This indulgent recipe combines two of the greatest desserts – gooey sticky toffee pudding and poached pears.
8 firm pears
200g caster sugar
275g muscovado sugar
2 eggs beaten
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
150ml double cream
1tsp vanilla extract
1) Peel the pears and cut a disc from the base of each, so they have a flat bottom to stand on. Using a teaspoon, remove their cores and pips. Put the pears in a pan with the caster sugar, cinnamon, the juice and zest of an orange and 500ml water. Bring to the boil, then poach gently for
15 minutes, until the pears are still warm but can be easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Leave to cool in the liquid.
2) Pit and chop the dates. Add to a bowl and cover with boiling water for 5 minutes to soften. Drain, then mash with a fork.
3) Add 75g of the butter and 175g of muscovado sugar to a bowl and beat till pale and creamy. Bit by bit, add the beaten eggs and beat well into the mixture. Add bicarbonate of soda to the dates, stir, then add to the cake mix with self-raising flour and mixed spice. Beat till combined.
4) Grease and line a 30 x 20cm baking tin with parchment. Add the cake mix, then the pears, evenly spaced and stalk ends up, pushing down so their bottom halves are covered by the mix. Bake in a 180°C/gas 4 oven for 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean, then remove.
5) Place 100g of light muscovado sugar, 100g butter, double cream and vanilla extract in a pan on a medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until reduced. When the pudding is done, let it cool for 5 minutes, then drizzle some of the sauce over it. Serve with the rest of the sauce in a jug and with butterscotch ice cream (optional).