Korean Kitchen Hacking: Rice Cooker Series – Pear Upside Down Cake (배찜케이크)

The obvious change of seasons always comes as a surprise.  Before I have time to switch out the clothes, autumn enters and I am still wearing multiple layers of summer clothes – in chilling rains and sweaty hot suns.  Not that I am ever too fond of sticky summers, but I always seem to hold onto the last lingering bits of the past season.

In addition to simply being slow in adjusting to a new season, this is all poetic and melancholy in my head along the lines of soaking in crisp air and colored leaves – until the reality of a sore throat and fever sets in one morning.  At least now it is the season of pears and steamed pear made with honey and ginger, favored by Koreans as a home remedy for cold and flu but also can be a great dessert.

This is a play on steamed pear (배찜; bae jjim), now made into a cake in a rice cooker.  The end result looks similar to a pear upside down cake.  The sponge cake is comfortingly moist and the soft pear pieces are sweet and gingery.  That’s enough to remind myself of the flavors of bae jjim, enough to convince myself the whole cake is good to cure any cold or flu.

The recipe below yields a small round cake of 2″ (~5cm) in height and 6″ (~15cm) in diameter.  Feel free to convert the recipe based on the size of your cake mold, which is your rice cooker bowl.

For the honey-glazed pear balls, scoop out small pieces from an Asian pear.  A melon-baller makes the job easier and helps the pieces look more consistent, but you can just cut a pear into small pieces without it.  You only need enough to cover the bottom of the rice cooker.  Simmer together 1 stick of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon (ts) of fresh grated ginger and 2 Tablespoons (TBSP) of honey with the pear balls over low heat.  Juice from the pear will be drawn out soon, which is enough to cook the pear balls.  When the pear balls become softer, but still with a bite, remove from heat and let it rest while you prepare the sponge cake batter.

To make the sponge cake batter

Dry ingredients) Sift together 1 cup (C) of all-purpose flour, 1 ts ginger powder, 1 ts of baking powder and 1/8 ts of salt.  Set aside.

Wet ingredients) Make egg white meringue by whisking 4 egg whites to a medium peak (when you lift the whisk, the tip will gently fall down) as you gradually add 1/4 C of sugar.  This is about the least amount of sugar you can add without crossing the line of savory.  Here is a link to more information on egg white meringue.

Then in the order of 4 egg yolks, 4 TBSP of vegetable oil (I use grape seed oil), 1/2 ts of vanilla extract, 1/4C of milk, mix in the ingredients completely, one by one.

Fold in the sifted dry ingredients to the mix of wet ingredients, just enough to combine everything together.  Don’t over mix.

Back to the pear balls sitting in its own juice.  Drain the pear balls.  Reserve the pear syrup for later.  In a rice cooker bowl that is greased well with butter (or vegetable oil), place the pear balls at the bottom and pour the cake batter over.  ‘Cook’ twice in the rice cooker.  Test the middle of the cake with a toothpick.  If it comes out clean, it’s done.  Carefully flip the rice cooker bowl upside down and gently catch the cake with a serving plate.

You can make the pear glaze to pour over the cake while the cake is cooling.  The reserved pear syrup should be simmered gently over low heat.  If there is any leftover pear after scooping out the balls, you can chop it up and add to the syrup.  Add about 1 TBSP of sugar to dissolve, which will help make the syrup shiny and stick to the cake better.  Strain the pear pieces and let it cool for about 5 minutes.  The syrup will thicken as it cools, so while it’s warm, pour the syrup over the cake.

Any leftover should be kept in the refrigerator.  The cake will stay moist and taste even better the next day as the flavors come together.

If you are interested in my other rice cooker recipes, you can follow the links below.

Carrot Mushroom Rice

Carrot Cake

Biscuits for Strawberry Shortcake


pear      배   (bae)

honey   꿀    (ggul)

ginger  생강 (saeng gang)


Honey Cuisine Sushi & BBQ, Rohnert Park, Calif.

Video: Temple Cuisine Event in New York


5 thoughts on “Korean Kitchen Hacking: Rice Cooker Series – Pear Upside Down Cake (배찜케이크)”

  1. Oh, very clever! I love to see how people use rice cookers for other than cooking rice.

    I recently stewed the filling for a meat pie in my rice cooker. It was great!

  2. Thanks KMK & pekopeko!
    @KMK – I like ginger so much I usually keep some grated ginger in honey in the fridge – it makes great tea with just hot water and it’s good to add to just about everything, including this pear cake. The cake is pretty simple to make – the pear balls alone make it worth a try. Have fun with it!

    @pekopeko – meat filling in the rice cooker! Love it – who says rice cooker is only for rice? ^_^

  3. This is the first time that I have heard of a recipe like this, where you will basically use a rice cooker for your upside down cake. I would love to give it a try and see how it will turn out. I have to agree with Shin’s comment below, its giving the rice cooker a new purpose.

    • The whole experiment started because I thought it was boring to use the rice cooker just for rice. Now it may be the most overused(abused?) tool in my kitchen, including many other dishes I tried & failed. Let me know how your rice cooker pear cake turns out!


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