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Side view of a full Turtle Chocolate Layer Cake on a white cake stand

Turtle Chocolate Layer Cake

  • Author: Life, Love and Sugar
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 53 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 38 minutes
  • Yield: 12-14 Slices
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American


Turtle Chocolate Layer Cake is a moist chocolate cake filled with caramel buttercream, pecans & chocolate ganache. It’s delicious and the perfect celebration cake!


Caramel Sauce

  • 2 cups (414g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (112g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt

Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups (260g) all purpose flour
  • 2 cups (414g) sugar
  • 3/4 cup (85g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (240ml) milk
  • 1 cup (240ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup (240ml) hot water

Caramel Buttercream

  • 2 1/2 cups (560g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 10 cups (1150g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup caramel sauce, above
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 oz (1 cup | 169g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup (180ml) heavy whipping cream


To make the caramel sauce:

1. Combine the granulated sugar and water in a medium to large saucier pan. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the butter and let it melt
2. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Stop whisking and don’t whisk at all during this part to help avoid crystallization. Allow to boil until the mixture turns a deep golden copper color, about 15-20 minutes, maybe longer depending on your stove. Keep an eye on it, but do not stir. If needed, you can occasionally tip the pan from side to side to help things cook evenly.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add in the heavy whipping cream in a slow, steady stream. The caramel will bubbly up quite a bit, so be careful with this step. Whisk quickly and well as you add the cream, whisking until well combined.
4. Add the vanilla extract and half a teaspoon of salt and whisk to combine. Add additional salt to your desired saltiness.
5. Set the caramel sauce in the fridge to cool. It will be fairly thin, but will thicken as it cools. You can make this caramel sauce up to a week or so head, if you like.

To make the chocolate cake layers:

6. Prepare three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom, and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 300°F (148°C).
7. Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk together.
8. Add eggs, milk and vegetable oil to the dry ingredients and mix well.
9. Add boiling water and vanilla extract and mix well.
10. Divide batter evenly between cakes pans and bake for 30-33 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
11. Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.

To make the caramel buttercream:

12. Make the buttercream while cakes cool. Add the butter to a large mixer bowl and beat until smooth.
13. Slowly add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.
14. Add about 1/2 a cup of caramel sauce and mix until well combined and smooth.
15. Slowly add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.
16. Add additional caramel sauce to achieve the right flavor and consistency of frosting. You don’t want to thin out the frosting too much or it won’t hold your cake together well.
17. Add salt to taste.

To build the cake:

18. Once the cakes are cool and the frosting is ready, remove the cake domes from the tops of the cakes with a large serrated knife. See my tips on how to level a cake and how to stack a cake.
19. Place first layer of cake on cake plate. Spread about 2/3 cup of frosting on top in an even layer.
20. Pipe a dam around the edge of the cake, on top of the frosting. This is help hold your caramel sauce in place (and is why you don’t want your frosting to be too thin – you want it to hold in place well).
21. Add about 1/2 cup of caramel sauce and gently spread into an even layer. The caramel sauce is easiest to work with when at room temperature, but should be workable when cold as well.
22. Spread about 1/4 cup of chopped pecans evenly over the caramel sauce and level out the frosting dam, if needed, so that everything is level.
23. Add the second layer of cake and add another layer of frosting, caramel and chopped pecans.
24. Add the final layer of cake on top and then add a thin crumb coat to the cake.
25. Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes to an hour so that everything firms up a bit, which will help keep everything in place while you frost the cake.
26. Frost the outside of the cake with the remaining caramel frosting. Feel free to use my tutorial for frosting a smooth cake.

To decorate the cake:

22. To make the chocolate ganache, add the chocolate chips to a medium sized bowl (see my tips on making chocolate ganache).
23. Heat the heavy whipping cream just until it begins to boil, then pour it over the chocolate chips. Allow it to sit for 2-3 minutes, then whisk until smooth.
24. Drizzle the chocolate ganache around the edge of the cake, then pour the remainder of the ganache on top of the cake and spread evenly. I like to use a squeeze bottle for drizzling around the edges. See my tips on making a chocolate drip cake.
25. Allow the ganache to firm up a bit, then pipe the remainder of the frosting around the top edge of the cake. You can also finish it off with a drizzle of caramel sauce and some chopped pecans.
26. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Cake is best when stored well covered and eaten within 3-4 days.


  • Serving Size: 1 Slice
  • Calories: 1290
  • Sugar: 156.3 g
  • Sodium: 583.4 mg
  • Fat: 67.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 175.4 g
  • Protein: 6.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 146 mg