Add the water, brandy, sugar, vanilla, cardamom, and lemon juice to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Add the diced pears and lower the temperature to a simmer. Cook until softened, about 20 minutes, and move the pear pieces to a bowl and allow to cool.
Reserve ⅓ cup of the poaching liquid and bring the rest back to a simmer and cook until reduced by about half. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Reserve ¼ cup of the reduced liquid for the buttercream and then whisk in confectioners' sugar into the remaining liquid until the desired thickness is reached for a glaze.
For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour three 8" pans. I use cake strips to aid in even baking but these are optional.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl. You can use a double boiler or microwave at half power in 20 second spurts.
Sift the flour, salt cocoa powder, baking powder and soda into a large bowl and whisk together.
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment add the eggs and sugar and mix on high for several minutes. Add the yogurt and melted chocolate mixture, brandy and ⅓ cup of poaching liquid and beat until well incorporated.
Add the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined. Fold in the poached pears carefully using a spatula.
Distribute the batter evenly to the three pans and bake at 350F for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
For the Buttercream:
Add egg whites, sugar, cardamom and salt in a bowl. Give the mixture a brief whisk.
Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the water does not touch the bowl.
Whisk the egg whites occasionally while it warms up. When the mixture has warmed, whisk it constantly. You will heat the mixture until it reaches an internal temperature of 160F or until it's not grainy between your fingers.
Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer, mix with a whisk attachment until you get room temperature glossy peaks.
Switch to a paddle attachment and while the mixture is running on low, add tablespoon sized dollops of room temperature butter making sure to let the butter incorporate before you add the next piece. Mix in the reduced poaching liquid and vanilla.
For the Ganache:
Melt the chocolate, cream and brandy in a double boiler or microwave. Remove from heat and stir until all the chocolate is melted.
For the Assembly:
Use a spatula to place a generous amount of buttercream on the first layer. Liberally drizzle the ganache on top and place second layer on top. Repeat steps and cover cake with a thin coat of buttercream. Scrape the vertical side down and pipe dollops on top using a star tip. Drizzle some ganache on top of the dollops then spoon glaze on the center to form a pool and serve.
When measuring the all-purpose flour, I recommend using a scale for the most accurate measurements. However, if you don’t have one, make sure to fluff the flour first and then spoon it into your measuring cup. Level off the cup with the back of a knife to ensure you don’t overpack the flour.
The eggs should be at room temperature to ensure they evenly incorporate into your batter without accidentally overmixing. If you forgot to bring out your eggs, you could quickly bring them to room temperature by placing them in a large bowl and covering them with warm tap water for 5 minutes.
I recommend tapping the cake pans on your counter to pop any air bubbles.
Baking soda and baking powder are crucial in the cake rising, so make sure they have not expired before using them.
The cake strips help your pear cake layers come out evenly. Cake strips work by keeping the outside edge of the pan cooler to ensure that the entire cake rises at the same rate, preventing a dome from forming in the middle of the pan. If you don’t want to purchase a set, check out my post on How to Get Perfect Flat Cake Layers to learn how to make your own strips.An offset spatula or bench scraper is perfect for frosting the cake.
Avoid overmixing as you risk over-developing the gluten in the batter leading to a tough and dense cake.
To help the butter melt quicker and easier, cut it into small cubes.