Chocolate Turtle Cake Recipe

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Today we are sharing a Chocolate Turtle Cake Recipe that is absolutely delicious- I love this flavorful combination of decadent chocolate cake, homemade caramel sauce, toasted pecans, and a drizzle of rich ganache.

With this lineup of key ingredients, you just cannot go wrong! 

Chocolate Turtle Cake Recipe- So decadent and delicious!

How to Make Chocolate Turtle Cake 

For this Chocolate Turtle Cake, we are using one of our go-to scratch chocolate cake recipes, our Chocolate Sour Cream Cake! So ultra moist and chocolatey- it's always a favorite.

However, if you would rather go with another chocolate layer cake, whether a doctored cake mix (like our Doctored Chocolate Sour Cream Cake) or our scratch Classic Chocolate Cake, feel free to substitute!

Homemade Caramel Sauce
The perfect homemade caramel sauce!

When you are ready to assemble the chocolate turtle cake, place the first chocolate cake layer on the pedestal or cake base.

Next, spread with a layer of chocolate buttercream, drizzle with caramel, ganache, and sprinkle with toasted chopped pecans.

Chocolate Turtle Cake Recipe- This layer cake is so decadent!

Add the next layers and repeat, and top with the final chocolate cake layer.

Frosting and Decorating the Cake

After filling and stacking the cake layers, fill in any gaps between the layers with frosting.

Next, frost a thin layer of (crumb coat) on top and around the sides. At this point, we like to chill the cake in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes to firm up the crumb coat before going in with the final coat of buttercream.

I then combed the buttercream using a cake comb as an optional step.

Chill the cake again for 15 minutes and then add your ganache drip. When creating my chocolate drips, I load the ganache into a disposable piping bag with the tip snipped away (just a smallish snip will do). 

Chocolate Turtle Cake Recipe- SO decadent and delicious!

Pipe your drips as you rotate the cake on a turntable (if you have one) and then top the cake with more ganache drizzles, caramel drizzles and chopped pecans.

Finally, I created stars around the top of the cake using a Wilton 6B tip and topped each one with a pecan.

I used a star tip 21 to create a simple shell border around the base.

Additional Details on Drip Cakes

If you'd like more details on our Chocolate Drip, check out this quick free cake video!: Easy Chocolate Drip Video Tutorial

We love dramatic chocolate drips and use them often. They are so quick to make!

This Chocolate Turtle Cake Recipe is the BEST! So decadent and delicious!

More Chocolate Cakes

We've made many more chocolate cakes as well as caramel cake recipes over the years!

Some of our most popular chocolate cakes are our Black Forest Cake, German Chocolate Cake, and Easy Chocolate Mousse Cake. Here are just a few more favorites:

You can find a full roundup here: Favorite Chocolate Cake Recipes!

We also have lots more nutty cake flavors like German Chocolate Cake, Italian Cream Cake, and Pistachio Cake.

Recipe FAQs

This cake is inspired by Chocolate Turtle candies, which are delicious pecan and caramel clusters dipped in chocolate, which resemble turtles. If you love chocolate turtles, you are going to fall in love with this recipe!

Yes, just as with the majority of our cakes from our lemon cake recipe, carrot cake recipe, orange cake recipe and more, these layers freeze beautifully.

After baking and turning out, allow the cake layers to cool until slightly warm (or room temperature). Then, wrap each layer individually in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. You can place each cake layer on a foil lined cake board for extra support. Freeze the layers for up to three months!

Then, to thaw, move the wrapped layers to the kitchen counter. Keep wrapped for about 30-45 minutes before unwrapping and continuing to thaw to desired amount for decorating.

This cake is fine at room temperature (in an airtight container or under a cake dome) for 1-2 days. After that, we like to refrigerate for freshness.

You likely will not notice the coffee flavor in this recipe. Coffee is often used in chocolate cake recipes as it enhances the chocolate flavor and gives it more depth. In addition, using HOT coffee helps to develop the cocoa, making it more rich.

If you prefer not to use hot coffee, you can substitute hot water. The cake will still be rich and delicious.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Make sure to check out our full collection of hundreds of cake recipes, as well as free cake decorating tutorials.

You'll find lots of cake recipes from scratch, cake mix recipes, birthday cake design ideas, and more!

This Chocolate Turtle Cake Recipe is the BEST! So decadent and delicious!

Chocolate Turtle Cake Recipe

This decadent Chocolate Turtle Cake with chocolate cake layers, ganache, caramel sauce, toasted pecans, and chocolate buttercream is sure to please a crowd!
Course: Dessert
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For the Chocolate Cake Layers

  • 2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
  • 2 ¾ cups All Purpose Flour (322g)
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa (82g)
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Soda (10g)
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Powder (2g)
  • ½ teaspoon Salt (2g)
  • 1 stick + 5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (185g) You should be able to make a fingerprint when you press the butter. If it becomes too soft, just refrigerate for a few minutes.
  • 1 cup Sour Cream (242g)
  • 1 cup Milk (220g)
  • 4 eggs room temperature (If in a hurry, place eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1 cup Hot Coffee (220g)

For the Caramel Sauce

  • ½ stick unsalted butter (57g) (if using salted butter, do not add additional salt)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (packed into measuring cup) (217g
  • ½ cup heavy cream (126g)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (2g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup (18g)

For the Chocolate Ganache

  • 3 oz Chocolate Semi-sweet or Dark We used Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate
  • 3 oz Heavy Cream

For the Dark Chocolate Buttercream

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened (339g)(do not soften butter in the microwave)
  • 8 cups powdered sugar (920g)
  • 1 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa 82 grams (measure then sift)-- You can substitute with 1 ½ cups (124g) unsweetened cocoa if you don't have Special Dark Cocoa on hand. (It won't be quite as dark but still delicious).
  • 1 teaspoon salt 6g to cut the sweetness (preferably fine grain or popcorn salt). Adjust to taste.
  • ½ cup milk 121 grams more if needed to reach the spreading consistency you like
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla 12 grams

Pecans for in between layers and decoration

  • 1 cup pecans (adjust amount to your liking). (106g) (We chopped the pecans and baked on a parchment lined cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 4-5 minutes. Do not let them get too dark. Baking is optional but makes the pecans more flavorful.)


For the Chocolate Cake Layers

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour three 9 inch pans. This recipe uses the Reverse Creaming Method of Mixing.
  • Add dry ingredients to the bowl of your mixer and mix for one minute to blend (sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt)
  • Add butter a few slices at a time and mix until it reaches a crumbly, sandy texture. Be careful not to over-mix beyond "sandy" consistency.
  • In another bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Using a fork, mix together. This is all of your wet ingredients except for the coffee, it will be added to the batter later.
  • Set a timer for 1 ½ minutes and SLOWLY add half of your egg mixture to your butter/flour mixture while mixing. Start mixer on low speed then increase to medium for the remainder of the 1 ½ minutes. Do Not Mix Above Medium Speed.
  • Stop mixer, scrape the sides and bottom of bowl, and add half of the remaining egg mixture. Mix on medium speed for 20 seconds.
  • Stop mixer, scrape down the sides if necessary, and add the last of the egg mixture. Mix for 20 more seconds on medium speed.
  • Slowly add HOT coffee and mixing for 30 seconds to blend. Batter will be runny but that is okay!
  • This recipe makes about 9 ½ cups of batter. Pour into 3 prepared 9" pans and bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean.

For the Caramel Sauce

  • Using a medium size sauce pan (deep enough to prevent boil over)  melt the butter over medium heat.  
  • Add the brown sugar and the remaining ingredients.
  • Stir to  blend, try to keep mixture off the sides of the pan. Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to low.
  • Cover the pot and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, check the pot making sure it will not boil over.
  • Keep in mind that the caramel thickens as it cools.
  • Makes 1 cup caramel.  It can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

For the Chocolate Ganache

  • Place your chocolate into a microwave safe bowl.
  • Pour heavy cream over the chocolate and place in the microwave for 30 seconds. (Times may vary, see our note below).
  • Remove and stir. Microwave for 15 seconds more. Repeat in short 15 second increments as needed. When the chocolate has melted almost completely, allow it to sit for 1 minute more before stirring. Stir until you've reached a silky smooth consistency.
  • *Microwave times may vary. If you are making a smaller amount of ganache, you will reduce the microwave time. If your chocolate hasn't melted after the 1 ½ minutes recommended in the instructions, simply microwave in small 10-15 second increments until it has nearly completely melted. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth.
  • Allow finished ganache to cool until it is a good consistency for dripping. (You can test this on the inside of your bowl. If it moves too quickly down, let it thicken a little more.

For the Dark Chocolate Buttercream

  • Add butter to a mixing bowl and beat for approximately 1 min. on medium speed. Add vanilla and blend into the butter. Add powdered sugar, salt, and cocoa powder.
  • Add most of the milk. Begin beating at low speed so you won't have a cloud of powdered sugar in your kitchen. Beat at medium speed 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and beat an additional two to three minutes, adding remaining milk as needed.
  • This is my favorite chocolate frosting! Recipe can easily be doubled or halved.
  • This recipe makes approximately 6 cups of frosting.

Assembly of the Chocolate Turtle Cake

  • After placing the first chocolate cake layer on the cake base or pedestal, spread with a layer of chocolate buttercream.
  • Spread/drizzle with caramel, ganache, and sprinkle with toasted chopped pecans. Top with the next cake layer and repeat. Top with the final cake layer and frost the cake with Chocolate Buttercream.
  • Drizzle with caramel, ganache, and sprinkle with toasted pecans. Decorate as desired. I piped french tip stars around the top using a Wilton 6B tip and topped those with additional pecans. I also finished with a shell border at the base of the cake.

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  1. Nice one oooh I love your cakes Melissa. What can I do to make my cake layers as yours Melissa.Mines comes out smaller than yours may you please help me

    Thank you

  2. Made this cake for a socially distanced gathering with two other couples over the weekend, and they really loved it.

    While I used the special dark cocoa powder for both the cake and frosting, next time I think I will limit it only to the cake and use the regular chocolate cocoa for the frosting. I did use a less-sweet frosting recipe (that includes a tanghzon), so maybe if I had used the 9 cups of powdered sugar called for in the original buttercream recipe, it might have looked less dark. It tasted fabulous, but the sliced presentation wasn't as nice as I would have liked.

    As always, thanks for the great recipes!

  3. Hi Jackie, I am sorry I missed seeing this in Sept. Your cake looks great and I am so happy you enjoyed the recipe. Thank you for your nice comments and for posting a photo of your cake.