Place a parchment round on the bottom of an 8 inch cake pan that is 4 inches tall. Spray the pan, Mix cake mix according to manufacturer’s directions, deposit 3 pounds prepared mix in pan and bake until cake springs back lightly when touched. Let cake cool completely and de-pan.
While the cake is cooling, place 3 pounds sugar, 1 bottle dry white wine, and 1 pound water in a pan and bring to a boil. Working carefully, peel 5 pounds pears paying special attention to their natural shape. Once the water has boiled, very gently lower the peeled whole pears into the pan. Cover the top of the fruit with a parchment circle the same size as the pan with a little hole cut in the center. The center hole is important as it allows steam to escape while still covering the fruit and allowing it to all cook at the same rate. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Place the pan in an ice water bath to stop the cooking time. There will be extra pears and syrup!
In a medium bowl combine 9oz walnuts, 3.5oz brown sugar, and 2oz heavy cream, mix well to combine. Line a sheet tray with parchment and spray with non-stick spray. Bake for 10 minutes at 350F, stir, then start stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from oven with coating is dry and slightly crystallized. Let cool completely, break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
VANILLA BEAN CARAMEL SAUCE
Get a heavy bottomed non-reactive pan (like stainless steel or copper) screaming hot, then carefully pour in 8oz granulated sugar. Using a wooden spoon, stir and break up bits of sugar as it melts and gets golden brown. Remove from heat if caramel is getting too dark, continuing to mix and crush until mixture is completely liquid and brown. VERY CAREFULLY add in 10oz heavy cream, swirling as you go- the steam will burn you so take care! Stir in ¼ tsp salt and 1TBL vanilla bean paste and gently bring back to a boil to cook out any lumps. Place sauce over an ice water bath to cool down.
Place baked cake on a board and trim the belly. Scoop out cake a half an inch down so that there is a depression for the pears. Dip 4 of the poached pears in vanilla bean caramel. Scatter prepared walnuts around pears and spoon additional sauce on top of pears.