Considering the natural affinity of its key ingredients, a chocolate-caramel-walnut cake might seem like a recipe that’s hard to go wrong. However, this trio does not always live in harmony. Some recipes limit the nuts to a simple garnish, sprinkling them over cold chocolate fillings with textures ranging from soft custard to cold butter. Other recipes emphasize the pecans, but these are simply imitation pecan pies. We wanted an amazing cake with a layer of smooth caramel coated pecans and topped with a smooth layer of rich dark chocolate, firm enough to cut perfectly but not thick or overwhelming.
- 1 large egg
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup toasted walnuts
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) powdered sugar
- 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and allowed to cool
Caramel Walnut filling:
- ¼ cup of water
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup cream
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 16-18 walnut halves plus 1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon plus ⅓ cup cream
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- 5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1. For the walnut crust: Beat the egg and vanilla in a bowl. Finely grind nuts and sugar in food processor, 8 to 10 seconds. Add the flour and salt and beat to combine, about 5 pulses. Sprinkle with butter and beat until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 15 beats. With the robot running, add the egg mixture and continue working until the dough collects around the robot blade, about 20 seconds.
2. Place dough on a sheet of cling film and flatten into a 6-inch disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour. Before stretching, let the dough rest on the work surface for about 10 minutes to soften a bit. (The dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, allow the dough to thaw completely on the counter before rolling out.)
3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into an 11-inch circle (if dough becomes too soft and sticky to work with, transfer to a baking sheet and freeze or refrigerate until workable). Arrange the dough in a circle on the mold, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
4. Remove dough from refrigerator; Throw away the plastic but leave the dough in the pan. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and gently spread into 9-inch springform bottom tart pan, letting excess dough hang over edge. Pour the dough into the pan by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand and pressing it into the corners with the other hand. Leave the batter coming out of the pan in place.
5. Press the dough onto the wavy sides of the pan, forming a distinctive seam around the perimeter of the pan. (If some edges are too brittle, reinforce them by folding the excess dough back on itself.) Roll a rolling pin over the pan to remove excess dough. Loosely wrap the batter-lined cake pan in plastic wrap, place on a large plate, and freeze until batter is completely cool and solid, about 30 minutes before using. (The batter pan can be wrapped tightly in plastic and frozen for up to 1 month.)
6. Meanwhile, place oven rack in center position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place shortcrust pastry-covered pan on rimmed baking sheet. Spray one side of double foil with vegetable oil spray. Press foil, greased side down, into frozen pie pan, covering edges to prevent burning, and filling with pie weights. Cook until cake shell is golden brown and set, about 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking. Arrange the base of the cake with the mold on the rack, carefully remove the weights and let cool slightly while filling. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
7. For the Caramel Walnut Filling: While the crust is cooling, add the water to a medium saucepan, then pour the sugar into the center of the saucepan (do not hit the sides of the saucepan). Using a clean spatula, gently mix in the sugar to moisten it well. Bring to a boil and cook, without stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid has turned a light golden color (about 300 degrees), 6 to 10 minutes.
8. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until caramel turns a deep amber color (about 350 degrees), 1 to 3 minutes. With the fire off, slowly add the cream until it amalgamates (the mixture boils and vaporizes abundantly). Combine butter, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt until mixture is smooth. Combine the walnut halves to brush them. Leave the caramel mixture until it thickens slightly, about 8 minutes.
9. Put the rust on a piece of parchment paper. Using a slotted spoon, place the caramel-coated pecans on a wire rack, turn the pecans right side up, and let cool completely. Mix the chopped walnuts with the caramel, then pour the caramel mixture into the cooled, pre-baked cake. Refrigerate tart, uncovered, until caramel thickens and drips when pan is tilted, about 20 minutes.
10. For the chocolate filling: while the caramel solidifies, mix the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of cream in a bowl. Bring the milk and remaining ⅓ cup cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add chocolate and butter, cover saucepan and let sit until chocolate has almost melted, about 2 minutes. Gently mix the mixture until smooth, then add the egg yolk mixture. Pour the chocolate filling evenly over the chilled caramel in the tart base and level it into an even layer by tilting the pan. Bake cake on baking sheet until bubbles appear on top and chocolate layer sets, about 25 minutes.
11. Place cake with pan on rack and place caramel-coated pecan halves around edge of cake to decorate. Let the cake cool slightly on the baking sheet for 30 minutes, then chill, uncovered, in the refrigerator for about 3 hours, until the chocolate has solidified. To serve, remove the outer metal ring from the pan, insert a thin metal spatula between the cake and the bottom of the pan, and gently slide the cake onto a serving plate or cutting board.