½ cup coarsely chopped dried prunes
2 Tbs hot water
2 Tbs brandy or cognac
4 medium sized FIRM pears (excluding Bartlett) - Do Not Use Fully Ripened Pears
½ cup sugar
6 Tbs unsalted butter
1 cup + 3 Tbs all purpose flour
1/3 cup +1 Tbs chestnut flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ cup + 2 Tbs unsalted butter - softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
½ vanilla bean - split down the middle and seeded (substitute with 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract)
1 tsp brandy or cognac
1/3 cup whole milk
2 Tbs sugar
Powdered sugar for dusting
Filling: Place prunes and liquor in a small bowl. Add boiling water. Mix well. Set aside to allow prunes to plump and soften.
Caramelizing pears: Peel, halve and core pears. Sprinkle bottom of baking dish evenly with 1/4 cup sugar. Put 1 Tbs butter into each “well” created by coring the pear halves. Place cut side down over sugar. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup sugar over the top of each pear. Top the pears with remaining butter. Bake covered at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove cover and continue baking until pears are just fork tender. Approx. 15 minutes.
Set aside to cool while you prepare the cake.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour 9" round spring form cake pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. In a separate medium bowl, whisk both flours together and add baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
Add egg and egg yolk to butter mixture one at a time. Beat until mixed well. Add liquor and vanilla and mix again.
Add dry ingredients, alternating with milk, in three stages. Begin and end with the dry ingredients. Beat batter on low speed after each addition. Scrape the bowl often.
Drain any remaining liquid from prunes and add to the mixture. Mix again for 30 seconds.
Pour batter into prepared 9" spring form cake pan. Smooth top evenly with spatula. Place the caramelized pears in a circular pattern and sprinkle with 2 Tbs. sugar.
Bake 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool.
Place cake on serving platter and dust with powdered sugar.
Cake can be stored tightly covered, at room temperature for several days.