- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 220 gm (1 cup) caster sugar
- 80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
- 2 lemons, finely grated rind and juice only
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 190 gm coarse polenta
- 75 gm (½ cup) plain flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 110 gm (½ cup firmly packed) brown sugar
- 250 ml (1 cup) sweet red vermouth
- 8 fresh bay leaves
- 8 pieces of lemon rind, removed with a vegetable peeler
- 4 firm Packham pears, peeled, cored and halved lengthways
- 1Preheat oven to 150C. Using an electric mixer, whisk eggs and sugar until pale and creamy (about 5 minutes). Slowly add olive oil in a thin stream, continuing to whisk, then add lemon rind and vanilla. Combine polenta, flour, baking powder and ½ tsp salt, sift dry ingredients in 3 batches over egg mixture, alternating with lemon juice and folding to combine well. Pour batter into a lightly oiled 20cm ring mould, bake until a skewer withdraws clean (40-45 minutes). Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- 2For vermouth pears, increase oven to 200C. Combine sugar and vermouth in a jug, stir to combine and dissolve sugar. Arrange pears face down snugly in a roasting pan, scatter with bay leaves and lemon rind, pour over vermouth mixture and roast, turning halfway through cooking and basting occasionally, until golden and tender (15-20 minutes). Cool to room temperature.
- 3Serve cake in wedges with vermouth pears.