Chocolate cake layers with salted caramel, toated pecans, chocolate ganache and pecan buttercream.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round pans with nonstick spray, line the bottom with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and cocoa powder. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for another minute.
Add the eggs, one at a time, being sure to mix and scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Once all of the eggs are added, continue to beat on medium-high speed for about two mintues, until the mixture gets lighter in color and bigger in volume.
With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1 cup of the buttermilk. Continue with another 1/3 of the flour, the second half of the buttermilk and then the remaining flour mixture. Stir until combined.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and baking soda. The mixture will bubble. Add the mixture to the cake batter and stir on low until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for another 20 seconds.
Fold in the sour cream until no streaks remain.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans (21 ounces in each of the 8-inch pans). Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it.
Mix the sugar, water and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Bring the mixture to boil, but DO NOT STIR! (Stirring encourages crystallization). Let the mixture cook until it turns to a golden brown/amber color. It happens quickly, so keep an eye on it.
Remove the caramelized sugar syrup from the heat and very slowly stir in the cream, pouring it in little by little, to temper the cream and sugar syrup. If you pour it in all at once, your sugar will turn into hard candy. You can start adding more and more as you go along.
Once the cream is mixed in, add the salt and vanilla. Stir to combine and then set aside to cool to room temperature before using.
TOASTED PECANS: Over medium heat, toast the 3 cups of pecans in a frying pan, stirring frequently. Once toasted, remove one cup of the pecans and cool them on parchment paper.
While the 1 cup of pecans is cooling, add the sugar to the remaining pecans and stir until the sugar is dissolved and is coating the pecans. Pour the sugared pecans over another sheet of parchment to cool and use for the filling.
FOR THE PECAN BUTTER: In a food processor, combine the one cup of (non-sugared) toasted pecans with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Pulse until you've created a smooth nut butter.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for about 2 minutes on medium-high speed. This helps to soften the butter without the butter getting too warm by sitting on the counter half the day.
Add your homemade pecan butter. Mix on medium-high speed until well blended, making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar, followed by the cream. Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat the buttercream for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Before spreading on your cake, spend a couple minutes mixing the buttercream by hand with a wooden spoon to push out the air pockets.
Heat the cream in a microwave safe bowl and then pour over the chocolate chips. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes and then stir till smooth. Let cool to room temperature before using.
Place the first cake layer top side up, in the center of the cake board. Gently spread 1/2 of the buttercream over the cake layer. Pipe a rim of buttercream around the edge of the cake.
Sprinkle about 3/4 cup of the chopped, toasted pecans over the buttercream and pat into place.
Drizzle 1/2 cup of the salted caramel over the pecans, followed by 1/4 cup of the chocolate ganache.
Repeat with second cake layer.
Place the final cake layer, top side down, on the second layer of filling.
Apply a thin layer of buttercream around the cake. Freeze the cake for 15 minutes to set the crumb coat.
Once the crumb coat is set, continue frosting the cake with the remaining buttercream. Decorate with extra ganache and toasted pecans.