Chocolate Caramel Pecan Torte
Grease three 9-inch round metal cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.
In heatproof bowl set over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water, melt chocolate; let cool slightly.
In large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Beat in sour cream and butter until thick batter forms. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in chocolate and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes, scraping down side of bowl occasionally. Gradually stir in 1 cup water.
Divide evenly among prepared pans; sprinkle pecans over tops. Bake in centre of 350°F oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans on racks for 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks and peel off paper; let cool completely. (Make-ahead: Wrap in plastic wrap and store for up to 1 day.)
CARAMEL: In heavy saucepan, stir sugar with 1/3 cup water over medium heat until dissolved, brushing down side of pan with pastry brush dipped in cold water. Bring to boil; boil vigorously, without stirring but brushing down side of pan, until dark amber, about 10 minutes.
Holding pan at arm’s length and averting face, add cream; whisk until smooth. Whisk in butter until smooth. Let cool. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat slightly before using.)
TOPPINGS: Whip cream. Place 1 cake layer, pecan side up, on cake plate. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of the caramel. Spread 1 cup of the whipped cream over top. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of the caramel, being careful not to let any drip down side. Repeat layers once.
Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining whipped cream over top and side, smoothing surface. Drizzle 2 tbsp of the caramel over top. Garnish with chocolate shards and pecan halves. Serve with remaining caramel.
In heatproof bowl set over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water, melt 4 oz semisweet chocolate. Spread evenly on baking sheet; refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
Place baking sheet on damp towel; let stand for 3 minutes. Bracing pan against body, slowly scrape metal spatula through chocolate toward body to make shards. Refrigerate pan for 3 to 4 minutes if chocolate gets too soft. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in single layer in airtight container for up to 2 days.) Yield: 1 1/2 cups.