(from Yvette van Boven's absolutely fabulous "Home Made Winter")
for the pears:
3 pears (for example Conférence), not too big
1 bottle of white wine
3 star anis
8 cardamom capsules
2 sticks of cinnamon
for the cake:
200g soft butter, plus some more for greasing the cake tin
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 pinch of salt
Peel the pears, but leave them whole, don't remove the stalk. Pour the wine and the water in a pot. Add the sugar, the spices and the pears and poach them over low heat for about half an hour. Then, take the pears out of the pot and let cool. Also remove the spices and let the liquid cook. Reduce it until you have about half of it left. Take away from the heat and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a 25cm cake tin (about 1.5l capacity) with parchment paper and grease with butter.
In a bowl, beat butter and sugar until pale and smooth. Then add the eggs, one by one. Wait until each egg is incorporated until you add the next one. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Add to the other mixture and beat until all is well combined and smooth.
Fill the batter into your prepared cake tin. Press the three pears into the batter and bake the cake for about 40 minutes (with my oven, it took about 10 minutes longer). Let cool in the tin for a while, then release from the tin and let cool completely.
Yvette suggests to decorate the cake with melted white chocolate. Since I'm not really a fan of white chocolate, I left that out and just drizzled with the left pear sirup. You can also decorate the cake with dark chocolate or just dust with icing sugar. Serve the rest of the pear sirup together with the cake.