Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three (9-inch) round cake pans by lightly greasing the bottom of the pans and lining them with lightly greased parchment paper. Add cocoa powder to one of the greased cake pans. Shake the pan until the interior surface is lightly covered with cocoa powder. Turn out any excess cocoa powder into the second pan. Repeat the process and dump the excess of the second cake pan into the third. Discard any excess from the third pan. Set the cake pans aside.
Add the chocolate bars and ½ cup of water to a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high until the chocolate has melted; about 1 to 1 ½ minutes stirring about halfway through.
Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda and salt through a sieve into a medium bowl.
Beat the butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy; about 3 minutes. Add the eggs yolks, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Then pour in the melted chocolate and vanilla. Beat in the chocolate on low speed until well blended.
Add the flour and buttermilk, alternating between the two. Begin with the flour mixture. Beat on low speed just until blended.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter, pour the batter out evenly into the prepared cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees until a wooden toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle; about 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove the cake pans from the oven and place them on wire racks. Run a knife around the outer edge of each pan to loosen up the sides. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes, before removing the cakes from the pan. Discard the parchment paper. Cool completely; about 1 hour.
The Coconut-Pecan Frosting
While the cake is cooling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Chop the pecans and place them in a single layer on a sheet pan. Toast the pecans in the oven until fragrant, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow the pecans to cool completely; about 20 minutes.
While the pecans are toasting and cooling, cook, the evaporated milk, sugar, butter and egg yolks in a heavy 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly, so that it doesn’t stick and burn, until the butter melts and the sugar has dissolved; about 3 to 4 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is bubbling becomes a light caramel color and is a pudding-like consistency; about 12 to 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Stir in the coconut, vanilla, and toasted pecans. Transfer the mixture to a medium-size bowl. Allow the frosting to sit for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until cooled enough to spread.
Spread the coconut-pecan frosting between the layers, on the top and side of the cake. Garnish with the prepared chocolate-dipped pecan halves, if desired.
If you are using chocolate pecan halves for garnish, dip the pecan halves into the melted chocolate and set aside, before adding the chocolate to the cake batter.Normally you would use flour to dust the cake pans, but since this cake will be chocolaty and brown, the cocoa powder keeps the layers from having white edges.If you are using chocolate pecan halves for garnish, dip the pecan halves into the melted chocolate and set aside, before adding the chocolate to the cake batter. I love using Millican pecans. You can order some HERE.Use German Chocolate bars or Semi-Sweet chocolate bars. I have made this cake using either and both are a great choice.Recipe adapted from Southern Living Magazine.
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