Step 1: What You'll Need:
- 250 mL (1 cup) granulated white sugar
- 1 - 6 cm cube salted butter (roughly half a standard stick of butter; margarine doesn't substitute well)
- 125 mL (1/2 cup) whipping cream
- ~150 mL water
- 3 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese - room temperature (light works okay too)
- 500 mL (2 cups) chocolate cookie crumbs
- ~ 175 mL melted butter (margarine is fine here)
- 250 mL (1 cup) chopped pecans
- 200 mL (3/4 cup) white sugar
- 25 mL vanilla extract (please don't substitute)
- 3 eggs
- one quarter of a 100 g bar of dark chocolate (I like bittersweet, but semi-sweet works too)
Step 2: Caramel Sauce: Melt the Sugar
In a large saucepan, place the 250 mL of sugar with about 150 mL of water and stir to mix. You'll need some room for the mixture to bubble up, so make sure the pot is large enough that there is at least 10 cm above the level of the sugar mixture. Heat on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or whisk. Eventually, the water will evapourate and you'll end up with sort of a sugary paste. Soon the sugar will start to melt. When it is completely melted, it should have a brownish colour and should smell like caramel.
Step 3: Caramel Sauce: Add Butter
Step 4: Caramel Sauce: Add Whipping Cream
Stir the mixture until smooth. When the sauce has cooled a bit, you can pour half of it into a container to be refrigerated; keep the rest out for the cake.
Step 5: Cake: the Crust
Stir half of the pecans into the reserved caramel sauce, and pour the mixture on top of the cookie crumbs in the pan. Place the whole pan in the refrigerator until the batter is ready.
Step 6: Cake: the Batter
Remove the pan from the refrigerator and pour in the batter. If you start from the perimeter and work inwards, the caramel doesn't spread to the surface as much.
Step 7: Baking
Even with the water pan, the top might crack a bit; my first one did. Don't worry, with the topping, it's not noticeable.
Step 8: Topping
Sprinkle the rest of the pecans onto the top of the cake. Warm the remaining caramel sauce in the microwave and drizzle over the top of the cake. Shave the chocolate into small spirals, then sprinkle them over the surface of the cake.
You can also melt the chocolate and drizzle it on top, but I like the way the shavings look.
Bon appétit! Try not to think about how many calories this thing must have.