These little cakes have just the right amount of molasses and spice. If you prefer, you could use slices of persimmon or apple in place of the pear. One note: Blackstrap molasses is too bitter and dark for these cakes—look for milder molasses, often labeled “old fashioned,” which can be found at most grocery stores.
Makes 6 individual cakes
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1 firm-ripe Bartlett or Anjou pear
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon organic cinnamon
½ teaspoon organic nutmeg
¼ teaspoon organic cloves (ground)
½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup boiling water
½ cup molasses (not blackstrap)
½ teaspoon baking soda
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Generously butter six 8-ounce ramekins. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Make the caramel: Put the sugar in a small, dry frying pan over medium heat. Melt the sugar, using a rubber spatula to pull in the melted sugar at the edge of pan, until all of the sugar is a deep golden brown and a wisp of smoke rises from the pan (don’t take it too far, or the sugar will scorch). Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter. The mixture will foam vigorously. Divide the caramel evenly amongst the prepared ramekins. Cut the pear into thin slices, and arrange a few slices in the bottom of each ramekin, on top of the caramel.
Make the cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the egg. In a measuring cup combine the water, molasses and baking soda and stir to mix. Add the molasses mixture to the mixer, followed by the dry ingredients, and mix until combined. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared ramekins and set the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake until puffed and set and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let cool five minutes, then run an offset spatula or a thin knife around the edge of each cake to loosen it and turn out. Let cool completely. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.