Position racks in the center and bottom third of
the oven and preheat to 375°. Lightly butter four 8
1/2- to 9-inch cake pans (you will bake the cakes in
three batches) and line the bottoms with rounds of
parchment paper. Flour the pans and tap out the
To make the layers, sift together the sifted flour,
baking powder and salt. Sift the mixture one more
time, and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty
electric mixer fitted with the paddle blade on high
speed until light in color and texture, about 3
minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down
the bowl and be sure the mixture is well-blended. On
low speed, add the flour in 3 additions, alternating
with 2 additions of the milk, beginning and ending
with the flour, and beat until smooth, scraping down
the sides of the bowl often with a rubber spatula.
Beat in the vanilla. Using a scant cup for each layer,
spread the batter evenly in the pans. It will make a
Staggering the pans on the racks so they are at least
2 inches from each other and the sides of the oven and
not directly over each other, bake the layers until
they feel firm when pressed in the centers.
about 12 minutes. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes.
Invert the layers onto cake racks, remove the
parchment paper, and cool completely. Wash and prepare
the pans. Repeat the procedure until all 12 layers
have been baked and cooled.
To make the icing, bring the sugar, cocoa, butter and
evaporated milk to a full boil in a large saucepan.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the icing
has thickened slightly (it will resemble chocolate
syrup but will thicken as it cools), about 3 minutes.
Stir in the vanilla. Let the icing cool until thick
enough to spread, but still pourable.
Place a layer of cake on a wire rack set over a
jelly-roll pan. Spread with a few tablespoons of the
icing, letting the excess run down the sides. Stack
the remaining cakes, icing each layer. Pour the
remaining icing over the top of the cake. If you wish,
smooth the icing on the edges to cover the sides.
Place pecan halves around the top perimeter of the
cake. Let stand until the glaze sets. (The cake is
best served the day it is made. To store, cover
loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1
Recommended technique: If you buy inexpensive aluminum
foil cake pans at the grocery store (they can be saved
for another time as well), you will be able to knock
out layers in no time. And no washing between baking!