Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Salted Caramel and Pecan Chocolate Cake

I made this cake for a recent dinner party, and everyone was just about licking the plate. The combination of candied pecans, sticky caramel and rich chocolate cake was irresistible, so make sure not to invite too many people. You'l definitely want to have leftovers! 
The only tricky part to making this cake (in my opinion) is the caramel. Resist the temptation to stir it with a spoon. Just hold the pan by the handle over the burner and keep swirling it until the color turns golden. It takes very little time to go from golden to burnt, so stay close by. Let the caramel cool until it's thick enough to spread on the middle layer of the cake and on top. You can make the candied pecans while the caramel is cooling.
Be prepared to wow your family and friends.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Salted Caramel and Pecan Chocolate Cake
from Tamingofthespoon.com

For the cake

  • 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the toasted salted pecans

  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the caramel sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Maldon’s sea salt flakes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    For the cake

    1. Prep pans. Lightly coat the inside of one 9 by 1-1/2 inch round cake pan with melted butter. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper; then lightly coat the parchment paper with more melted butter. Set aside.
    2. Prep oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
    3. Melt chocolate. Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 1 minute. Stir. Continue heating the chocolate in 1 minute increments and stirring until mixture is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool until needed.
    4. Prep dry ingredients. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
    5. Cream butter. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until well blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
    6. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is blended into the butter. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.
    7. Mix in chocolate. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate.
    8. Mix in dry ingredients. Add the flour mixture in three additions alternately adding the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until well blended and batter looks smooth.
    9. Pour and bake. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Let cake cool completely in pan on wire rack.

    For the toasted salted pecans

    1. Prep oven and pan. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. Prep pecans. In a medium bowl, stir the pecans and melted butter together. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the nuts, stirring to coat evenly. Scrape the nuts onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading them in a single layer.
    3. Bake. Bake pecans for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove nuts from the oven and set aside to cool.

    For the caramel sauce

    1. Heat cream. Put the cream in a small saucepan and warm it over low heat. Adjust the heat to keep the cream warm while you cook the sugar.
    2. Cook sugar. Whisk together sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil. Using a basting brush dipped in water, brush the sides of the pan down to dissolve any sugar crystals that form. Boil until the mixture turns a dark golden color, tilting the pan slightly to ensure the sugar cooks evenly, about 10 minutes.
    3. Mix together. When sugar turns dark golden in color, slowly (and carefully) pour the hot cream into the caramelized sugar and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla and salt.
    4. Cool. Cool the sauce until it is thick enough to cling to the cake when spread. About 1 1/2 hours.

    To assemble the cake:

    1. Cut layers. Remove the cake from the pan and transfer it to a serving plate so that the top is up. Use a long serrated knife to level the top of the cake as necessary. Then cut the cake in half horizontally into two even layers. Carefully slip a round cake board or the removable bottom from a tart pan or springform pan between the layers, lift the top layer off, and set it aside.
    2. Prep bottom layer. Pour 3/4 cup of the cooled caramel sauce over the center of the bottom cake layer and spread it evenly.
    3. Prep top layer. Carefully slide the top layer over the caramel filling, centering it over the bottom layer. Spread another 3/4 cup of caramel sauce over the top layer. Spoon the pecans onto the cake, mounding them toward the center. Drizzle caramel sauce on the pecans. You can drizzle all the remaining sauce on the pecans or you can reserve some of it to drizzle on each slice when you serve the cake.


  • The sugar will splatter and bubble up when the hot cream is added to it. The mixture will calm down as you stir it. You can wear oven mitts during this step if you want to protect your hands.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Milena's Pizza di Verdura (Vegetable Pizza)


If you follow this blog, or my Instagram page, you probably know that I'm part of a group of women who meet weekly in each other's homes to chit-chat in Italian. What started out as a simple espresso and dessert gathering has morphed over the years to include lunch as well as something sweet. Milena, who is originally from the Liguria region, has taught cooking classes and frequently makes something from her home region, including this stuffed pizza di verdura. She used escarole, scallions, anchovies and capers in the filling, but you could use any greens you like -- spinach or Swiss chard, for instance. Milena said she has made it with only scallions in the past, which is also delicious. Her family likes to tease her, calling it "garbage pizza" because she'll use any vegetable that's on hand. A few weeks ago, she gave our small group a demonstration of how she puts the dish together and now you can see for yourself how she does it, even though you may live far from central New Jersey, where our group meets each week. 

The dough as well as the filling recipe is below. After spreading the filling over the base, Milena tops it with another layer of dough.

Then she pricks it all over, and smears some olive oil and salt on top.

Here's a video of her placing the anchovies on top of the escarole. For those of you who understand Italian, you don't need a translation. For the rest of you, she explains that the anchovies and capers contain a lot of salt, hence you don't need to add any more. Also, she says that sometimes she add olives, sometimes not, depending on what she has on hand.

After about 45 minutes, it's ready to remove from the oven and eat.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Milena's Pizza Di Verdura (Vegetable Pizza)

for the dough:
1/2 cake compressed yeast or 1 package dry yeast
2 cups water
5 1/2 cups bread flour (approximately)
1 tsp. salt
1/8 cup olive oil (optional)

Make sponge:
In a large bowl, soften yeast (.6 oz. of fresh yeast) in 2 cups of body temperature water, using a wire whisk to mix. Note: If using dry yeast, use water at a higher temperature, between 105-115 degrees. Add 2 cups bread flour, mix well with a wire whisk. Cover with a cloth and let the mixture rest in a warm place until bubbly, approximately 10 minutes. At this point, the mixture is called the "sponge."
Stir sponge, add salt, olive oil and additional 2 1/2 cups flour. Mix with a spoon until dough is blended.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the last cup of flour onto wooden board.

Turn out dough onto the floured wooden board and knead, using a bread spatula and adding additional flour as required. When well kneaded, place into a large greased bowl and cover with greased waxed paper and a dish towel. Note: best if large bowl is warmed first, so that dough is not in contact with a cold surface.
Let dough rise in a warm area until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down and shape innto desired forms or divide dough and shape into desired forms.

For the Filling:
3 lbs. mixed green leaf vegetables (Milena used escarole)
5 T. olive oil
1 crushed clove garlic
2 bunches green onions cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 T. capers
10 anchovies
6 black olives, pitted and sliced (optional)
black pepper
olive oil


Place vegetables and green onions in a large pan with oil and garlic. Saute about 5 minutes. Add 5 anchovy filets, cook five minutes longer. Remove garlic and let cool. When dough is ready, return it to floured board pound it lightly to deflate it and divide into 2 pieces. Spread out 1 piece over bottom of an oiled 12" baking pan. Place vegetable mixture over dough in pan, on the vegetables sprinkle capers, anchovies and olives.
Cover with other piece of dough. Press edges together and trim excess dough. Prick surface with a fork, brush with olive oil and bake at 400 degrees F. until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Serves 6