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Put the chopped dates in a pan with the milk, butter, ginger preserve and dark muscovado. Heat gently until the butter has melted and the mixture starts to bubble round the edges of the pan. Stir well and set aside for 1 hr to cool.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line the base of a buttered 23cm springform tin with baking parchment. Peel and chop the pears into large chunks. Mix the flour, chopped pecans and bicarb with the spices, then stir into the cooled date mixture with the eggs. Pour into the tin and scatter over the pears. Roughly break the reserved pecans and drop on top. Bake for 40 mins, then cover the top loosely with foil and return to the oven for 25-30 mins more until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with just sticky crumbs – the cake may still look a little wet around the pears.
While the cake is baking, make the brandy syrup. Tip the light muscovado sugar into a pan with 50ml water and dissolve over a low heat until syrupy. Stir in the brandy and set aside. When the cake is ready, spoon over half the syrup, then leave the cake to cool before serving with extra syrup on the side.
To freeze, cool the cake in its tin, then wrap well and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost and warm through in a low oven. The syrup can be frozen separately, warmed, then drizzled over as before.