1 cup pitted dates, chopped
1¼ cups water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 medium Williams pears (500g), peeled
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup caster sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups self-raising flour
Vanilla ice-cream, to serve
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
¹⁄³ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¾ cup maple syrup
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¾ cup thickened cream
Grease a 20cm round x 7cm deep cake pan. Line base and side with baking paper, extending paper 3cm above pan edge.
Combine dates and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Boil for 1 minute. Transfer to a large, heatproof bowl. Stir in soda. Stand for 20 minutes.
To make topping, beat butter and sugar in a small bowl of an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Spread evenly over base of prepared pan.
Cut pears into quarters. Remove and discard core. Arrange pears, cut-sides up, in a circle over topping.
Beat butter and sugar in same, clean bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add to date mixture with sifted flour. Stir until well combined. Pour over pears in pan. Smooth over top.
Cook in a moderately slow oven (160C) for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. (Cover loosely with foil during cooking, if top starts to over-brown.) Stand in pan for 15 minutes. Invert onto a large serving plate.
Meanwhile, to make maple sauce, combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stir over a low heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil. Gently boil, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Pour into a heatproof jug. Stand for 15 minutes.
To serve, pour ¼ cup warm sauce over warm cake. Serve with ice-cream and remaining sauce.