These chocolate turtle cupcakes begin with moist chocolate cake that's topped with homemade salted caramel and roasted pecans. Inspired by classic turtle candies, they're rich, decadent, and impressive for any occasion!
Have you ever had a caramel turtle candy? They're made with three main components- chocolate, caramel, and pecans. Today we're taking the same flavors and turning them into chocolate caramel turtle cupcakes!
They're made from my most popular chocolate ganache cake batter, topped with pecans, gooey caramel buttercream, and a drizzle of chocolate ganache! Are you convinced yet?! And if you love these flavors together, try pecan pie brownies and salted caramel pecan bars next!
Why We Love These Chocolate Turtle Cupcakes
- Moist chocolate cupcake with a soft and fluffy chocolate cake texture.
- Sweet, salty, crunchy, and gooey in every single bite!
- Turtle cupcakes are an impressive recipe that's perfect for special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving. If you're short on time but still need a super delicious recipe, try easy apple cinnamon cake or pumpkin snack cake.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Caramel: Homemade caramel is easy to make and tastes way better than store-bought. In a pinch, store-bought can be used.
Coffee: Coffee intensifies and balances the chocolate flavor without tasting like coffee, like in coffee chocolate cake. This is key to all of my chocolate cake recipes being super moist and tender! Substitute it with hot water if needed.
Pecans: Roasted pecans have a more intense flavor that perfectly with the chocolate, like in chocolate pecan cookies.
Find the full list of ingredients, measurements, and instructions in the recipe card below!
Step 1: Make the homemade caramel. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the water and sugar until amber. Mix in the butter, then the heavy cream and salt (image 1 below). Pour the caramel into a heat-proof jar or bowl and set aside to cool.
Step 2: Combine the dry ingredients. In a stand mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the butter on low until it resembles coarse sand (image 2 below).
Step 3: Mix in the wet ingredients. Combine the oil, sour cream, milk, egg, vanilla extract, coffee, and cocoa powder. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl and mix until just combined (image 3 below).
Step 5: Bake! Then bake! Let them cool on a wire rack before frosting (image 5 below).
Step 6: Make the chocolate ganache drizzle. Bring the water, sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla to a boil. Cook until thickened, then pour into a container to cool. (image 6 below)
Step 7: Make the caramel frosting. Cream the butter until fluffy, then mix in the powdered sugar. Once combined, beat until light and fluffy. Then mix in the heavy cream and caramel (image 7 above).
Step 8: Decorate the turtle cupcakes. Dip a skewer in caramel and drag it in a straight line inside a pastry bag. Repeat 3-4 times inside the bag. Fill with caramel buttercream, piping to incorporate the caramel swirls. Top with chocolate ganache, roasted pecans, and extra caramel if desired (image 8 above).
Tips for The Best Cupcakes
Use a kitchen scale. Baking with a scale is much more accurate than cup measurements. To convert this recipe, click the "metric" button next to the ingredients title on the recipe card. If you do not have a scale, use a spoon to fluff the flour first, then spoon it into your measuring cup.
Wait until the cupcakes are completely cool before frosting, or your buttercream will melt off! To cool them quickly, place the hot chocolate cupcakes on a baking sheet and chill them in the freezer.
Use a cookie scoop to fill the cupcake liners. This cake batter is on the thinner side and can be messy. Using a scoop makes it quick and easy to portion!
Don't skip the roasted pecans. The crunchy pecans are a key component of turtle cupcakes. It gives them a nutty flavor that adds depth to the cupcakes, I use them in my pecan streusel pumpkin bread, too!
Yes! You can make and assemble the cupcakes and store them in the fridge the day before. Let them come to room temperature before serving!
Yes! Make the batter and store it in the fridge for up to 1 week. Add a few extra minutes to the baking time when the batter is cold.
Turtle cupcakes are best stored in the fridge in an airtight container. They will stay soft and moist for up to 1 week. Before serving, let them come to room temperature. Alternatively, they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days.
You can freeze the cupcakes frosted and unfrosted in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
More Chocolate Fall Dessert Ideas
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Chocolate Turtle Cupcakes
Salted Caramel Buttercream
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon water
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter room temperature
- ⅓ cup heavy cream room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 4 tablespoon salted caramel
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup roasted pecans chopped
- 5 tablespoon water
- 2 ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch fine sea salt
Chocolate Cupcake Batter
- 1 cups cake flour *See notes below for measuring*
- ¾ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar packed
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoon cubed unsalted butter room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream room temperature
- 1 whole large egg room temperature
- ¼ cup whole milk room temperature
- 2 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup hot coffee
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
- To make the caramel, heat sugar and water in a heavy pot over medium heat until it boils. Push, don't stir, the sugar as it colors for even cooking. When it turns amber, remove from heat and quickly add the butter, then the heavy cream and salt. The caramel will bubble, so be cautious. Stir until smooth and transfer to a heat-proof jar to cool completely before use.⅔ cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoon water, 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, ⅓ cup heavy cream, ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Prepare the chocolate ganache by whisking cocoa powder, sugar, water, vanilla, and salt in a small pot. Bring it to a boil over medium heat, then simmer for 2-3 minutes until thickened. Pour into a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it cool.2 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, 5 tablespoon water, 2 ½ tablespoon granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract, Pinch fine sea salt
- In a stand mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix in the cubed butter on low for 3 minutes until it resembles coarse sand.1 cups cake flour, ¾ cups granulated sugar, ¼ cup dark brown sugar, ¾ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, 3 tablespoon cubed unsalted butter
- In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg, milk, oil, and vanilla extract. In another bowl, whisk together the hot coffee and cocoa powder.½ cup sour cream, 1 whole large egg, ¼ cup whole milk, 2 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ cup hot coffee, ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
- Add the egg mixture and coffee/cocoa mixture to the bowl. Mix on low until just combined. Scrape the sides and bottom to ensure thorough mixing.
- Scoop the batter into the lined cupcake pan, ¾ full. This is best done with a cookie scoop because the batter is thin and can be messy to work with.
- Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out covered in a few moist crumbs. Let the pan cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the cupcakes and let them finish cooling on the rack before frosting.
- Finish the caramel frosting. Cream the butter with the paddle in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Then mix in the powdered sugar on low. Once combined, mix on medium speed until light and fluffy. Mix in the caramel, heavy cream, and salt until combined.1 ½ cups unsalted butter, 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, 4 tablespoon salted caramel, 3 tablespoons heavy cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- To create the caramel swirl buttercream, fit a piping bag with a large round tip. Dip a skewer into the cooled caramel and drag it along the inside of the bag from the tip upwards to create a thick, straight line of caramel. Do this 3-4 times along the inside of the bag. Fill the bag with the caramel buttercream.
- When you pipe the buttercream, you should have swirls of the caramel in the frosting. Spoon the chocolate ganache over the top, then sprinkle with roasted pecans, and more caramel if desired.½ cup roasted pecans
The calorie information provided for the recipe is an estimate. The accuracy of the calories listed is not guaranteed.