This Pear & Walnut Cake with Honey Buttercream is the perfect way to kick off the Fall season.
It’s September! Are you as excited as I am?? The weather has finally, finally cooled off a bit, and I am itching to get back into jeans and sweaters. I’m going to try to refrain from inundating you with pumpkin recipes this year. There are so many other seasonal flavours to bake with that I think I can stay away from pumpkin this year. Or at least, I’m going to try!
I’m kicking off my favourite season with a fruit I rarely eat, never mind bake with. Truthfully, I don’t eat a lot of any fruit, but I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve bought pears in the past 5 years. I can’t explain why exactly, just that I tend to gravitate towards apples when it comes to my limited fruit consumption. I already have an Apple Pie Cake, so it was time to try something new with this Pear & Walnut Cake.
There are fresh grated pears in the cake which add a ton of moisture, and some toasted walnuts for additional flavour and some crunch. I paired it with a honey buttercream for something a bit unique, but you could leave the honey out if you like and have a simple (but delicious) vanilla buttercream.
The poached pears are totally optional for this, as I just used them as decoration, though they’re easy enough to make if you’re feeling up for it. I had to do mine twice, because the first pears I used were too soft and/or I cooked them for too long, so they were a bit mushy when I took them out of the liquid. The second batch went much better.
If you decide to do the poached pears for the top, do them the day before so they can rest in the liquid in the fridge. I’d also bake the cake layers the day before, because I like to spread out my cake-making time!
This Pear & Walnut Cake is incredibly moist, but it is a bit more on the dense side. If you’re looking for a light and fluffy cake, this is not it! But I love it. To me, the texture of this cake is perfect for Fall: comforting and delicious. The spices and walnuts add amazing flavour, too. I didn’t realize how much I love walnuts in cake until I made my Walnut Cake last year — it’s one of my favourites.
Tips for this Pear & Walnut Cake with Honey Buttercream:
- If you’re going to do the poached pears as garnish, do them a day in advance.
- I used both Anjou and Bartlett pears for this recipe, but any kind of pear is fine.
- Be sure to toast your walnuts in advance — it gives them more flavour. About 5-10mins at 350F, until they are fragrant.
- Be sure to check my Swiss Meringue Buttercream post for tips and troubleshooting.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, see my Flat Top Cakes post.
Pear & Walnut Cake with Honey Buttercream
Poached Pears (optional):
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup honey
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 pears small, peeled
Pear & Walnut Cake:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar packed
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 1 cup chopped walnuts toasted
- 2 cups shredded pears approx. 2 pears, peeled, cored, and coarse shredded
Honey Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 1/4 cup honey
- poached pears (optional)
- chopped walnuts toasted
Poached Pears (optional):
- **NOTE** Do a day in advance.
- Place honey, water, lemon juice, and cinnamon into a medium pot (big enough to hold the pears so they will be covered). Bring to a boil over med-high.
- Add pears and simmer over medium until tender, turning occasionally (approx 20-30 mins depending on how firm your pears are - insert a sharp knife to test). Do not overcook!
- Gently remove pears with a slotted spoon and place them into a medium bowl, cover with the honey syrup (so pears will be covered). Cool completely then place in the fridge to chill overnight.
- The next day, if desired, place the honey syrup into a medium pot and simmer over medium heat (10-15mins) to reduce. You can drizzle this over the pears or over the cut slices of cake. *
Pear and Walnut Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 8" cake rounds and line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on med-high until pale and fluffy (approx 3mins). Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition.
- Gently fold in walnuts and shredded pears. Spread evenly between the two pans.
- Bake for 50-55mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack.
Honey Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.**
- Place bowl over a double boiler on the stove and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch (approx. 3mins). Or registers 160F on a candy thermometer.
- Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins)).
- Switch to paddle attachment. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth.***
- Add honey and whip until smooth.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approximately 1 cup of buttercream. Repeat with remaining layer and crumb coat the cake. Chill for 20mins.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake in a rustic manner. If desired, add toasted walnuts along the bottom and top, and place poached pears on top. Secure pears in place with toothpicks and drizzle with poaching syrup.
** Ensure there is NO trace of egg yolks in your whites and that your mixer bowl and whisk is completely grease free or your meringue won't stiffen.
*** The buttercream may look like it's curdled at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth. Poached pears recipe adapted from Epicurious.