Turning Halloween Upside Down

A recipe for Orange-Scented Pear Upside-Down Cake, plus seven recommended dessert wines
Oct 27, 2009

Halloween is just around the corner, time for miniature candy bars and other sugary treats for kids. To help grown-ups celebrate the holiday, we've put together a list of suggested dessert wines in a variety of styles, along with a recipe for Orange-Scented Pear Upside-Down Cake.

You may vary some of the cake's ingredients to suit your tastes, the state of your pantry, and the characteristics of the dessert wine you'll be pouring. For instance, if you want a tarter citrus flavor, substitute lemon or lime zest for orange. Maple lovers can replace some or all of the honey with maple syrup. If you don't have brown sugar on hand, substitute 1 cup granulated white sugar. Use apples (cut into sixths instead of quarters) instead of pears if you prefer their flavor or have an abundance leftover from a recent autumn orchard visit. If you want your cake to have a bit of nutty crunch, sprinkle chopped walnuts or hazelnuts or sliced almonds over the batter before baking. If you're lucky enough to have some Banyuls vinegar on hand, reduce 1/4 cup of it by half over low heat in a saucepan and drizzle over the warm cake just before serving to create synergy with a glass of Banyuls wine.

Happy Halloween, and happy baking!


1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup orange blossom honey
4 medium-size ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
3/4 cup brown sugar
Grated zest of 1/2 an orange
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the butter over low heat until melted. Remove from heat, transfer to a small, shallow bowl and let cool, uncovered, in refrigerator.

3. Place the honey in a 9- or 10-inch ovenproof pan over medium heat and cook at a simmer for about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the pears to the pan, gently tossing or turning with a wooden spoon or spatula, to evenly coat each with the honey. Continue to cook at a simmer, gently turning once, for 8 minutes, then remove from the heat and place in the oven, uncovered, to cook for about 20 minutes, or until very easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife.

4. About five minutes before the pears are done cooking, combine the sugar, zest and espresso, if using, in a mixing bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon or whisk. Whisk in the eggs, then stir in the flour and salt, taking care not to over-mix, which will make the cake tough. Stir in the butter, making sure it is well-incorporated.

5. Remove the pears from the oven and pour the batter over them, using a spatula if necessary to gently distribute the batter across the fruit. Decrease the oven’s heat to 350° F and bake for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool, then gently invert onto a cake stand or large plate. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if desired. Serves 8.


THE ROYAL TOKAJI WINE CO. Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos Red Label 2005 Score: 94 | $41 / 500ml
Slight oxidation adds nutty accents and an iodine note to this sinewy dessert white. There's not a lot of flesh, yet this is intense and complex, with apricot, honey, smoke, spice and mineral flavors that won't quit. This has a dry, chalky feel on the finish. Drink now through 2025. 1,500 cases imported. —B.S.

DE BORTOLI Sémillon New South Wales Noble One Botrytis 2006 Score: 92 | $32 / 375ml
Sweet and silky, this is complex with apricot, dried pear, wet hay and cream flavors that persist into the long, deftly balanced finish. Not at all sugary. Ends with mouthwatering lemon notes. Drink now through 2018. 4,000 cases made. —H.S.

INNISKILLIN Riesling Niagara Peninsula Ice Wine 2007 Score: 91 | $75 / 375ml
Offers a combination of rich apricot, peach and pear flavors, with intense sweetness, matched by a racy structure. Very pure and grapey, with a mouthwatering finish. Drink now through 2020. 1,600 cases imported. —B.S.

CHATEAU REYNELLA Tawny Port McLaren Vale Fine Old Cave NV Score: 90 | $18 / 500ml
Smooth, polished, open-textured and lightly sweet, with a generous core of golden raisin, dried cherry, spice and cut-wood flavors mingling and persisting on the balanced finish. Drink now. 3,000 cases imported. —H.S.

DOMAINE DES SCHISTES Muscat de Rivesaltes 2008 Score: 88 | $15 / 375ml
Peachy and elegant dessert-style white, with plenty of luscious spicy notes that linger on the creamy finish. Drink now through 2014. 1,500 cases made. —K.M.

M. CHAPOUTIER Banyuls 2007 Score: 87 | $27 / 500ml
Sweet and spicy, showing dried cherry, dark plum and chocolate flavors, with a crisp finish. Drink now through 2013. 5,000 cases imported. —K.M.

D. KOURTAKIS Muscat Samos Kourtaki NV Score: 87 | $13
This dessert wine is peachy and creamy, with notes of honey and spice. The long finish is rich, featuring some maple hints. Drink now. 300,000 cases made. —K.M.

Cooking Pairings Holidays / Celebrations Halloween Autumn Sweet Wines Fortified Wines White Wines Riesling Sémillon Recipes

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