1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 lb light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa together and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Change the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, a little at a time. Mix just until the ingredients are blended. (Over-mixing will make the cake tough)
Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Place the pans on a wire rack to cool.
After about 20 minutes, remove the cake layers from the pans and let them cool completely. When the layers are cool, make the frosting.
Place one layer on a plate and spread t with about one-fourth of the icing. If using pecans, sprinkle on the icing. Top with the second cake layer and spread it with the same amount of icing and optional pecans. Top with the remaining cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing and sprinkle on pecans. Let the cake set at least 1 1/2 hours before serving.
To make the icing. Stir together all the ingredients; butter, sugar, and evaporated milk; in a medium-heavy saucepan over low heat.
Cook stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the icing is thick.
To test if the icing is ready, drop one-half tsp of it into a glass of cold water; it is ready when it forms a soft ball.
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