To make pear topping: Peel pears and cut them lengthwise into 6 to 8 slices, removing seeds. Put the pears and juice into a pan and bring to a boil. Cover pan and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove pears with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the apricot jam to remaining juice in the pan.
Dissolve kudzu or arrowroot in a little cold water or juice and add to pan, stirring until thickened. (Add a little more juice if the mixture is too thick—it should be like a thick but pourable sauce.) Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of this mixture over pears and toss to coat them. Reserve the rest to serve as a sauce on the cake.
To make cake: Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, mix together the syrup, oil, vanilla extract and milk. If using an egg, whisk it and add to the liquids. If not using an egg, add another 2 tablespoons of milk.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix well.
Oil an 8-inch springform cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Arrange the pears in the bottom of the cake pan and spoon the cake mixture on top.
Bake for about 30 minutes. Test to see if it's done by inserting a toothpick or knife; if it comes out clean, it's done.
Remove from oven and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate or platter. Drizzle the jam mixture on top and spread evenly, spreading it down the sides as well. Sprinkle the toasted almonds around the edge.
Published on June 04, 2010