Preheat oven 350°F
1/4 cup honey, with a good flavor (Italian chestnut recommended, but others work)
4-5 large Bosc pears-peel & halve or quarter lengthwise
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of one large lemon
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flower flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (one stick) plus 1-2 tablespoons butter, melted & cooled
1/4 to 1/3 cup sliced almonds
1. Simmer honey in a 9" or 10" well-seasoned cast iron or nonstick pan so honey is reduced and faintly darker, watching so it does not burn.
2. Place pears in a circle in the honey, stem ends toward the center. Simmer until pears begin to change color on both sides, ending with pears on their curved side. Scatter thyme sprigs.
3. Bake in oven for 10-25 minutes, depending on how long they simmered. Pears should be tender, not mush as they will bake a bit more in the oven.
4. While pears are baking, make the batter. Stir together sugar and lemon zest. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Fold in flour and salt; add all the melted butter except for 1-2 tablespoons.
5. When pears are tender, take pan from oven, remove thyme sprigs, brush melted butter on the edges of the pears. Pour batter over the fruit and scatter almonds on the batter.
6. Bake until cake tester or toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan on a rack for at least 1/2 hour. Then carefully loosen edges and then THE center of cake with an offset spatula. Cake may stick a bit in a cast iron pan. Place plate over pan. Flip carefully.
7. Remove any cake that has stuck to the pan, and just place on the cake, remembering Julie Childs’ approach to mishaps!
Serves 8-10. Quite rich and sweet.