This is a super cake: moist, tasty and covered with my favourite caramel topping. You can make it with apples, too. I grind the whole star anise in a spice grinder. Serve with softly whipped cream.
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground star anise (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1 Bartlett pear, peeled and grated
Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, line base with parchment paper and butter paper. Preheat oven to 375 F.
Place butter and sugar in a skillet over medium heat and cook until butter is melted. Add pears and sauté for 12 to 15 minutes, turning pears halfway through, or until syrup has become a caramel and pears are softened and lightly browned. Carefully transfer pears to pan, laying them in a pinwheel pattern. If pan juices aren't thick and syrupy, return to stove and simmer 1 to 2 minutes longer. Pour over pears. Set aside while making batter.
Beat butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat to combine.
Sift together flour, baking powder, star anise and salt. Beat in a third of the flour mixture, then half of the milk and repeat until both flour and milk have been incorporated. Stir in grated pear.
Spread batter over pear base. Bake for 50 minutes or until top is brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes to allow caramel to absorb.
Run a knife around sides of pan then invert onto a serving plate and peel off parchment paper. Serve warm or cold. Serves 6 to 8.