Grease and flour a 25cm cake tin (or grease the tin and line with parchment).
Cut the vanilla pod in half lengthways and immerse it in the milk. In a small pan, bring the milk to the boil, take it off the heat, cover and let it cool down. Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod and stir them into the milk.
In a bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder. In a cup, put the cocoa powder and pour the boiling water over it. Mix till smooth.
Cut the pears into 4 wedges, peel them and then sprinkle with lemon juice.
Beat the 110g butter with the 150g sugar until you get a creamy mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the salt, cocoa mixture and the vanilla-infused milk. Mix everything well.
Add the flour and baking powder to the wet mixture. Mix quickly and gently, just enough to absorb the liquids with the flour. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and place the pear slices on top.
For the topping, in a small pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. (You can also do this in the microwave.) Brush this mixture over the pear slices.
Bake the cake for about 1 hour. Take the cake out of the oven and leave it in the tin for about 10 minutes and then remove to cool on a cooling rack. Serve it warm or at room temperature, with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.
Ensure the butter is soft and the eggs are at room temperature. Williams and Conference pears cook quicker. You can also use tinned pears to speed up the cooking process.
This is a very nice cake. Fairly easy to make. There was just one problem in that the measurement for boiling water (2 tablespoons) hardly even wets the cocoa. I had to add 10 tablespoons of water to get a smooth paste but that was still a very thick paste. I think that novice cooks might have trouble with this part of the recipe - 11 Sep 2012