Jane Grigson recipe (from her Fruit Book) – special enough for guests
90g lightly-salted butter, cut up
90g granulated sugar
2 tbsp syrup from preserved stem ginger
3 or 4 large firm pears
juice of a lemon
125g (90g) softened butter
125g (90g) caster sugar
100g (60g) self-raising flour
1 (¾) level tsp baking powder
30g (35g) ground almonds
2 large (medium) eggs
3-4 tbsps syrup from stem ginger
4 knobs of stem ginger coarsely chopped
(my qtys for medium eggs & 21cm tin in brackets)
Take a shallow cake tin or moule à manquer that measures 23-25cm across and at least 3.5cm deep. Set it over a low heat and put in the butter. Stir about with a wooden spoon, pushing the butter up the sides to grease them. Add sugar and syrup and stir about until you have a rich creamy-fawn bubbling mixture, a pale toffee mixture. Remove from the heat. If you don’t have a suitable tin, you can do this bit in a saucepan and then pour into a springform cake tin.
Peel, core and thinly slice the pears, turning them in lemon juice on a plate so that they do not discolour. Arrange them in a sunflower effect on the toffee base. Put the larger pieces round the outside, curved side down and overlapping, so that the base is evenly covered with two rings of pear slices, and some central pieces.
Tip all the cake ingredients, except the chopped ginger, into an electric mixer or processor, and whizz to smoothness. Or beat everything vigorously together with a wooden spoon. Add the ginger and spread over the top of the pears. Bake at gas 5, 190°C for 45 mins. If the top is richly brown and well risen, turn the heat down to gas 4, 180°C. Leave another 15 mins or until the edges of the cake have slightly contracted from the tin, and a skewer pushed in almost horizontally comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack, then run a broad knife blade between the tin and the edge of the cake to make sure there are no sticking patches.
Put a serving plate with a rim on top, upside-down, then turn the whole thing as rapidly as possible – use a cloth to protect your hands. A certain amount of juice will flow from the cake, but this only adds to its delicious-ness.
Serve hot, warm or cold, on its own, or with cream as a pudding. It’s a spoon-and-fork cake, being far too messy to eat with your fingers at afternoon tea.