Set the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Line the base of a deep 25cm (10in) spring-form cake tin with baking parchment and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of demerara sugar. Beat the eggs, vanilla seeds and sugar for 1 minute, then beat in the oil and the wine for 30 seconds. Sift the flour, baking powder and polenta, add and mix well. Peel the pears, cut into sixths and core. Arrange the pears on the sugar in the cake tin in a fan pattern, pour on the batter and put in the oven. After 30 minutes cover the tin loosely with foil and cook for another 30 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer – keep cooking until it comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn out and pour on the topping.
To make the topping, bring the sugar and water to the boil in a deepsided pot, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once it’s dissolved keep on a vigorous boil but don’t stir. Cook until the syrup turns into a dark golden caramel, then gently but quickly add the pear pieces. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring the mixture gently, before adding the lemon zest and juice. Turn to a simmer and cook until the pears are tender.
© 1997 Peter Gordon. All rights reserved.