Three-Tier Candied-Pecan Cake with Brown-Butter Pears

Photo: Johnny Miller
Prep Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 10 mins
1 8-inch cake

This cake can be made in advance, but we love it when the filling is warm and syrupy. If you have about 20 minutes to make the filling just before assembling the cake, go for it.


For the Candied Pecans

  • 2 cups chopped pecans, toasted

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

  • ¼ cup packed light-brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For the Cake

  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • Coarse salt

  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

  • 3 large egg whites

For the Pear Filling

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 4 Anjou pears, peeled, cored, cut into ½-inch wedges, and tossed with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For the Bourbon Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream

  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)

  • 2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar

  • Garnish: 1/3 cup chopped pecans


  1. Candy the pecans: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss toasted pecans with butter, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring to coat halfway through, until toasted, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

  2. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl. Beat butter and 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in candied pecans.

  3. Beat egg whites in a clean bowl with a mixer on high speed until frothy. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter using a rubber spatula. Fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions.

  4. Divide batter among pans. Bake until cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks, and let cool completely.

  5. Meanwhile, make the pear filling: Brown butter in a skillet over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Cook pears, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 6 minutes.

  6. Make the bourbon whipped cream: Whisk cream, bourbon, and confectioners' sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.

  7. Trim tops of cakes to create a level surface using a serrated knife. Transfer 1 cake to a platter. Spread half the pears over the top. Top with another cake. Spread remaining pears over the top. Top with remaining cake. Spread whipped cream over the top. Garnish with chopped pecans.

Cook's Notes

Layered cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Top with whipped cream just before serving.

Related Articles