3 small underripe pears (Bartlett works well)
½ cup (125 ml) whisky (bourbon works well)
½ cup (125 ml) granulated sugar
2 cups (500 ml) water
3 whole star anise
≈ cup (150 ml) salted butter, softened
¾ cup (175 ml) golden syrup
1≈ cups (400 ml) all-purpose flour
½ cup (125 ml) dark brown sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) baking soda
½ tsp (2.5 ml) baking powder
2 tsp (10 ml) ground ginger
1 ½ tsp (7 ml) ground cinnamon
½ tsp (2.5 ml) ground allspice
½ tsp (2.5 ml) ground nutmeg
¼ tsp (1 ml) ground cloves
½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt
ƒ cup (75 ml) buttermilk
ƒ cup (75 ml) cooled reserved pear poaching liquid
1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated fresh ginger
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar
½ cup (125 ml) reserved pear poaching liquid
¾ cup (175 ml) whipping cream
2 tbsp (30 ml) salted butter, cubed
lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)


  1. To make poached pears, slice a thin piece off bottom of each pear. In smallest saucepan that will fit pears comfortably, combine whiskey, sugar, water and star anise. Place pears in liquid and bring to a simmer. Partially cover saucepan and poach pears over medium-low heat for about 40 to 50 minutes, turning from time to time and maintaining a medium-low simmer. To test for doneness, insert a thin, sharp knife into centre of pear. It should meet no resistance. Remove pears and star anise from poaching liquid and set them and liquid aside to cool. Reserve liquid for cake and caramel sauce. Leftover pear poaching liquid can be stored in refrigerator and used in drinks and sauces.
  2. To make the cake, preheat oven to 325 F (170 C). Butter and line bottom of a 5 x 9-in (12 cm x 23 cm) loaf tin with parchment paper. In a medium high-sided saucepan, combine butter and golden syrup. Melt butter and bring mixture just to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside until cool, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients, including spices, and mix well. Add buttermilk, poaching liquid, ginger, egg and vanilla to butter mixture and whisk together. Add flour/spice mixture to saucepan and whisk well to combine until no lumps remain; batter will be quite wet. Pour batter into prepared pan, then gently place whole poached pears into batter, spacing out evenly. Bake for 1 hour. Test for doneness; skewer inserted into centre of cake should come out clean. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to cool before removing from pan.
  4. To make the caramel sauce, in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine sugar and ½ cup (125 ml) poaching liquid. Dissolve sugar over low heat, stirring gently, then increase heat to medium and cook without stirring for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until caramel is a rich golden brown. Remove from heat and add cream—be careful, as caramel will bubble and sputter; this is normal. Return pan to medium-low heat and add butter. Stir until completely smooth, remove from heat and set aside.
  5. To serve, gently rewarm caramel sauce, if necessary, and drizzle generously over cake. Allow to cool and set, about 10 minutes. Slice cake and serve any extra sauce on the side, adding a dollop of whipped cream, if desired. Makes one 5 x 9-in (12 x 23 cm) cake
Email Recipe

Drink Pairings