Caramel Pecan Filling:
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup salted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Salted Caramel Sauce:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 Tbsp salted butter, cubed
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Chocolate Cake Layers:
- 2 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 and 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 and 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 and 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 and 1/2 Tbsp instant coffee granules
- 2 and 1/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature
Salted Caramel Buttercream:
- 3 cups Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
- 12 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted
- 3/4 cup Salted Caramel Sauce, cooled completely(recipe above)
- 3-6 Tbsp heavy cream or milk, as needed
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- Whole pecans
For the Caramel Pecan Filling:
- For the Toasted Pecans: Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.
- In a small bowl, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Drizzle the melted butter onto the pecans and toss together to coat pecans.
- Spread pecans onto prepared baking sheet and bake in oven for 5-6 minutes until toasted and fragrant.
- Remove the pecans from the oven and roughly chop. Set aside.
- For the Caramel Sauce: Add the sugar to a large heavy-bottomed non-stick saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly using a heat resistant rubber spatula or a wooden spoon until the sugar is melted and turns a medium amber caramel colour. Don’t worry if the sugar clumps up, just keep stirring and it will melt smoothly. Keep a close eye on the pot as the sugar can easily burn, and you would have to start over again.
- As soon as the caramel turns a deep amber, add the butter cubes, whisking constantly until butter is melted and fully combined.
- Once butter is combined, slowly pour in the heavy cream while whisking vigorously, be careful as it will begin to bubble up furiously. The caramel may begin to clump together if your cream is too cold. If so, just continue stirring until caramel melts back down.
- Allow caramel to boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla (optional) and salt. You can leave out the salt if you don’t want the caramel to be salted.
- Add the chopped toasted pecans to the caramel sauce and stir until combined.
- Let caramel cool to room temperature before pouring into a jar or an airtight container. Set aside or store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the Salted Caramel Sauce:
- Repeat the above steps 5-8 to make another smaller batch of salted caramel sauce. Set aside to cool completely or store in a jar or an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the Chocolate Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350° F (177°C). Prepare four 8-inch round cake pans with parchment rounds, and grease the sides. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, sift flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk to combine, set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 4-6 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Lower the speed to medium-low and add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition until just combined. Scrape down he sides and bottom of the bowl.
- In a small bowl, combine the vanilla and instant coffee granules. Add the sour cream to the batter along with the vanilla coffee mixture and beat on medium speed until combined.
- Alternately add dry ingredients in thirds and buttermilk in 2 additions to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition just until combined. Divide batter equally between the cake pans, a little over 2 cups per pan.
- Bake two layers at a time for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and cake springs back when lightly touched.
- Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool in pans for about 10 minutes, then turn onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting. Or at this point, you can wrap all the cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and freeze or refrigerate until ready to assemble.
For the Salted Caramel Buttercream:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened butter until super pale and fluffy, about 5-6 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.Add half of the powdered sugar, one cup at a time and beat on low speed after each cup until combined.
- Once combined add cooled salted caramel sauce and continue to beat until combined and smooth.
- Add remaining powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing on low speed until it’s all combined. If the frosting is too thick, add heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
- Increase speed to medium-high and beat for about 5-7 minutes, or until frosting is light and fluffy.
For the Ganache:
- Put the chocolate chips into a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Heat the heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan until it just begins to boil.
- Remove hot cream from heat then pour it over the chocolate chips. Cover the bowl and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.
- Remove cover and stir ganache until smooth. Set aside to cool.
Assembly of the Turtle Chocolate Layer Cake:
- Use an offset spatula to place a dollop of frosting onto a cake board or serving platter that’s on a turntable. Place one cake layer on top and spread about 1 cup of the salted caramel buttercream on top of the first layer.
- Scoop some frosting into a disposable piping bag and snip off the end. Pipe a rim around the edges of the cake and pour on a cup of the pecan caramel sauce and spread into an even layer. Repeat with all layers, placing the final layer upside down.
- Frost the entire cake with a thin layer of salted caramel buttercream. Chill the cake for 30 minutes.
- Remove cake from refrigerator and frost the entire cake with a thick layer of frosting. Chill cake in the refrigerator for another 30 minutes or in the freezer for 10-20 minutes.
- Remove and spread a thin layer of frosting onto the bottom of the cake. Press the chopped pecans up the bottom so it can stick onto the fresh frosting.
- Pour ganache and remaining caramel sauce into separate disposable piping bags or a ziploc bag and snip off the tip. Drip the ganache off the edge of the cake and fill the center. Use an offset spatula to to spread the ganache over the top. Repeat these steps with the caramel sauce, pouring it on top of the ganache.
- Line some pecan halves around the top to create a border and sprinkle more chopped pecans in the centre. Slice and serve!
- Make ahead: (1) Cake layers can be made ahead of time and double-wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. (2) Caramel Pecan Filling and Salted Caramel Sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. Microwave in 30 second intervals until the caramel is smooth and pourable again. (3) Caramel Frosting can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for several months. Before using — allow frosting to come to room temperature, then re-whip in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until the frosting is smooth and fluffy.
- You may have some frosting left after decorating, but I do not recommend piping a border on top of the cake because it’ll push the caramel down causing the frosting to slide off.
- Store cake in an airtight cake storage in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.
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