Start with poaching the pears. Put water and sugar into a medium sized saucepan over a moderate heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. There is no need to peel the pears and you should leave the stems on the pears.
Add the pears, cinnamon stick and the star anise to the poaching liquid, turn the heat down accordingly so the liquid is on a low simmer (there should be no bubbles forming on the surface).
Simmer pears for 5 minutes or until they just start to soften. Remove the pears from the pan and allow to cool slightly. Trim the bottom off each pear so that it is the height of your loaf pan. Keep the poaching liquid aside.
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 180C and grease a loaf tin.
Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and creamy. With the electric mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, ensuring each is fully incorporated. Turn the mixer off, add in the almond meal, plain flour and baking powder and fold through with a spatula.
Spread the cake mixture into the loaf tin and then carefully push the pears into the cake mixture ensuring that they are at even intervals and upright along the length of the loaf tin.
Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the tin for five minutes, then remove and brush with the poaching liquid and either eat warm, or allow to cool completely before dusting with icing sugar and serving with a dollop of cream.