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!

Chocolate turtle cupcakes with caramel swirled buttercream, chocolate ganache, and pecans.

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

Ingredients needed to make turtle cupcakes in bowls with labels.

Caramel: Homemade caramel is easy to make and tastes way better than store-bought. In a pinch, store-bought can be used.

Cocoa powder: Dutch-processed cocoa powder gives the cake a rich and decadent flavor. I use this in all of my chocolate recipes, like chocolate snickerdoodles and brownies with Oreos.

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.

Oil: Oil keeps these turtle cupcakes moist and tender. I use oil in my chocolate raspberry cake and chocolate cream cake, too!

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!

Recipe Instructions

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).

A process collage of the steps for making homemade caramel and chocolate cupcake batter.

Step 4: Fill the cupcake liners. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Use a scoop to portion the chocolate cupcake batter into the liners, about 3/4 full (image 4 above)

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)

A process collage of the steps for making caramel buttercream and decorating the chocolate cupcakes.

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 scaleBaking 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!

FAQs

Can I make turtle cupcakes ahead of time?

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!

Can the chocolate cupcake batter be made ahead of time?

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.

What is the best way to store turtle cupcakes?

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.

Can turtle cupcakes be frozen?

You can freeze the cupcakes frosted and unfrosted in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

A chocolate cupcake with a bite taken out of it on a wooden serving board.

More Chocolate Fall Dessert Ideas

If you tried this or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how it went in the comments below, I love hearing from you! Also, please leave a star rating while you’re there! You can also tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can check it out!

Chocolate turtle cupcakes with caramel swirled buttercream, chocolate ganache, and pecans.

Chocolate Turtle Cupcakes

5 from 4 votes
– by Cambrea Gordon

These chocolate turtle cupcakes begin with moist chocolate that's topped with homemade salted caramel and roasted pecans. Inspired by classic turtle candies, they're rich, decadent, and impressive for any occasion!
Print Recipe Save Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 18 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 cupcakes

Equipment

Need Metric Measurements?Use the button options below to toggle between US cups and Metric grams!

Ingredients 
 

Salted Caramel Buttercream

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoon salted caramel
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup roasted pecans, chopped

Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Cupcake Batter

  • 1 cups cake flour , *See notes below for measuring*
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoon cubed unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 whole large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot coffee
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder

Instructions

  • 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.
    2/3 cup (133 g) granulated sugar, 2 tbsp water, 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1/3 cup (80 g) heavy cream, 1/4 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 tbsp unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, 5 tbsp water, 2 1/2 tbsp (38 g) granulated sugar, 1/4 tsp 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 (120 g) cake flour, 3/4 cups (150 g) granulated sugar, 1/4 cup (50 g) dark brown sugar, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, 3 tablespoon (42 g) 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.
    1/2 cup (113 g) sour cream, 1 (50 g) whole large egg, 1/4 cup (56 g) whole milk, 2 tbsp (22 g) vegetable or canola oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 cup (110 g) hot coffee, 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp (38 g) 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, 3/4 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 1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter, 1 1/2 cups (170 g) 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.
    1/2 cup roasted pecans

Video

Notes

*Measure your flour properly. This is my #1 baking tip! Do not ever scoop a measuring cup into your flour as this always leads to using too much flour. Instead, use the spoon-level method. This means fluffing the flour first, then spooning it into your measuring cup/spoon. For the BEST results, use a kitchen scale!*
To store, keep turtle cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge 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.
To freeze, store the cupcakes frosted or unfrosted in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Serving: 1serving | Calories: 590kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 110mg | Sodium: 235mg | Potassium: 76mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 52g | Vitamin A: 1126IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 0.4mg

The calorie information provided for the recipe is an estimate. The accuracy of the calories listed is not guaranteed.

The calorie information provided for the recipe is an estimate. The accuracy of the calories listed is not guaranteed.

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One Comment

  1. These are excellent! I made them for my mom’s birthday and she loves chocolate turtles and she really enjoyed them. I plan on making them again for Thanksgiving and maybe even Christmas! Thank you for another great recipe.5 stars