop mignonne, j'en prendrais bien un bout !!

French Cooking for Dummies March 22, 2010 um 11:19 am

What a lovely post for your brother's b-day. Bon Anniversaire Arnaud 😉

I've been drooling over these upside down cakes in Elle à Table since I bought the new issue… Your version looks scrumptious!

sprite March 22, 2010 um 12:05 pm

Joyeux Anniversaire, Arnaud!

kim March 22, 2010 um 1:04 pm

I never was really close with my brother, and now that he is moving abroad next month I wish we had spent more time together. I did make him a cake for his birthday too.

Happy Birthday Arnaud! For all virtual brothers 🙂

The Teacher Cooks March 22, 2010 um 1:48 pm

What a sweet story! The pears look absolutely divine. Just Beautiful!

Corrick family March 22, 2010 um 1:53 pm

Happy Birthday, Arnaud!

I lost a brother, too. Isn't it amazing how it changes the dynamic so with your other siblings? Love to you.

Anonymous March 22, 2010 um 4:21 pm

I love my brother too!
Joyeux Anniversaire Arnaud, from British Columbia, Canada!

[email protected] March 22, 2010 um 4:53 pm

Thanks for the lovely post and for the great recipe. My mother always brings me the Elle a Table when she comes over! Joyeux Anniversaire a Arnaud!

Lori March 22, 2010 um 6:47 pm

I love that he said that too.

Happy Birthday Arnaud! You are thought of on your brithday. Isnt it nice getting well wishes from around the world. Cheers!

Paula March 22, 2010 um 8:27 pm

it looks awesome and I`m ready to eat this! 🙂

Hena Tayeb March 22, 2010 um 9:39 pm

wow.. these look amazing

terri March 22, 2010 um 10:08 pm

(belated) happy birthday, arnaud!

Melange a Trois March 22, 2010 um 11:06 pm

Happy birthday to your brother! These pictures are amazing- I want to climb right into them and eat these tasty treats!

veron March 23, 2010 um 2:11 am

Happy Birthday Arnaud. Your brother is funny and yes, it's typical brother-sister relationship. My brothers would practice kung-fu and wrestling moves on me. Can't wait to try this, it looks luscious!! I'll probably use the 150 g AP flour though.

twEricaB March 23, 2010 um 4:52 am

Happy Birthday Arnaud!

rado March 23, 2010 um 3:39 pm

hello, i tried to find an e mail for the blog, but could.t and didnt want to write on the "proffesionnal" one.
i would like to ask you if you would consider giving a macaron workshop in Greenville, Sc.
as we are a big "francophone" community. i can plan the whole thing, if you can just let me know how it works, regarding, location, fees, groceries etc…
it will be our Honor and pleasure to be able to attend such an event.
as i see you moderate your comment, so you can delete this one, i am just writing to touch bases with you.
please let me know, thank you for your time and for your blog, i love it!

[email protected]

Unknown March 23, 2010 um 4:06 pm

A little late, but happy birthday Arnaud!

Half Baked March 23, 2010 um 8:10 pm

Happy belated Birthday Arnaud!! gorgeous birthday dessert! Way too go sis:-)

TasteofBeirut March 26, 2010 um 12:08 am

This recipe seems absolutely scrumptious, and the photography is fantastic!

laura March 29, 2010 um 1:14 am

This is so touching…happy birthday, Arnaud. The cake sounds and looks beautiful… cardamom and pear together is a wonderful idea I will have to try soon.

Catie April 2, 2010 um 3:38 pm

I'm late to the party because I just started reading your blog today, but I'd like to wish your brother a happy be-lated birthday because this post was so touching and the recipe looks so good.

Julia @Mélanger April 6, 2010 um 4:23 am

Happy belated birthday to your brother!

Unknown May 22, 2010 um 4:20 am

Hi there, could I exchange the rice flour for almond flour? Thanks so much.

Helene May 22, 2010 um 4:51 am

Gosia: I don't see why not but I can't vouch for the result as I have not tried it that way. If you do, let me know how it turns out.

lauren September 13, 2010 um 7:45 am

I am intrigued by this recipe being so good and gluten free. just made it for a birthday with vanilla bean whipped cream on top. Why beat the eggs and honey and add melted butter? That is something I am unfamiliar with. Great recipe and touching post–makes me wanna call me brother. 🙂

Helene September 13, 2010 um 1:23 pm

Lauren: because that's the traditional way to start a cake. Eggs+sweetener+fat to form the body before adding the arms so to speak

Alena-lilavadi Savinova March 13, 2011 um 10:04 pm

I baked your cake…it is superb! very delicious and was easy to cook! Thank you very much for the recept!!! Aluona

Unknown February 26, 2013 um 6:57 am

This looks fabulous! Yum. :). And Happy Birthday Arnaud! 🙂

Mila June 10, 2013 um 3:05 am

What a touching post and beautiful little cake. I'm really looking forward to pear season so I can try this! But in the meanwhile would you be so kind as to explain to me why is there no baking powder/baking soda listed in the ingredients? I find this absence intriguing.

Helene June 11, 2013 um 12:15 am

Mila: well, not every cake requires either baking powder or baking soda.

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