Pear and cranberry upside-down cake

You don’t have to use pears here. Granny Smith apples, firm peaches and even bananas could work well. Whatever you choose will turn this into a delicious seasonal dessert when served with cream or ice-cream.
Serves 8
Poached pears 3 ripe but firm pears 750ml water 150g sugar 2 cinnamon sticks 4 whole cloves 2 strips of zest and the juice of 1 lemon Caramel Topping 90g sugar 20g butter 40g dry cranberries or 50g fresh Cake batter 200g butter 200g sugar 3 eggs 1 tsp vanilla essence 200g ground almonds ¼ tsp salt 80g plain flour 1 orange zest 1 lemon zest ¼ tsp ground cinnamon ¼ tsp ground nutmeg ¼ tsp ground star anise Glaze (optional) 60g apricot jam 1 tbsp water
Peal the pears and cut into 2 lengthways. Scoop out the core. Immediately place in a saucepan containing the water, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, lemon zest and juice. Place a disc of greaseproof directly on the liquid so the pears remain submerged.Bring to the boil and then simmer until the pears are just slightly undercooked. This should take anywhere between 8 and 15 minutes. Check with a sharp knife that they tender outside but firm in the centre. Leave them aside to cool down in their liquids. Heat up the oven to 170°C. Lightly grease a 20cm round cake tin and line its bottom and sides with greaseproof paper. Place the sugar for the caramel in a clean heavy-based saucepan and place on a low heat. Without stirring watch the sugar turn into a rich caramel colour. Make sure to keep your eyes on the sugar at all times as it can easily burn. As soon as you reach the desired colour, remove the pan from the heat quickly but carefully. With your face at a safe distance, throw the butter in in a few chunks. Stir with a wooden spoon and pour onto the base of the cake tin. Carefully tilt it to spread evenly. Drain the pears and cut each half into 3 wedges. If using dry cranberries, soak them in some of the hot cooking juices of the pears. Drain after 10 minutes. Arrange the pears and the cranberries over the caramel. To make the cake, sieve together the flour and the spices. Use the paddle attachment of the mixer to cream the butter and sugar until light and airy. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla. Add the ground almonds and mix just to combine. Repeat with sifted flour, salt and zest. Make sure you don’t over mix. Once the batter is homogeneous and smooth pour it carefully over the pears and cranberries making sure you don’t move them out of their place. Smooth the batter with a palette knife. Bake for 35 minutes. Test with a skewer to make sure the cake is dry inside. Remove from the oven. Whilst the cake is still warm, but not hot, place an upside-down flat plate on top of the tin and briskly turn over. Remove the tin and the paper. To glaze, heat up the jam and the water in a little saucepan. Bring to a light simmer and brush the fruit gently. Let cool before serving.
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