This Pear & Walnut Cake with Honey Buttercream is incredibly moist and packed with flavor. 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. Update: I wrote this last week. We are now expecting a massive heatwave for the next 7+ days. Temps into the 30’s C! So much for jeans and sweaters, lol.
I’m kicking off my favorite 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 Cake!
How to Make this Pear Cake
This cake is a standard creaming method butter-based cake. As with most of my recipes, I used my Vanilla Cake as a base for this and added/modified ingredients as I was testing it out.
There are freshly grated pears in the cake which add a ton of moisture, and some toasted walnuts for additional flavor and some crunch. I find grated pears worked best for the flavor and texture I was going for.
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. They’re easy enough to make though, 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. I used the poached pear recipe from Epicurious with some modifications.
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 flavor, too. I didn’t realize how much I love walnuts in cake until I made my Walnut Cake a few years ago — it’s one of my favorites.
If you’re looking for a unique and delicious cake to kick off the fall season, this Pear & Walnut Cake is for you!! And if you’re a fan of honey, be sure to check out these delicious cakes:
Tips for this Pear & Walnut Cake with Honey Buttercream:
- The recipe as-is will also work in three 6″ pans. For three 8″ pans, 1.5x the recipe.
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so.
- If you’re going to do the poached pears as a 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 flavor. About 5-10mins at 350F, until they are fragrant.
- The cooled cake layers can be baked ahead of time, double wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
- The frosting can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for 1 week for frozen for 3 months. Bring to room temp and rewhip before using.
- Be sure to check my Swiss Meringue Buttercream post for tips and troubleshooting.
- Learn how to keep your cakes moist using Simple Syrup.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, check out my How to Bake Flat Cake Layers 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 cup 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.
Originally published Sept 2017
How many cups does this frosting make? Would it cover a 3-6in cake?
Hi Amy! I have never measured it but it should be enough for a three layer 6″ cake for sure!
Hi : I was wondering if it doesn’t miss some Baking Soda . I did twice and came out flat ; in last layer I added some, it’s in the oven now and looks little bit better . I live in UK 🇬🇧 maybe ingredients are different 🤔
Hi Xenia! This cake doesn’t rise a ton but should rise some. Did you check to make sure your baking powder is not expired?
Can I chop canned pears for this recipe?
Hi Amie! I haven’t made it with chopped canned pears myself but I suspect it should work fine 🙂
Hi! I want to make this frosting for Easter, but Easter morning is always so busy–can it be made a day ahead? what’s the best way to make this ahead? And how do you recommend storing it?
Hi Sarah! Yes, you can make it in advance. See this post for more tips: https://livforcake.com/swiss-meringue-buttercream-recipe/
“Can I make Swiss meringue buttercream in advance? Yes! You can leave it at room temperature for a day or two, refrigerate for up to two weeks, or freeze it for up to 3 months. Be sure to store it in an airtight container. You must bring the buttercream completely to room temperature and rewhip before use. If the buttercream separates, it was still a bit too cold. See Step #3 above in the Troubleshooting section.”
Im considering this cake for our family thanksgiving and had a few questions!
1. instead of a simple syrup to brush the cakes with, could I make a honey simple syrup and do that?
2. would this work if i made a pear compote and added that between the layers as well?
i really love the flavor of pear and ive seen apple be used but not pear!
Hi Julia! You could totally use a honey simple syrup instead or just use the honey syrup from the poached pears! I think a pear compote would be delicious. Just be sure to make a dam with the buttercream to hold in the filling. Let me know how it turns out!
Maurita Shollar says
Do you think I could substitute maple syrup for the honey in the buttercream? I love the flavor of pears and maple together, and I want to make this cake for Thanksgiving/my birthday.
Hi Maurita! I think that would work fine! You can also try my maple buttercream here: https://livforcake.com/maple-cake/
I’m going to make this cake in a couple days at the request of my guests. I told them to pick a cake from your site and this is it. Perfect choice because I wanted to make it anyway. The only thing is that I’m not a huge honey fan. I will probably use amaretto in the poached pears instead of honey. What frosting would you recommend since I’m not doing honey poached pears? Would the German be a good choice? I have some freeze dried pears I could turn into a powder and then use?
Hi Glenna! You can still make this buttercream and just leave the honey out of it (use some vanilla instead). The German would be delicious too though. And yes to the FD pears! If I had those I’d definitely try adding the powder to the buttercream.
Hey this recipe looks so good! Do you how I could make it less dense? Thank you ❤️❤️❤️🎂🍰🧁
Hi Jenna! My cakes tend to be more on the dense side rather than light and fluffy, but it shouldn’t be too dense. Overly dense cakes can be from overmixing the cake batter once the flour is added — it develops too much gluten. You could try using cake flour instead as well.
Chantelle M Beal says
I made this for my September birthday with pears from our own tree.. It was fabulous. I liked the light cinnamon spice in the cake. It did not overpower the pear flavor. I did not put the walnuts in the cake but just spread them around. The poached pears were delicious as well. I sliced them in half and placed them flat on the cake top around the perimeter. Very pretty. The SMB frosting was perfect. Everything worked together to complement the pear flavor.
Hi Chantelle! I am so happy you loved this one. Thanks for the amazing feedback!
I am going to start this off by saying I HATE cake. I have always hated cake. My whole life. Especially icing. I LOVE cooking and I HATE baking. Well, let me tell you how oh so WRONG I was. This cake. There are no words for how amazing this cake is. And the icing? Get outta here. I wanted to eat the entire mixing bowl of icing before it even made it to the cake. I made everyone try this cake. In-laws, kids, husband, neighbors, almost the dang postman. My whole life has changed from this one cake with this amazing icing. As in, I run a whole heck of a lot more! I cant wait to try more of her recipes! I’m actually making the Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream this morning to put on a cookie cake I’m making. Just for the excuse to make the icing again!
Hi Katelyn! LOL!! This comment totally made my day. I am so happy this cake converted you from being a cake hater! I’m convinced you haven’t had enough good ones 😉 You should give my Pecan Pie Cake a try, it’s soooo delicious and you can try the brown sugar Swiss meringue. Let me know what you end up trying next 🙂
Seriously it’s amazing!! Next I am doing your classic Chocolate Cake next week per my daughters request for chocolate cake for her birthday. Then the following week is my son’s birthday and he has requested I make this Pear Walnut cake again!! There is so many others I can’t wait to try too!! Like… All of them. lol Thank you again for converting this cake hater!!
I have been obsessed with this cake ever since it showed up in my inbox a few weeks ago, and I finally got to make it tonight for a get together with my running friends. So, so delicious, we all loved it! The cake is very moist and dense, and the flavours are delicate. The walnuts add a nice crunch. I used really high quality honey for the buttercream, I think it makes a difference. And because we had one person who can’t have gluten, I used Bob’s Red Mill GF 1 to 1 flour and it worked perfectly well. The poached pears are a beautiful addition, I should have let the syrup reduce a little longer though. When I poured it over the pears, it was still pale and it just spilled on the sides instead of making a nice golden « puddle » like on this photo. I will definitely make this cake again!
Hi Annie! I am so thrilled that everyone loved it! Thanks so much for your feedback and your tips! 🙂
Liv going to try this for my friend birthday at the end of month thanks for inform on cake strips I have wilton hate these things anyway now I know also my problem also is no matter how much batter in pans they are never level I shake them tap on counter look level when they go in but come out never level is it me my oven what. Is weighing better thank you
Hi Neva! How much are you filling your pans? Does the batter go higher than the cake strips? And are you soaking them in water and pressing some of the excess out (but not too much). Finally, I would test your oven temperature to see if it runs a bit hot.
Neva Bennett says
Thank you I remember not above strips no I take out excess water ill check temp too
I would really love to try this cake for Rosh Hashanah. We will be eating meat however. Do you think the frosting would work if I replaced the butter with butter flavoured shortening?
Hi Tara! Not for this type of buttercream, no. I would stick to an American buttercream if you want to use shortening.
With the pears on top, does the cake have to be referigerated?
Hi Jinny! Yes, ideally, but I would add the pairs on top just before serving.
BEST CAKE I’VE EVER MADE!! I made this as my birthday cake this year, and it was so freaking good! As noted, it is a denser texture, but still very pleasant. My advice is don’t skip the poached pears! The pears themselves are delicious, and the reduced poaching liquid is AMAZING with toasted walnuts on vanilla ice cream. My only note is that I baked the layers for only 40 minutes instead of the 50-55 that the recipe says, and they were definitely done. This could be due to a difference in my oven, or the type of pans used (I use Fat Daddios). Thanks for a wonderful recipe!
Hi Valerie! I’m so thrilled that you loved this recipe. Thank you for the feedback!