Turtle desserts of all kinds hold a special place in my heart.  I’ve talked about the reason quite in depth before in this post.  But today, let’s not focus on the sad stuff.  Instead, let’s just all take a moment to appreciate something good about the past week.  My week has had lots of good.  Plenty of productive studying, a few challenging hours on my yoga mat, making progress with some knitting projects, and of course, lots and lots of wonderful moments with my amazing kids.

As a major sweet tooth with a special love for chocolate and caramel, the cupcakes were another highlight of the week.  Chocolate, caramel and pecans is a winning combination to be sure.  But the cupcake itself was not so much the highlight as was splitting one with my little buddy.  He is at such a fantastic age right now – so smart, inquisitive and playful.  And he wants to hang out with me 24/7.  I know that won’t last forever so I’m just savoring these moments while I can.  Since sharing turtle sundaes with my mom is an incredibly vivid memory for me, I can’t help but wonder which moments he will recall someday.  Who knows?  Maybe it will be this one.

(A quick rundown of the cupcake:  I used my favorite chocolate cupcake as the base.  I didn’t feel like bothering with filling them, plus I wanted the “filling” to be visible.  I topped them with a caramel cream cheese frosting and then made little wells in the frosting to hold the caramel pecan mixture.  Worked like a charm and I loved the way they looked.  Messy, gooey and fabulous.)


For the cupcakes:
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup sour cream

For the caramel and filling:
½ cup sugar
½ cups heavy cream, warmed
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional) 
¼ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup chopped pecans

For the frosting:
12 oz. cream cheese, cold
12 tbsp. (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp. caramel sauce (recipe above)
2¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of coarse salt

To finish: 
Caramel sauce
Chocolate syrup or chocolate ganache
Additional chopped pecans (optional)


  • 01

    Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water and whisk until smooth.  In another medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to blend.

  • 02

    Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated.

  • 03

    Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let cool in the pan about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • 04

    To make the caramel, spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Place over medium-low heat, watching carefully.  When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to gently stir it towards the center.  Continue stirring very gently until all the sugar is melted, taking care not to over stir.  Measure out the heavy cream in a liquid measuring cup and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream.  Set aside.  Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove the sauce pan from the heat.  (To test the color, spoon a drop onto a white plate or bowl.)  Carefully pour half of the heavy cream into the saucepan in a steady stream down the edge of the pan, whisking constantly.  The mixture will steam and bubble violently.  Stir until the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the remaining cream.  Stir in the salt and the vanilla.  If any sugar has seized or hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

  • 05

    To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, butter, and caramel sauce in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the confectioners’ sugar and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes more.  Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag with a large round tip (I used Ateco #809).  Pipe a swirl of frosting over the top of each cupcake.  Use the tip of a small offset spatula or a small spoon to scoop an indentation out of the center of the frosting.

  • 06

    In a small bowl, mix together of the caramel sauce and the chopped pecans.  Fill the indentations in the frosting with a small spoonful of the caramel-pecan mixture.  Drizzle the cupcakes with additional caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, and sprinkle with additional chopped pecans, if desired.


  • Evelyn Leong

    What beautiful cupcakes and memories you’re creating for your little one.

  • That looks incredibly delicious, makes me crave dessert right now. Let me ask though, how much are those 2 sticks butter in weight exactly? I don’t know how they package butter over there, but if I remember correctly here we can get it in both 100g and 250g sticks.

  • angela king

    omg these look absolutely divine. thanks for sharing!

  • Tiesha

    oh.my.gosh…. *runs to kitchen immediately*

  • annieseats

    It is 3 oz. total, but I don’t know grams offhand. You can always use an online conversion calculator to figure it out. Enjoy!

  • I.MEAN. I seriously have no words for the deliciousness that appears before me on my screen!

  • Caroline L.

    This is one of those cupcakes that almost looks too wonderful to eat, but I’ll take on the challenge anyway ;)

  • Lindsay

    Sounds delicious but I think 12 tablespoons of butter is 6 ounces. Can’t wait to try them!

  • annieseats

    Sorry, it’s actually 6 oz. Oops!

  • Oh my! Look at those! I am sure that one in the front has my name on it.

  • natalie

    these are so gorgeous! i don’t know how you can eat something so pretty!

  • These are so gorgeous!

  • I have no idea what a turtle dessert is – but I don´t need to know, the pictures say it all! And when I realized it was a combo of chocolate, caramel and pecans – my favourite flavours – well, I´m officially a turtle-lover too! ;)

  • Steph in Lex

    These look AMAZING. I am up for turtle anything. I’m actually making your turtle brownies for the NFC/AFC championships that you made awhile back for Frosting for the Cure, but these are definitely on the MUST make soon list!

  • Tracy

    It’s amazing the memories we associate with food, thank you for sharing your memories with us and the delightful looking cupcake.

  • Regardless of never knowing turke as a dessert, consider me converted! Looks so good and well what’s not to love about chocolate, caramel and pecans!

  • Loretta E

    Incredible! What a fantastic combination and they are perfectly frosted!

  • Heather

    These look special… caramel cream cheese icing!! c’mon!!

  • Welp, I’m now drooling on my keyboard. Please mail me one? These look awesome!

  • Julie

    Nice….that’s what I want for breakfast!

  • Helena

    These look wonderful and you’ve reminded me to think about the good things in my week. Re the comment about butter – isn’t 2 sticks 8 oz?

  • I just made these and they turned out perfect. The frosting is one of the best frostings I’ve ever made! I couldn’t stop licking the spatula :D thanks for the recipe, Annie!

  • Ovenaddict.blogspot.com


  • Nichole@DulceDelicious

    These look amazing! I will definitely be putting these on my must bake list!

  • Thought you might find it fun to know I’m going to print this recipe for my fifth grade students tomorrow and use it in a lesson on adding fractions! Of course, I’ll have to bake them, too. Thanks Annie.

  • annieseats

    I love that! Hope the lesson went well :)

  • rachel

    I only have a normal muffin pan and mini-muffin pan, which size would these cupcakes be closer to?

  • annieseats

    Any time a cupcake or muffin recipe doesn’t specify (at least on my site), you can assume a standard size pan. Enjoy!

  • Gracie

    Just made them they are delicious, thank you for the recipe :)

  • Zoya Babichenko

    Hi Annie!
    I made these turtle cupcakes and your raspberry swirl cheesecake cupcakes for my daughter’s 2nd birthday and both were a hit! The cheesecake cupcakes sank after baking but it was no problem, I just made cream cheese frosting, piped it on and added a fresh raspberry and they were beautiful.

    Lots of people really like the turtle cupcakes as well! I filled them with caramel and pecans and also added caramel and pecans on top of the frosting as well. They were so delicious and that was my first time making homade caramel sauce, I was so proud! :)

    Thanks so much for these wonderful recipes! I really appreciate it!

  • Steph in Lex

    OK, Annie, you really failed me with these. You neglected to tell me I shouldn’t make the caramel sauce first or I would end up having to make a second batch because I kept sneaking tastes! I ended up with a more swirly look because I had the Wilton 1M tip instead of the large round tip (which is on my shopping list), and couldn’t get the wells to cooperated so I just ended up drizzling caramel and ganache over the top, but they still look pretty cute and, more importantly, taste AMAZING. And great job on the frosting–I used more confectioner’s sugar because I’m picky about the consistency of my frosting, but your creation is one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while! These will for sure be making a repeat performance. I just had to come back and encourage anyone who is considering these to DEFINITELY make them.

  • Elizabeth Cross

    The cupcake recipe was okay but nothing out of this world. That could of been my fault though, they came out a little dry in my opinion. I am a believer of oil in cake mixes but decided to give this a go given the reviews. Maybe next time I’ll trade the butter for oil. Frosting was yummy though!

  • Hala

    I’ve just came around this web during my search for cupcakes. I guess the heavy cream you are referring to in all your recipes is heavy whipping cream right? Appreciate your answer

  • annieseats

    Yes, that’s correct. Enjoy!