I’ve mentioned before the crazy long and ever-growing list of cupcake flavors, past and present, that I have compiled.  My coworkers use it as a guide when choosing a treat for their birthdays.  Every so often I’ll add a handful of new ideas to the list, and when I do this, I tend to get on a roll.  Ideas just start coming – some specific, concrete ideas I have seen elsewhere.  Some are more murky, a wisp of an idea I had in that fleeting moment of brainstorming.  That is how these started out.  Merely a vague thought added to the list, and overlooked for at least a few years by everyone choosing their treat.  Not that I was surprised, of course.  Pear so rarely plays the leading role, and even if it does, it’s tough going up against over the top concoctions or timeless classics.  Imagine my surprise when someone actually chose them!

Surprise, and then immediate panic since I didn’t have a concrete idea in place.  Baking with pears can be challenging, helping their subtle sweet flavor shine and not be overpowered by something else.  Cooking pears is always my starting point to accentuate their flavor, so I made some caramelized pears and mixed those in to the cupcake batter.  I used a simple vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream and then added a quick pear sauce to the top.  I did use a pinch of fall spices in this recipe, because they go so well with pears.  In the end I was really happy with the balance of pear and vanilla and these went over very well with the work crowd.


For the cupcakes:
14 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
3 cups chopped (peeled) pears (about 3-4 medium pears)
1½ cups plus 3 tbsp. sugar, divided
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of grated nutmeg
2 1/3 cups cake flour
2¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting: 
4 large egg whites
1 scant cup sugar
Pinch of salt
12 oz. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the pear topping: 
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 cups chopped (peeled) pears
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of grated nutmeg
Vanilla bean pod (from cake)
¾-1 cup plus 2 tbsp. water, divided
2 tsp. cornstarch


  • 01

    To make the cupcakes, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the pears, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  When the mixture is evenly combined, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pears are golden and fork tender but not mushy, about 15-20 minutes.  Once finished cooking, set aside.

  • 02

    Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.  Add the remaining 13 tablespoons of butter to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter, reserving the pod.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.  Add the remaining 1½ cups sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.  Fold in the caramelized pears with a spatula.

  • 03

    Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

  • 04

    To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

  • 05

    Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together!)  Stir in the vanilla extract and mix just until incorporated.  Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip.  Pipe swirls around the edges of the cooled cupcakes so that there is a well for the topping.

  • 06

    To make the pear topping, heat the butter in a medium-large skillet, stir in the pears and sugar.   Stir in the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla bean pod.  Heat until the fruit begins to release its juices.  Add the water to the pan and bring the mixture to a low simmer.  Let cook until the pears are just fork tender but not mushy.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of water with the cornstarch, and whisk lightly until smooth.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the pears and cook 1-2 minutes more, until the mixture has thickened.  Let cool thoroughly before topping the cupcakes.


  • Sara Plavic

    I love using pears in recipes! I always find they barely play the main character in fall recipes, so I try to use them more often, than lets say apples ;-) Pears compined with marzipan are a really nice combo also, you should try it sometimes!

  • Jamie_MilkNCookies

    You’re absolutely right that pears don’t seem to get as much attention as many of the other fruits. These cupcakes are so pretty and unique. I’ll definitely be pinning these to make this fall! I

    And I know this post is really about the cupcakes, but I also LOVE those plates. They’re so fun and festive!

  • Warm Vanilla Sugar

    These are gorgeous! Lovely recipe and the icing is perfect!

  • HalfBakedHarvest

    These are so pretty! I have never used pairs in any recipe, but I hope to change that this fall!

  • Laura Dembowski

    These sound awesome! I love baking with pears. These are so pretty too!

  • Tracy

    How elegant! Love the vanilla swiss meringue with the pear sauce.

  • marcie @ flavor the moments

    These cupcakes are absolutely gorgeous! I love pears, so this sounds like a wonderful cupcake to me.

  • They turned out great! :) Pears are one of my favorite fruits! YUM :)

  • Pear is actually a very popular flavour for cake down under. I think cooking them with vanilla is wonderful idea. I would love to see these with sprinkle of pistachios praline for added crunch!

  • Jennifer McHenry

    Love! I’m pretty well giddy with the appearance of pears in our markets. Yay, fall!

  • I always love your cupcake posts Annie. I also love that plate!

  • stevierae5

    These look AMAZING!

  • Vicki Wilde

    These cupcakes look beautiful and I love the pear topping!

  • My coworkers tend to not be SUPER adventurous but I do love it when one requests something a little bit off the beaten path. It’s always so fun to experiment!

  • Two Red Bowls

    These are simply GORGEOUS. Pear and vanilla sounds like an incredible cupcake flavor, and they’re just wonderfully decorated too. Thanks for sharing :)

  • I’ve never been a fan of pears but lately I’ve “re-discovered” them so your recipe has the most perfect timing! I’ll try them as soon as I can, they’ll be perfect with fall just around the corner :) Thank you!

  • Sandra

    Hey Annie. What kind of pears did u use?

  • beckiswholelife

    These sound wonderful. I love pears and your cupcakes sound like a great late summer/early fall treat with all of the spices. You are so good to make cupcakes for your co-worker’s b’days!

  • Alena Woo

    Your cupcakes look divine! What a great idea to caramalize the pears before they go into the batter. I’m going to have to try doing it next time I make a pear cake. Thanks for the post!

  • Its_a_Keeper

    These look amazing!

  • Kelsey

    I adore pears, but they are so sadly underappreciated. I am so glad to see these cupcakes. Next time I want to make myself a special treat, this is what I’m making!

  • grandbabycakes

    These are gorgeous! Stunners!

  • Ooooooh I love pears and that gorgeous frosting swirls you have going on there

  • margaretortigo

    Perfect recipe for this time of year. Lots of pears on my tree and looking for good tasty ways to use them. Thanks for this one.

  • annieseats

    I believe these were Bartlett.

  • Nancy Long

    Yum, thinking some of the pear brandy that I’ve had for about 30 years would be good in this

  • Sandra

    I made them. They were very good. Only thing was that the cupcakes wrappers started sticking out of the cupcakes, do you know why does this happen?? Thanks for the recipe though… they were just a good way to start Fall Season.

  • Gorgeous cupcakes! I usually don’t cook with pears but I love them, and I’m sure I’ll go crazy over them in cupcake form!

  • annieseats

    You know, this is something I have discussed with my baking friends at length and we cannot figure out exactly what causes it. Some have even gone so far as to test their theories and nothing has been consistent. In my personal opinion it’s a combination of factors including the particular cake recipe, the type of wrappers you use, and the environmental humidity where you are. I rarely have this happen but I know some people who it happens to every time, no matter what cupcake or liner they use. I wish I had a good answer for you!

  • Melody Eddy

    These look delicious! Any openings for nurses in your work group? :)

  • Kathleen

    Love the plates in this post! Where are they from?

  • yum, these sound delicious

  • Becky

    I have a cupcake related question for you…when I bake my cupcakes my wrappers always look greasy from the oil or butter. I have noticed on your site that your cupcakes don’t appear that way. Would you have any ideas for what I’m doing wrong/you doing right that would produce cleaner looking cupcakes?

  • annieseats

    It is probably mostly to do with the type of liners you are using. Please see the FAQ page for more info. Thanks!

  • annieseats

    I think these are from west elm.

  • Sandra

    Thanks for your answer. I think when I bake cupcakes that has some kind of fruit, wrappers tend to stick out… Once I baked lemon meringue cupcakes and the batter had lemon juice and same thing happened… who knows… :) . Thanks for your awesome recipes ! I’m baking your pumpkin latte cupcakes today! yummiee

  • Eugene Koh

    Thanks for the recipe Annie! Going to try that out today. In step one of your recipe, you call for 1 tbsp of water to be heated. I assume that was meant to be butter?

  • annieseats

    Yep, you’re correct. Sorry about that, I’ve corrected it now.

  • Marie

    Could I use fresh strawberries instead of pears? Also what tip did you use for the frosting?

  • annieseats

    If you are looking for strawberry cupcakes, I would recommend these: http://www.annies-eats.com/2010/12/29/strawberry-cupcakes-2/

    I don’t recall what tip I used for these. Sorry!

  • Marie

    Thank you.