Harriet Harcourt

Upside-Down Gingerbread

The first time I made this recipe was at the Cordon Bleu School in Auckland in 1984. We called it Upside-Down Gingerbread with Sour Cream Sauce.
Sour Cream Sauce is basically Chantilly cream (whipped cream with sugar & vanilla) with a roughly equal quantity of sour cream stirred into it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made it since, but if you want the secret to making a film crew happy, this is it!
In recent years I have updated it to use fresh ginger in place of dried but you can use either.


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 very ripe pears, peeled, quartered & core removed
50g fresh walnuts, roughly chopped


Preheat oven to 170°C fan bake.

Grease a 22cm round cake pan and line the base with baking paper.


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.


In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and dry spices.

Mix 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 45 minutes approx, until the sides are coming away from the tin and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes.


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.
  • Don’t delay turning the cake out – the sticky topping will begin to set and “glue” the cake into the baking tin.
  • When I made the cake to photograph, for the first time ever the pears all but disappeared into the cake so I sautéed more pears and walnuts in butter and honey and tumbled them on top – completely optional and very delicious!