Vegan Pear Upside Down Cake

November 12, 2016

This vegan pear upside down cake is super quick and easy, gluten-free, and is made in a pressure cooker. This is a delicious holiday dessert.

This vegan pear upside down cake is made in a pressure cooker!

I had to share this pear upside-down cake from the Vegan Under Pressure cookbook because the recipe is so quick and easy, and the book is such an amazing resource to widen the possibilities for using a pressure cooker.

When you’re living a healthy lifestyle, a pressure cooker is a must-have resource for saving time and enjoying a wider variety of foods on a regular basis. The pressure cooker drastically shortens the cooking times of grains, beans, and vegetables. But, you can utilize your pressure cooker to make so many more foods.

My friend Jill Nussinow is a pressure cooking expert, and I learnt so much about using a pressure cooker from reading the Vegan Under Pressure cookbook.

Jill Nussinow, aka The Veggie Queen™, is a registered dietitian who has been teaching healthy plant-based cooking for more than 25 years, and teaching classes about pressure cooking for over 20 years. She also loves mushroom hunting and teaching fermentation classes. Jill’s motto is “fast, fresh and fun.”

Jill covers everything there is to know about using a pressure cooker safely and effectively in this book. She opens the book with advice on choosing a pressure cooker and the difference between stovetop, jiggle-top, and electric pressure cookers. She also gives a detailed explanation for how a pressure cooker works, and shares how to brown and sauté, braise, poach, steam, boil, stew, and multi-step cook with this amazing machine.

The recipe chapters are broken up by recipe type, and before Jill launches into the recipes she gives a detailed glossary for the ingredients used in the recipes, and how to substitute them if you don’t have certain items.

I love that she opens the recipes with homemade spice blends and seasonings, as this is so important for infusing spectacular flavor into vegetable dishes. There are recipes for cajun seasoning, curry powder, garam masala, Italian seasoning, jerk seasoning, and others.

One of the most popular ways to utilize a pressure cooker is to cook grains and beans. So, Jill covers these two foods in a really comprehensive way. There is a cheat sheet and table for how to cook grains (the ratio of food to liquid, the cook time, and the yield), a separate chart for the most popular kinds of rices, and then grain dishes like vegetable quinoa salad, lemon-scented millet with greens, creamy cornbread with millet, brown rice biryani, herbed polenta, mushroom and buckwheat “risotto”, pumpkin spice steel-cut oats, and veggie paella.

There is a similar cooking cheat sheet with instructions for soaked and unsoaked legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), and some delicious recipes for bean sausages, cannellini beans with gremolata, french green lentil salad, Ethiopian red lentil stew, and homemade soy milk.

The vegetables chapter is my favorite because Jill shares great tips for infusing fabulous flavor into veggies in a way you can’t with traditional steaming. Using a pressure cooker also cuts the cooking time for long-cook veggies like artichokes. If you’ve never cooked veggies in a pressure cooker, the vegetable cheat-sheet (with liquid, cook times, and the pressure release notes) is a fantastic tool. I couldn’t believe how quick it was to cook the artichokes! The brussels sprouts with maple-mustard sauce, harissa-glazed carrots with small green olives, greens with turmeric, ginger, and garlic, spaghetti squash with tomato sauce, coconut cauliflower mash, mediterranean potatoes, orange-scented beet salad, ratatouille, and thai red curry are all delicious.

Sauces, fillings, and toppings are key when making flavorful vegan fare, and Jill has some great recipes for creamy summer squash and mushroom sauce, gingery spinach, scallion, and sesame sauce, horseradish cream sauce, portobello fajita filling, raita, red beauty vegetable sauce, and shiitake spinach sauce. She also makes dips and spreads in the pressure cooker. Try the baba ganoush, asian bean dip, carrot sesame spread, and apple chutney.

I often use my pressure cooker to make soups, so I was excited to try some of Jill’s soups. There are some delicious broth recipes like simple vegetable stock, dark veggie stock, mushroom stock, and allium broth. Some of my favorite soup recipes include: borscht, lemongrass cabbage soup, creamy curried spinach soup, creamy dreamy zucchini chowder, chestnut mushroom soup, red pepper bisque, sweet summer corn chowder, and spring split pea soup.

But, Jill maintains that making main dishes is where your pressure cooker really shines. And, yes, there are some star dishes in this chapter: black bean and sweet potato hash, mediterranean tofu with bell pepper sauce, mushroom and greens quiche, moroccan chickpea stew, kitchari, sassy sesame tofu, garlic parsley mashed potatoes, shepherd’s pie, soba noodles in broth with shiitakes, edamame, and spinach, sesame tempeh sticks, winter squash and adzuki bean stew.

I found the burger chapter really interesting. I’d never made burgers with a pressure cooker. Try the cauliflower and chickpea burgers, black bean and quinoa burgers, walnut, mushroom, and lentil burgers, quinoa, squash, and apple cakes, herbed lentil burgers, smoky double-corn pinto burgers, and sunny Thai split pea patties. Yum…

But the desserts chapter was the most fascinating for me. I had never used my pressure cooker to make a cake! There are recipes for apple raisin walnut cake, moist chocolate cake, cashew lemon cheesecake, peaches poached in red wine. spiced fruit compote, and saffron rice pudding. But, I was so intrigued by this pear upside-down cake that I had to try it and share it with you. It is delicious!

Jill says that the key to making this cake successfully in the pressure cooker is to have a foil helper handle available and to use the right size vessel. She recommends using a 1-quart glass storage bowl or round casserole dish for the best results.

I served this vegan pear upside down cake with cashew cream and vanilla ice cream, and it was a huge hit.

Get your copy of Vegan Under Pressure, and learn more about Jill Nussinow.


Vegan Pear Upside-Down Cake

This vegan pear upside down cake is super quick and easy, gluten-free, and is made in a pressure cooker. This is a delicious holiday dessert. 

Prep Time 23 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 8 to 12
Author Tess Masters



  1. Spray a 1½- to 2-quart glass dish or other vessel (that fits into your pressure cooker) with cooking spray. Sprinkle with the coconut sugar and shake the dish to coat evenly. Arrange the pear slices in the dish in a swirl pattern from the inside out. Sprinkle the toasted almonds on top of the pear.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, almond flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, arrowroot, and salt and mix well. Add the lemon zest to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond milk, vanilla, ground flax, and lemon juice. Let stand for at least 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens.
  4. Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture by quickly folding it in. (The batter will seem a bit sticky, and that’s OK.) Pour the batter over the pears and almonds. Cover the baking dish with a lid or foil.
  5. Put 1 cup of water into your pressure cooker. Add a trivet or rack to elevate the dish above the water. Create a set of helper handles (see note below) and set them on the trivet. Add the covered baking dish.
  6. Lock on the lid. Bring to high pressure; cook for 22 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally. Carefully open the cooker, tilting the lid away from you. Carefully remove the baking dish, using the helper handle, and uncover.
  7. Let cool for at least 30 minutes and then put a plate over the baking dish. Invert and turn out the cake. Let cool and serve.
  8. Note: For a Cranberry Upside-Down Cake: Mix 1/2 teaspoon allspice into the coconut sugar for the bottom of the dish. Use 1 cup fresh cranberries instead of the pear. Use the nut of your choice. Proceed with the recipe.

Recipe Notes

For a Cranberry Upside-Down Cake: Mix 1/2 teaspoon allspice into the coconut sugar for the bottom of the dish. Use 1 cup fresh cranberries instead of the pear. Use the nut of your choice. Proceed with the recipe.

Recipe from Vegan Under Pressure © 2016 by Jill Nussinow, MS, RDN. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Photo © 2016 Lauren Volo


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