Transform your favorite candy into this Turtles Cake! Layers of rich chocolate cake, caramel buttercream, caramel sauce, and chopped pecans.
We’ve been in our new place just over a week now, and it’s finally starting to feel a bit less chaotic and a bit more like home — some rooms, anyhow. I was super nervous about the kitchen aside from the appliances, as it’s basically a 1989 original. It’s in good shape considering its age, but it’s a far cry from the modern kitchens these days. So I baked up a batch of my favorite chocolate chip cookies to test the setup and the oven. I’ve made those cookies so many times that I know exactly how they should turn out.
I actually struggled with them for the past 3 years, as our previous place had a gas oven. I can now say with confidence that I will never use a gas oven again. EVER. I love a gas cooktop (and miss it), but the inconsistency of the gas oven is horrible for baking. This was proven the other day when I baked up the cookies in an electric oven and they turned out better than they have in years.
The kitchen was actually quite pleasant to bake in. I have a separate “pantry” section for all my baking needs, so it doesn’t feel as cramped as I thought it would. The kitchen sink leaves a lot to be desired (small/cramped), but all in all the kitchen is pretty functional.
We still have a bunch of boxes (most empty) in the basement, but the main floor is done and some of the upstairs. I haven’t touched my photography room yet though. I’m kinda procrastinating it because I don’t really know where to start. It’s a huge mess right now and I need to put up some shelving and a table, etc. I have to get that done next week because I’ve only got so many recipes in the backlog! Like this Turtles Layer Cake.
This Turtles Layer Cake is another one of Ryan’s suggestions. I can always count on him to come up with crazy and delicious ideas. Turtles happen to be my favorite chocolate candy, so it really only made sense to make a cake version, naturally, keeping in line with my never-ending desire to turn other desserts into cakes. Because everything is better as a cake!
In true Olivia fashion, I did more to this Turtles Layer Cake than I should have, and I’m not totally happy with how it turned out. I mean, it looks GOOD, but it looked BETTER before I added the frosting rosettes and mini-Turtles on top.
See, caramel doesn’t set as well as ganache. I had these perfect, and I mean PERFECT, alternating drips and a smooth top going. It was a stunner. But I had some leftover buttercream and wanted to incorporate the mini-Turtles into the cake, so I took it a bit further. Big mistake. The weight of it all started pushing the caramel down the sides and the rosettes literally started sliding down the cake. So much so that one actually slid off and I had to redo it (it’s in the back so you wouldn’t see it in the pics).
I was in a mad rush to take these pics so that the rest of the cake wouldn’t end up a complete disaster. As such, I hate the pics too, and literally re-edited them 3 whole times (countless hours). I keep telling myself that no one will notice the imperfections and no one knows what it looked like “before” so who cares. Except now I’ve told you, and you totally know.
So, if you make this cake, I would recommend skipping the rosettes and Turtles on top. Or at least just do one or the other. I think it was actually the Turtles that did me in. Those suckers are dense.
Cake decorating issues aside, this is one seriously delicious cake. If you’re a Turtles fan (and really, who isn’t?), you will love it! Dense chocolate cake with caramel buttercream and caramel sauce between the layers, and chopped up pecans for some crunch. Pure decadence.
Tips for this Turtles Layer Cake:
- Adding rosettes and Turtles will cause the caramel to slide down more. I recommend skipping this step.
- To enhance the chocolate flavor of the cake, you can use strong hot coffee instead of hot water.
- For the ganache, I let mine set overnight (with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface). It will be too thick at this point, so I microwave it for 10 secs and stir it until it’s the right consistency.
- The drip technique works best on a chilled cake so that the drips set quickly.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, see my tips here.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup granulated sugar 200g
- 1/4 cup water
- 150 ml heavy whipping cream room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter 100g, room temperature
Milk Chocolate Ganache:
- 4.5 oz milk chocolate good quality, finely chopped
- 3 oz heavy whipping cream
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups unsalted butter cubed, room temperature
- 1/2 cup caramel cooled
- 1 cup pecans chopped
- 6 Turtles Minis
- Preheat oven to 350F, grease three 6″ round baking pans and dust with cocoa powder. Line bottoms with parchment.
- Place all dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir to combine.
- In a medium bowl whisk all wet ingredients (pour hot water in slowly as not to cook the eggs if very hot).
- Add wet ingredients to dry and mix on medium for 2-3 mins. Batter will be very thin.
- Pour evenly into prepared pans. I used a kitchen scale to ensure the batter is evenly distributed.
- Bake until a cake tester comes out mostly clean. A total of 30-35mins.
- Place sugar and water into a medium pot, stir to combine, but to not stir from this point forward. Cook over high heat, washing down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water as needed to prevent crystals.
- Cook until desired color of caramel is reached and immediately remove from heat. Very slowly, whisk in heavy cream. The mixture will bubble up (a lot) and boil. Add butter, return to heat, and bring back to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes whisking constantly.
- Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a container and place in fridge to thicken.*
Milk Chocolate Ganache:
- Place chopped chocolate and cream into a microwave safe bowl. Stir to combine. Microwave for 20 seconds, stir. Microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring in between, until smooth and silky. Set aside to cool completely before using.*
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.**
- Place bowl over a hot water bath on the stove and whisk constantly until the mixture is no longer grainy to the touch (approx. 3mins).
- Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins)).
- Switch to paddle attachment. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth.
- Add cooled caramel and whip until smooth.***
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving dish. Top with about 2/3 cup buttercream, drizzle with caramel and ganache and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Repeat with remaining layers. Crumb coat the outside and chill cake for 15mins. Frost and smooth the outside, chill for 30mins.
- Using a teaspoon, drip ganache along the edges then fill in the top. Chill for 15mins.
- Repeat with caramel and chill for 30mins.
- If desired, top with rosettes and mini Turtles.****
** Ensure there is NO trace of egg yolks in your whites and that your mixer bowl and whisk is completely grease free or your meringue won’t stiffen.
*** The buttercream may look like it’s curdled at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.
**** Adding rosettes and Turtles will cause the caramel to slide down more. I recommend skipping this step.
I was sure I would mess up at least one part of this cake since I’ve never made caramel, and have only made buttercream once or twice. Its also my first time making a tall cake like this. To my surprise everything turned out amazing! Wow! What an amazing recipe and such clear instructions. Thank you so much for creating this website and these great recipes. I will be trying the eggnog cake tomorrow for Christmas.
Thanks so much Maryse! I’m so glad you loved it and I hope you love the Eggnog Cake too! It’s one of my favorites 🙂
Jackie G says
Absolutely loved this cake! It was a huge hit both times! I had a little trouble with this buttercream, but end up following a slightly different recipe and added in the 1/2 cup of caramel to that, which came out wonderfully! After making/ decorating twice, I think I’ll leave off the caramel drip and just do the ganache so I can decorate further on top without the caramel drips sliding down (should’ve listened to the notes about that!). Thanks so much for sharing this!!
Jackie G says
Meant to give this 5 stars!!
Hi Jackie! I’m so happy you loved it as it’s one of my favorites 🙂
Scratch Baker says
Amazing!!! Much like all of your recipes, this does not disappoint! The cake was super fluffy and moist! Had to make the caramel twice, but was successful the second time! I even made cupcakes and filled them with the caramel, because it turned out so good! Might make my own turtles next time, have all the components, the mini’s were still a little large!
Hi Scratch Baker! I am so happy you loved this one. Making your own turtles is such a good idea and I agree the minis are still a little big!
I love this cake!!! I use my own chocolate cake recipe because it’s a hit regardless of how I finish it!
Hi Melissa! So happy you love it 🙂
Do you whisk the caramel on step 10. That is after you whisk in the butter and return the pot to a low heat for 1-2 minutes.? Do you whisk it while you cook it on this last step?
I made the nanaimo cake, it was so good!
Hi Sue! I only whisk to incorporate the butter then simmer it briefly. I have a detailed tutorial on how to make caramel here: https://livforcake.com/caramel-sauce-recipe/
Menina Parsons says
Hello. I guess I need my fear of making homemade caramel put at ease. I’ve never had luck making homemade caramel. It always tastes burned thus not permitting it’s use. Have you ever had that problem? If so, what did you do to fix it? I want to make this for my dil’s birthday this weekend but have a fear of that dang caramel!
Hi Menina! I have a detailed tutorial on how to make caramel here: https://livforcake.com/caramel-sauce-recipe/ It will only taste burnt if you’ve cooked it for too long (it got too dark). It can go from a nice caramel color to burnt pretty quickly. Hopefully my tutorial helps. It really is easy to make! Let me know if you try it and how it goes 🙂
I love your recipes and this one got rave reviews! I thought it might be super sweet but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t. Although the decorating took a lot of time (for me), it was worth it. I learned a few things along the way and I put my 4 turtles cut in half (cut side down) toward the middle in a circle away from the caramel. It worked perfect. This is my go-to chocolate cake recipe. It comes out perfect every time! Your directions make your recipes so easy to follow. You have helped me to experiment with things I never thought I would be able to do. Thank you!!
Hi Jodi! Thanks so much for your wonderful comment! You totally made my morning. I’m so happy you love this recipe 🙂
Could you still do the rosettes if the caramel is only dripped from the edges and the ganache is covering the top? I’m wanting to write “50” in rosettes on the top and just want to see how i can make this manageable? Any help would be appreciated! Love your page and recipes!!! 🙂
Hi Kassandra! For sure, that would work well. It’s just the caramel that was unstable so if the rosettes are directly on top of the (set) ganache it will be fine.
DeeDee Bryans says
I am excited to make this for my son’s 40th birthday. Wow! I would like to make 3-8” layers. If I make 1.5 recipes will this be enough? And should I do the same for frosting, etc.? Thank you so much for answering another question! 😊
Hi DeeDee! So nice to hear from you. For the cake specifically, I would 1.5x this recipe: https://livforcake.com/chocolate-cake-recipe/ That will make sure your layers are nice and tall. You could use this one too but the layers will bake up thinner than I have here so it just depends. For either one, you can change the Servings to 18 to get the amounts. I would 1.5x everything to make sure you have enough. Let me know how it turns out 🙂
Hello! I only currently have cake/pastry flour, is that okay instead of AP flour?
Hi Trish! Normally I’d say yes but I haven’t tried it myself with this chocolate cake batter. The batter is very thin and rises a lot. You can give it a try with cake flour but the cake may be a bit delicate.
Hi how deep are the 6″ cake pans
Hi Theresa! Mine are all 2″ tall.
Made it. Love it. Super moist. Everyone loved it.
I’m enjoying all the other cakes you’ve made as well. Love the artistry, and I love you curse like I do while baking. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Hanna! Thanks so much, I’m so happy you loved it 🙂 I can’t wait to hear what you make next!