Cakes and Cupcakes/ Recipes

Chocolate Turtle Cake

This Chocolate Turtle Cake is every chocolate lovers dream come true! And best of all, it’s SUPER easy to make!

chocolate turtle cake

We had a birthday at a photo shoot this week, which I LOVE, because it gives me an extra-special reason to bake! And this special person is a dear friend, and SO VERY deserving of an extra special cake! That’s where this over-the-top-fudgy-nutty-gooey chocolate turtle cake came into play. It looks and taste like you spent HOURS in the kitchen, but it’s actually no harder than baking a regular cake!

chocolate turtle cake

There is a restaurant in St.Paul called “Caffe Latte” that has a cake called a “Turtle Cake” that is to die for. In my mom’s old recipe clippings, there is an old magazine page that has a copycat recipe. The cake is three dark chocolate layers, layers of fudgy frosting, toasted pecans and it’s drenched in caramel. This seemed like the perfect starting point for a birthday  cake. The only problem? I don’t own three layer pans that are the same size. Normally I would just bake the third layer separately, but it was getting a little late in the evening and I didn’t want to be in the kitchen until midnight. (I should make a note right now to buy one 8-inch and one 9-inch round pan so this isn’t an issue in the future. Especially since I do a lot of baking in the evening). Anyways….bake to the cake. So instead of using the three layer chocolate cake listed in the recipe, I used one of my go-to chocolate cake recipes for a 2-layer cake instead. It worked perfectly!

chocolate turtle cake

The cake ingredients all get mixed together in one bowl, which means extra easy clean up! (You know how I hate doing dishes). Be sure to line the bottom of each pan with parchment. Parchment is really a bakers best friend when it comes to getting things out of a pan easily! Spray the bottom and sides of the pans with cooking spray, then dust with unsweetened cocoa, not flour. When you are baking chocolate cake and the recipe calls for dusting the pan, cocoa works SO much better! It will work just like flour to keep your cake from sticking, but it doesn’t leave that crusty flour coating on your beautiful chocolate cake. Divide the batter evenly among the pans and bake them until your toothpick comes out clean when you test them.  When your cakes come out of the oven, dump your pecans onto a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven to toast for 7-8 minutes until they start to brown and smell toasty. Stir them half way through the baking time.You can skip this part if you want, but toasted nuts have a better flavor! Let the nuts cool while the layers cool and then it’s onto frosting.

This is a cooked fudge frosting. It only takes a few minutes to make, so wait until your cakes layers are completely cool before you starting making it. It’s a simple mixture of sugar, butter, and milk that you bring to a boil. Then you stir in a heavy portion of chocolate chips until it’s smooth and glossy. If your frosting seems a little thin, let it sit for a few minutes to cool and thicken up just slightly. Stir it again and let the layering begin to create your decadent chocolate turtle cake!

chocolate turtle cake

The building process is REALLY easy. Put one layer, top side down onto a serving plate. You put the rounded side down because the bottom of the layer is flatter and will create a more level cake. Lather on half of your fudgy frosting, sprinkle evenly with the cooled nuts and drizzle half of your caramel topping over the top.  Store-bought caramel is all you need here, but thicker is better, so choose a thick variety. If it’s too thick to drizzle, warm it up jut slightly until it pours. Repeat this building process again, but this time put the cake layer, rounded side up. Refrigerate your cake for 30 minutes or until you are ready to serve. I like to take it out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before I serve it, just to let it warm up a bit. But that’s just personal preference. That’s all there is too it, for an extra special Chocolate Turtle Cake. Bake it today for someone special. Or bake it just for you, because who’s more special than you? Happy Baking!

Tips and Tricks for Your Best Baking:

  • Measure flour by lightly spooning flour into measuring cup and leveling off with a straight edge; don’t scoop flour directly with measuring cup or your flour will be packed down and your cake will be heavy.
  • Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper; spray lightly with cooking spray and dust with unsweetened cocoa, not flour.
  • Use high quality ingredients for best flavor.
  • When making your frosting, be sure to bring to a full rolling boil, so sugar dissolves completely.
  • Toast the pecans at 350 degrees F. for 7-8 minutes to bring out the flavor.


Yields 12 servings

Chocolate Turtle Layer Cake

30 minPrep Time

45 minCook Time

1 hr, 15 Total Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • Cake:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups cold water
  • Frosting:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1(12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecan halves, toasted
  • 1/2 cup purchased caramel ice cream topping


  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line the bottoms of two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans with parchment; lightly spray with cooking spray and dust with unsweetened cocoa powder; set aside.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together flour, 2 cups sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add vegetable oil, vinegar, vanilla and cold water; beat on medium speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl often, until smooth and well blended.
  3. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 35-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans; loosen edges and invert onto cooling racks and remove parchment. Cool completely.
  4. When layers have cooled, place one layer, top side down, onto serving platter.
  5. Prepare frosting: In medium saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, milk and butter. Bring to full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips. Using wire whisk, continue stirring until chocolate has melted and frosting is smooth. If frosting seems thin, let stand a few minutes before using.
  6. Using an icing spatula or back of a serving spoon, quickly frost the layer on the serving plate with half of the frosting. Sprinkle half of the pecans evenly over the frosting. Drizzle with half of the caramel topping.
  7. Place second layer, top side up, on top of nuts and caramel.
  8. Spread remaining frosting evenly over cake. Sprinkle remaining pecans over top. Drizzle with remaining caramel.
  9. Chill cake 1 to 2 hours, or until 30 minutes before serving time.

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