Uh, YUM. Highly recommended. I was surprised how well the pears' shape and flavor survived baking; I rather expected them to disappear into a bland mush.
I made double the pear topping, 1.5 x the batter, and baked two 9-inch cakes, dropping about a cup of partly-baked cherry cheesecake chunks (leftover from Epic Cake) into one pan. This filled both pans (with a little batter still left over) so full they aaalmost overflowed in the oven. All this is to say that I don't know exactly how full the following recipe will fill one 9-inch cake pan. Pretty darn full, I would guess. And if you want to make two cakes, I think the cake recipe x 1.5 will give you enough. The good news is, even if the sides ooze over a bit, don't worry about the edges getting very brown and crisp; after unmolding, the cake's moisture will redistribute, making those edges nice and soft again.
The cherries added tartness, which was a very nice touch. I'm ambivalent about the cheesecake, though -- it's good, but probably not worth the effort unless you happen to have some lying around (as I did).
Ginger-Pear Upside Down Cake
2 TB sliced almonds (optional)
2 anjou pears, barely ripe, sliced into circles, seeds poked out
(core will soften)
1 1/2 TB fresh lemon juice
2 TB candied ginger, finely diced
(or use 1 TB fresh grated ginger and add a little extra brown sugar)
4 TB butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 stick butter, melted and cooled to room temp
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup dried tart cherries, reconstituted and drained (optional)
Mix dry cake ingredients in medium bowl and set aside. Grease and flour the sides of a 9-inch cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scatter almonds evenly along bottom of pan. Arrange pear slices, prettiest ones first, on top of almonds. Drizzle with lemon juice, then with butter. Sprinkle ginger and brown sugar evenly over pears. Set aside.
In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and molasses on low speed until combined. Beat in egg. Gradually add milks and beat on slow, then medium speed for about a minute, scraping bowl as needed. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined (do not overmix).
Carefully pour batter over pears. Drop cherries into batter, if using. Bake for 35-45 minutes until tester comes out almost clean (rotate pans halfway through if you make a double batch). Cool on wire rack for five minutes, then run knife along the edge, gently invert onto flat serving dish, and remove parchment paper. Let cool at least fifteen minutes before serving. A dollop of whipped cream on the side would complete this dessert, I think.