Here, cake layers are studded with candied nuts, sandwiched with caramelized pears, and capped off with bourbon-spiked whipped cream. All the components are uncomplicated and can be made in stages, for a dessert that's fancy but far from fussy.



For the Candied Pecans
For the Cake
For the Filling
For the Topping


Instructions Checklist
  • Make the candied pecans: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss pecans with butter, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast, stirring to coat halfway through, until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • Make the cake: Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. With an electric mixer on medium, beat butter and 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of milk; beat until just combined. Stir in candied pecans.

  • In a clean mixer bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until frothy. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one third of the egg whites into the batter using a flexible spatula. Fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions.

  • Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake until cakes are set and a cake tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks to cool completely.

  • Meanwhile, make the filling: Peel and core pears; cut into 1/2-inch wedges, and toss with lemon juice. Cook butter in a skillet over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Add pears; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 6 minutes. Cool completely.

  • Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to level. Transfer bottom cake layer to a cake stand or platter, and spread with half the pears. Add second layer, and spread with remaining pears. Top with remaining layer. (Assembled cake can be refrigerated, covered, up to 3 days.) Spread bourbon whipped cream over top, and garnish with pecans just before serving.