This cake is just divine and must be made for a special occasion! I've been making it for years. It was one of the Pillsbury Bake-Off winners back in 1990. (You'll need a blender or a food processor.) The cake alone is moist and has a lovely aroma of ripe pears, so the cake would be great without sauce and frosting. (Caution: You may have battles over who licks the batter from the mixer paddles!!) The most difficult part is pressing the toasted nuts on the sides of the cake only because it's a bit messy. What I mean to say is that if you are a beginner baker, this is a great recipe for success. My husband really loves this dessert. The moist cake, the sweetened whipping cream frosting and the warm caramel sauce soaking into his slice is his idea of heaven. Because it's quite decadent, I only make it for him once or twice a year and only when we have company to help us eat it all.
1 (15-oz.) can pear halves in light syrup
1 (18.25-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury® Moist Supreme® White Cake Mix
1/3 cup oil (use a flavorless oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable oil)
3 egg whites
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon pear brandy or 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (15-oz.) can pear halves in light syrup, well drained
1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts, skinless (filberts) or walnuts, toasted*
Toasting Nuts: Put nuts in a dry skillet on medium heat. Watch carefull (it doesn't take long) and stir occasionally until the nuts are toasted and give off a pleasant nutty fragrance. If the hazelnuts still have their dark brown skins (which are bitter tasting), here's how to remove the skins. Place them on a baking sheet in a 350F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove nuts from oven and place a couple of handfuls of the roasted nuts at a time in a clean kitchen towel. Rub the hazelnuts vigorously in the towel. This will remove most of the skins.
· Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 10-inch tube pan. Drain 1 can pear halves, reserving 1/3 cup liquid. Place pear halves in food processor bowl with metal blade or blender container; cover and process until smooth.
· In large bowl, combine cake mix, pureed pears, reserved 1/3 cup pear liquid, oil and egg whites; beat at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Pour into greased and floured pan.
· Bake at 350°F. for 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake upright in pan 15 minutes. Invert onto serving plate. Cool 1 1/2 hours or until completely cooled.
· Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, combine all sauce ingredients; mix well. Bring to a boil. Boil over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.
· In small bowl, beat 1 cup whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in pear brandy. Frost cooled cake with whipped cream. Cut drained pear halves lengthwise into about 32 slices. Arrange on top of cake, slightly overlapping slices. Press nuts into sides of cake. Refrigerate until serving time.
Just before serving, warm the sauce slightly and drizzle 2 tablespoons sauce over pear slices that are atop the cake.
To serve, spoon about 2 tablespoons sauce onto each individual dessert plate. Top each with slice of cake. Store cake and sauce in refrigerator. (The sauce will solidify in the fridge, but will liquify once it's reheated. That's why you shouldn't drizzle the sauce on the cake until just before serving.)