One of my very favorite pies to make for Thanksgiving is a chocolate pecan pie topped with salted caramel. The crunch of the pecans, richness of the chocolate, and sweetness of the caramel together are next level. I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to translate that flavor palette into cake form, but I’m beyond pleased with how it turned out – it’s the perfect pie alternative for your Thanksgiving feast and just an all-around amazing holiday flavor combo!
This Chocolate Pecan Pie Cake starts with my favorite ultra-decadent Chocolate Cake recipe that is super quick to throw together. It’s a one-bowl recipe and you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry already. Easy. But we’re just getting started.
The homemade Pecan Pie Filling and Salted Caramel you’ll be adding between those cake layers takes everything to the next level. I’m not kidding when I say that the Pecan Pie Filling tastes exactly like (you guessed it) pecan pie. You’ll be cooking both the filling and the caramel on the stove, and the aroma of them will fill your house with instant holiday cheer. Also, don’t be intimidated by the thought of making Salted Caramel from scratch – I promise it’s the easiest caramel you’ll ever make. There are only four ingredients and you don’t even need a candy thermometer to achieve caramel perfection.
To tie all of these delicious holiday-inspired flavors together, I frosted the cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream. It’s the perfect compliment to the flavor palette and super easy to whip up and work with. Since the fillings are semi-thin, I piped a circle of Brown Sugar Buttercream around each layer before filling in the center with the fillings – a technique I explain in this Cake Basics blog post.
For decorating the cake, I frosted a smooth layer of Brown Sugar Buttercream and dripped the sides with Salted Caramel (details on that are in the assembly instructions below). Then, I decorated the top of the cake with pecan halves, much like you would decorate a traditional pecan pie. Around the top edge, I piped a rope border using Wilton Tip 4B. It’s basically piping a continuous series of swirls while rotating the turntable until you’ve bordered the entire top edge.
However you decorate this Chocolate Pecan Pie Cake with Salted Caramel, it’s sure to be tasty. It’s my ideal holiday flavor combo and I hope you love it as much as I do. Enjoy!
Chocolate Pecan Pie Cake with Salted Caramel
- 2 Cups (265g) all purpose flour
- 1 2/3 Cups (340g) white granulated sugar
- 2/3 Cup (60g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 Cup (120ml) vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 Cup (240ml) full-fat buttermilk*, room temperature DIY recipe in notes
- 1 Cup (240ml) hot coffee or hot water
Pecan Pie Filling
- 1/2 Cup (100g) white granulated sugar
- 1/2 Cup (170g) packed brown sugar
- 2/3 Cup (160ml) light corn syrup
- 1/3 Cup (75g) unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 Cups (195g) chopped pecans, toasted
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 Cup (200g) white granulated sugar
- 6 Tbsp (85g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into six slices
- 1/2 Cup (120ml) heavy whipping cream, room temperature
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
Brown Sugar Buttercream
- 2 Cups (452g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 Cup (200g) packed brown sugar
- 7 Cups (840g) powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 4 Tbsp whole milk, room temperature
- 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
Make the Chocolate Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare three 6-inch or two 8-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with cooking spray and fitting the bottoms with a wax paper or parchment cake circle.
- Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir on low for 30 seconds to fully combine them. Add the vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk and mix on low until just combined. With the mixer still on low, add the hot coffee (or hot water) in a slow stream, then turn the mixer to medium and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. The batter will be very thin.
- Pour into prepared cake pans no more than 2/3 full and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before filling and frosting.
Make the Pecan Pie Filling
- Combine the sugars, corn syrup, butter, eggs, pecans, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly for 6-8 minutes until the filling is thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Cool completely before using as filling. It will thicken and stabilize as it cools.
Make the Salted Caramel
- Have everything pre-measured and ready to go (you’ll be constantly stirring). Place the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, until it melts into an amber-colored liquid and no sugar clumps remain, 5-6 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Carefully add the butter (it will bubble up when you do) and use a whisk to combine it with the sugar mixture until the butter is fully melted and incorporated, 2-3 minutes.
- Add the heavy whipping cream in a steady stream while whisking. As soon as the cream is incorporated, let the caramel boil for a full minute before removing it from the heat and stirring in the salt.
- Let the caramel cool to room temperature before using as a filling or drip. It will thicken as it cools.
Make the Brown Sugar Buttercream
- With a hand mixer or paddle attachment on your stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium-high until it’s creamy, light, and homogenous. About 4 minutes.
- With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar a few cups at a time, scraping down after each addition and making sure each cup is fully incorporated before adding the next one.
- Add vanilla, milk, and salt and mix on low for another minute until fully incorporated.
- Once the Chocolate Cakes have cooled completely, level and torte each layer to your desired height. Place the first layer on a turntable and pipe a circle of Brown Sugar Buttercream around the edge. Fill in the center with (room temperature) Pecan Pie Filling about 3/4 of the way to the top of the buttercream circle height-wise. Drizzle room temperature Salted Caramel on top of the Pecan Pie Filling. Here's a detailed tutorial on this filling method.
- Place the next cake layer on top and repeat the process of piping the buttercream circle and filling in the center with Pecan Pie Filling and Salted Caramel. Place the final layer on top, upside down so that the bottom of the cake layer is the top of the cake. Crumb coat the cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and place it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to let everything set up.
- To create the cake design pictured, frost a smooth layer of Brown Sugar Buttercream around the cake and place it back into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to create a cold foundation for the Salted Caramel drip. Meanwhile, microwave the Salted Caramel in 10 second increments until it's slightly warmer than room temperature and good drip consistency (this post shows examples of perfect drip consistency with Chocolate Ganache and those same rules apply to Salted Caramel drip consistency). When the cake is nice and chilled and the Salted Caramel is perfect drip consistency, drip the cake. Place it back into the refrigerator for 10 minutes to let the caramel set.
- Create a design on the top of the cake with halved pecans. Prepare a piping bag with Wilton Tip 4B and fill it with Brown Sugar Buttercream. Holding the piping bag at a 45 degree angle pointed at the top of the cake, pipe a series of continuous swirls to create a rope border around the top edge.
- The Chocolate Cake can be made ahead and stored at room temperature, covered tightly in plastic wrap, for up to two days. Alternatively, you can cover with plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to two months before thawing to room temperature.
- The Pecan Pie Filling can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Bring back to room temperature before using in this recipe.
- The Salted Caramel can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, reheat it in the microwave in 10 second intervals until it reaches room temperature.
- The Brown Sugar Buttercream can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and re-whip in your stand mixer to bring back to smooth buttercream consistency.
Did you make this Chocolate Caramel Pecan Pie Cake recipe? I want to know how it went! Let me know in the comments below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram and show me! I love to see what you create.
I’m so sad that I overlooked the pecan pie filling and now it has set quite thick and chewy. Is there any way to save it?
Hi Katie! If it’s set too thick at room temp you can pop it in the microwave and heat it in 10 second intervals until it’s spreadable consistency again. Enjoy!
Romina Rendon says
Hi is there a way to make this with vanilla or white cake?
Hi Romina! You could absolutely use vanilla or white cake for the cake portion of this (instead of chocolate cake). My favorite vanilla cake is here: https://sugarandsparrow.com/vanilla-cake-recipe/
Can I double this recipe to make 4 8inch layer cake?
And do I have to double the buttercream, caramel and pecan filling too?
Hi Sarah! For four 8 inch layers, I think you could get away with making 1.5x the chocolate cake recipe and 1.5x the brown sugar buttercream recipe and have enough filling and caramel as-is. Hope that helps!
Wow! You’ve created another amazing cake! My daughter baked this today and it’s incredible. We love your recipes!
Yay, Jessica! I’m so glad this recipe was so loved! You’re making me want to make it again asap
I just made this cake for my husbands work. The cake came out good, so did the Carmel, frosting and pecan filling. However, when I put carmel drips it just all dripped down the cake like water. It was thick going on. Then I stuck it in the fridge to harden and I have a carmel puddle mess. I couldn’t even put the frosting or pecans on top cause it all just slid off. What did I do wrong?
Other than that it’s a great cake
Hi Briana! I’m so sorry the caramel drip didn’t end well. Caramel can be pretty finicky to work with at first. Next time make sure the buttercream frosted cake is super cold before dripping with caramel that’s just slightly above room temperature. I like to drip the cake with the caramel in a piping bag (I snip off about 1/8 inch opening). I think it’s easier to drip this way vs. with a spoon. I hope those tips help for next time!
Great recipe! It was a lot of work with all of its separate components, and I definitely struggled with the caramel a bit and ended up having to heat it up to work with it, but everyone really enjoyed the cake and the flavors worked together really well. I decorated with a caramel drip and rope border and then filled the top of the border with the pecan pie filling since I had plenty extra.
Yay, Courtney! I’m so happy this recipe was a hit! And yes – caramel can be pretty finicky to work with. I’ve found that dripping it with a piping bag (instead of a spoon) when it’s slightly above room temp yields the best looking drip. Hopefully that’s helpful for next time!
Could I use ermine frosting with this? I don’t really like super-sweet American Buttercream. Thanks!
Hi Maria! Ermine frosting would work great. I’d say go for it!
Judy french says
Where could I find someplace that would bake this cake for me? Judy french 828 485 7325 referring to chocolate pecan pie cake.
Hi Judy! I would look for custom cake makers in your area or ask some local bakeries if they do orders that are custom!
Kate R says
This cake is SO good. I have made it for three separate occasions and have had raving reviews. One question: when I coat the cake with the buttercream, it seems like it is not sticking enough and is pulling off a good amount of the cake when it is spread. Thankfully it looks kinda cute with the crumbs all throughout but just wondering if there is a way to fix this?
Yay, Kate! I’m so happy this cake recipe has been such a hit! It sounds like your buttercream consistency is just a little too stiff. If you add an additional 1-2 tsp of room temp whole milk it should thin the frosting out to the point where it’s perfect to frost the cake without tearing it. Hope that helps!
Kate R says
It worked! Thanks so much. I think my whole milk was also a bit too cold so that helped as well. How would you suggest making these into cupcakes? This cake has been my favourite chocolate cake so far!
Yay! So happy that worked to thin out the buttercream! To make this recipe as cupcakes, you’ll make the cake batter exactly as instructed and then fill your cupcake tins with it no more than 2/3 full. Since the batter is super pourable, I like to put it in a liquid measuring cup with a pour spout and pour it into the tins that way. Bake at 350F/177C for 15-18 minutes. They’re done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Enjoy!
Kate R says
The cupcakes turned out so good! I have had nothing but raving reviews with this recipe. Now for another question…. how would you convert this recipe to a 4inch cake? Thank you!!!
Kate R says
Sorry, I should say I am thinking three 4inch layers
Hi Kate! I’m so happy this recipe worked well for cupcakes! To make a 3 layer 4 inch cake I would half the recipe. You’ll have a little more than enough batter, so just be sure to fill your tins no more than 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes. Enjoy!
Venassa Dsouza says
I made it today and my family loves it! Worth the time and effort ❤️
Yay, Venassa! I’m so happy to hear that it was a hit!
Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe! I may have overlooked, but do you store this cake in the refrigerator or at room temperature? Thanks!
Hi Karen! I store it in the refrigerator until 1-2 hours prior to serving. It stores best cold but tastes best at room temp 🙂