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Pears with a spun toffee halo

Choose the smallest pears you can find to make this delightful and whimsical cake, so they just poke out of the pecan-covered butter cake.


Pears with a spun toffee halo
Pears with a spun toffee halo
1 cinnamon stick
2 strips lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
440 g (14 oz) caster sugar
6 beurre bosc or packham pears
3 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
icing sugar, to dust 


1. Put the cinnamon, lemon rind, juice, 1 litre water and half the sugar in a pan large enough to hold the pears and stir over heat until the sugar has dissolved. Core the pears through the bases with a melon bailer, then peel and place in the syrup. Simmer, partly covered, for 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the heat and leave to cool in the syrup. Drain and leave on paper towel to drain thoroughly.

2. Preheat the oven to moderate 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Lightly grease two 23 cm (9 inch) round spring—form tins and cover the bases with baking paper. Divide the cake mixture between the tins. Arrange the pears around the edge of one cake, about 2 cm (1 inch) in from the edge, and gently press into the mixture. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the plain cake comes out clean. Cook the pear cake for a further 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave the cakes in their tins for 5 minutes, before removing.

3. Warm and strain the jam and spread some over the plain cake—if the top is domed, trim it flat. Sit the pear cake on top and brush with a little jam. Sprinkle with the pecans.

4. For the spun toffee, place a couple of sheets of newspaper on the floor where you will be spinning the toffee. Place a wooden spoon on the work surface with its handle over the edge, above the newspaper (weigh it down with a heavy object). Lightly oil the spoon handle. Put a heavy-based pan over medium heat, gradually sprinkle with some of the remaining sugar and, as it melts, sprinkle with the rest. Stir to melt any lumps and prevent burning. Meanwhile, run a little cold water into the sink. When the toffee is golden brown, remove the pan from the heat and place the base in the water to quickly cool the toffee and prevent it burning. This will also make the toffee thicken.

5. Hold two forks back to back and dip in the hot toffee. Carefully flick the toffee backwards and forwards over the handle of the spoon, redipping in the pan as often as necessary—you may need to do this several times. If the toffee gets too thick, warm it slightly over low heat. Lift the toffee off the spoon and mould into a large halo shape, about the same width as the top of the pears. Make a couple more halos and place over the pears.

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