Candied Pecan and Brown Butter Pear Cake

This is a little bit of Thanksgiving at my (Hannah’s) house:

Glazed pecans, aka "Lusty Nuts"

The Thanksgiving Binder.

Wine.

Puppies licking up kitchen messes.

Povitica for breakfast + chopped chestnuts for making stuffing.

Bffae Bakers (and Halo) say happy Thanksgiving!

One of the eight thousand desserts we had at Thanksgiving this year was a cake from the TG issue of Martha Stewart Living.  (One of my favorite stress relievers may be flipping through my new issue every month, imagining a far more organized life in which I consistently replace my ground spices every 6 months, clean my non-existent silver, and plant pansies in November for colorful spring blooms!)

I really liked that the cake wasn’t too elaborate…the name sounds long, but there’s no frosting to obsessively smooth out or pipe on, and if your cake layers come out slightly uneven, you can chalk it up to the cake being “rustic.”  Yeah.  Rustic is a good word for Thanksgiving.  Now that Thanksgiving is over, make this cake for a holiday party instead if your bûche de noël skills are lacking or you’re tired of cookies.  Do it!

Candied Pecan and Brown Butter Pear Cake

Makes one 3-layer 8-inch cake

Ingredients:
For the pecans
2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
3 TBS unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 TBS vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

For the cake
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup + 2 TBS whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg whites

For the pears
4 TBS unsalted butter
4 Anjou pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch wedges and tossed with lemon juice

For the bourbon whipped cream
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
2 TBS bourbon (optional…but…kinda not)
2 tsp powdered sugar

Directions:
1. For pecans – Preheat oven to 400F with racks in the upper middle and lower middle positions.  Toss toasted pecans with butter, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Spread on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Roast, stirring halfway through, for about 8 to 10 minutes until toasted.  Let cool.
2. For cake – Reduce oven temperature to 350F.  Butter and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans, tapping out the excess flour.  (Unlike me, read the directions.  8-inch pans.  I used 9-inchers and wondered why my layers were thin…)  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.  In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar on medium-high until fluffy, about 3 minutes.   Add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions.  Beat in the vanilla and stir in the candied pecans.
3. In a clean medium bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until frothy.  Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.  Continue to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
4. Gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter.  Fold in the remaining whites in 2 additions.  Divide the batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans.  Bake the cakes, switching pans from top to bottom halfway through, until they’re light golden brown and spring back when pressed lightly in the center.  Let layers cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn cakes out of pans.  Let cool completely on wire racks while you make the pear filling…
5. For pears – Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until browned (but not burned!), swirling the pan occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the pears and cook until tender, about 6 minutes.
6. For whipped cream – In a medium bowl, combine the whipping cream, bourbon, and powdered sugar.  Beat on high speed until soft peaks form.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve cake.
7. To assemble the cake, spread half of the pears over the bottom cake layer.  Place the middle cake layer on top, and spread with the remaining pears.  Place the last cake layer on top, and top with the whipped cream.  Assembled cake, minus the whipped cream, can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

(In the Thanksgiving chaos I forgot to take a picture of the final product…I’m sorry!)

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Thanks for reading, happy baking!

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