In 1975 we had our only Christmas in London, and Chris's sister Judith, her husband Len and their three children came up from Hampshire to stay. It snowed, and we all went to the pantomime - Treasure Island, with Spike Milligan.
To feed us all, I made a giant pineapple-ring upside-down cake. It went down very well, and there was enough left for the kids the next day. But when I first served it, I had covered it with whipped cream and cheerfully scattered hundreds and thousands over it. Overnight the colours ran, spreading a blotchy layer of assorted colours all over the cream, like some weird technicolour mould. The children did eat it, but with much less enthusiasm. Dear Judith wasn't the least bit taken aback - she just laughed. She and Len were extremely kind to us while we were in Britain.
I've been thinking about her because she died on 27 March, aged 82. I hadn't seen her for a long time, but then I managed to visit her when I was there in 2013, soon after Len died. I'm so pleased I did. This recipe is in memory of her. I made it for two friends' potluck birthday lunch on Easter Sunday.
Pear and ginger upside-down cake
2 c firmly packed soft brown sugar
250g butter, melted, cooled
600g fresh ripe pears, peeled, cored, cut into neat eighths or into 2cm slices
(If the pears are still too hard and not ready to eat, poach them briefly in light syrup before using.)
1 c golden syrup
2 large eggs
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, sifted
2 and 1/2 c plain flour, sifted
2 rounded tsps ground ginger, sifted
1 rounded tsp mixed spice, sifted
(The original recipe has normal flat teaspoonsful, but I do like it spicy.)
200g light sour cream
Preheat oven to 160°C. (If you have a fan, don't use it - use bake setting.)
Lightly grease an oblong or large square cake pan. (My tin was just right - 34cm long, 24cm wide and 5cm deep.) Line base and sides with baking paper.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the brown sugar over paper on base of pan. Pour 1/3 cup of butter over sugar. Arrange pear eighths (rounded side down) or slices in a single layer over butter and sugar.
Place remaining butter in a large bowl. Whisk in syrup, eggs, soda, flour, ground ginger, mixed spice and remaining sugar. Stir in sour cream.
Pour batter evenly over pears. Bake for 1 hour and see if a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If not, leave in for another 10 minutes and check again.
Stand for 10 minutes. Place a large platter over the tin and turn the whole thing over, so that the cake comes out neatly with the fruit on top.
To serve, cut into neat squares. Though it's not at all necessary - this is a very moist cake - a little whipped cream or yoghurt or creme fraiche is definitely good with it.
Here's mine just before I carried it off. Like most of my baking, it was a bit woggly, but delicious all the same.