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Table Talk: Have your cake and drink it too

The Associated Press
The spicy aroma of Lemon Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake baking will draw everyone into the kitchen. The moist cake and sugar-crisp caramelized sides topped with lemony pear slices will have them asking for seconds.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Find yourself with a few extra bottles of holiday cheer? Put a dent in the bottles with some spirited cakes. Not that it's much healthier to soak a rich cake in rum than it is to drink it straight, but we'll all get healthy after the holidays.

The rum cake is a recipe from The Pioneer Woman, known also as Ree Dummond. Her recipes are often decadent and this one is no exception. It involves 1 cup of rum and 1 1/2 stick of butter. The recipe is one Butter Queen Paula Deen would love. In fact, Drummond also hosts a show on the Food Network, but she delivers hers without Deen's cloying Southern drawl. Y'all.

The Whiskey Praline Cake is based on a recipe developed and published by Jack Daniels, where they know a thing or two about whiskey. You'll use just over a cup of whiskey to make this cake and the whiskey sauce that tops it.

If the thought of a whole boozy cake sitting on the kitchen counter sounds too tempting, take the quantity down several notches to a single serving with Bailey's Mug Cake. Mug Cakes, if you haven't heard, are single servings of made-from-scratch cakes that are baked in the microwave. You measure about five or six ingredients in a mug, stir and zap in the microwave for a couple of minutes. So easy a college student could do it.

Lemon Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake is a bit more involved and uses only 1/2 cup of wine, but it calls for three pears, readily available now. If you're lucky enough to be the recipient of a gift of those succulent pears boxed by the likes of Harry & David, you might be also find yourself with a glut as the whole box tends to ripen simultaneously. Here's a solution.

Bottoms up.

Reach Julie Robinson at julier@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.

Lemon Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake

Servings: 16

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup white wine

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar, divided

3 large pears, peeled, cored and sliced

1/2 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup molasses

1 tablespoon dry ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

COMBINE the lemon juice and zest with the wine and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar n a skillet over low heat. Add the pears and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the pears are just tender. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the raisins.

HEAT the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a tube pan with baking spray. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar in the bottom of the pan. Arrange the pears, slightly overlapping, over the sugar.

BEAT the butter, granulated sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, baking powder, baking soda and salt together with a hand mixer in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl between additions. Add half the milk followed by half of the flour, mixing before adding the remaining half the milk and flour. Spoon into the prepared pan over the pears.

BAKE for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then place a large overturned plate or platter over the cake. Invert the cake so it is standing on the plate. If any of the pears stick to the pan, carefully remove them and return them to their place on the cake.

Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories; 90 calories from fat (30 percent of total calories); 10 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 50 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 29 g sugar; 4 g protein; 105 mg sodium.

Rum Cake

1 18-ounce box yellow cake mix

1 3.5-ounce package vanilla instant pudding mix

4 whole eggs

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup rum, either dark or light

1 cup chopped pecans

Brown sugar (optional)

Glaze:

1 1/2 stick butter

1/4 cup water

1 1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cups rum

HEAT oven to 325 degrees F.

GREASE and flour a bundt cake pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. If desired, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar over the nuts.

MIX all cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil and rum together. Pour batter into pan over nuts. Smooth out until the top is even. Bake for 1 hour, or a little less if the pan is black. Do not overbake.

MAKE the glaze 10 minutes before cake finishes baking.

MELT butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off flame and pour in rum. Stir to combine and reheat for 30 seconds.

REMOVE cake from oven. Immediately drizzle one-third of the glaze over the cake. Allow to sit for five minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Gently prick surface with a fork. Slowly drizzle remaining rum glaze all over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.

COOL to room temperature before serving to ensure glaze has soaked in.

Praline Cake

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 stick softened butter

3 eggs

1 1/2 tablespoons molasses

2 1/4 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 cup mashed sweet potato

1/3 cup Jack Daniel's whiskey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon ginger

1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

Praline Topping

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon flour

3 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

Whiskey Sauce

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

Pinch salt

5 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup Jack Daniel's whiskey

HEAT oven to 350 degree F.

BUTTER and flour a 9-inch loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl, beat sugars and butter together until fluffy. Stir in eggs and molasses. Add flour and baking powder and beat until just combined.

STIR in sweet potato, whiskey, spices and toasted pecans until combined and pour into prepared pan. Bake 45-55 minutes, until golden brown or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

PREPARE the praline and sauce while the cake is baking. To make the praline topping, combine brown sugar, water, flour and butter in saucepan and cook over low heat until the butter is melted and everything has combined. Stir in nuts and set aside.

FOR the whiskey sauce, combine brown sugar, salt, butter, vanilla and whiskey and cook over low heat until it begins to boil. Cook until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

ALLOW cake to cool in pan for about 10 minutes before inverting onto a cake plate or other serving piece. To assemble the cake, sprinkle with praline topping and spoon 1/3 of the sauce over the top of the cake. When ready to serve, slice and plate cake and drizzle with more sauce, or serve with the sauce on the side and allow guests to top as desired.

Bailey's Mug Cake

5 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

3 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream

3 tablespoons oil

COMBINE all ingredients into oversized mug. Stir with a small whisk or fork until batter is smooth.

MICROWAVE for 1 1/2 minutes. If cake is not done, microwave for an additional 30 seconds. Serve while warm.


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