Sunday, September 15, 2013

Chocolate Turtle Cake

Chocolate Turtle Cake - made August 31, 2013 from Sugar Plum

If you notice a lot of pics in this particular post, it'll be because I was pleasantly surprised how nice-looking this cake turned out so I had to capture the images for posterity. I don't normally make a lot of effort on how something looks....and I have cake wreck pictures to prove it.  Or at least not as much effort as I put into how it tastes. But I was putzing around following the recipe and somehow ended up with this - yay.
My cousin and her family were coming over to my parents' house one Sunday afternoon and I naturally brought dessert for their visit.  Any excuse to bake, right? I normally don't make layer cakes since they're not as easy to portion out like the cookies and brownies I bring to work but since this wasn't for work but was actually a sit-down occasion where I could slice and serve onto real plates with official forks, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to be a bit more fancy.
Any time I make a layer cake, especially with a recipe I've never tried before, I always bake a little bit of the batter in a small ramekin as my taste test portion.  I mean, you can't serve a cake for company with a slice missing and explain you had to taste it first, now can you? Tacky. The only tricky thing is, because of the different sizes between the ramekin and the cake pans, you have to monitor the baking time and make sure you're baking them equitably.  Meaning, you could bake the ramekin perfectly and think you've made an awesome cake based on that taste test but if you overbake the cake layers, you could be serving a dry cake to everyone else.
But still, I don't deviate from the ramekin taste test.  In this case, I was gratified to note this was a pretty yummy cake: moist, chocolatey and the perfect cakey yet still fudgy texture.
The original directions guide you to ice the bottom layer with the ganache then sprinkle pecans over it before topping with the second layer.  Given my prejudice against nuts inside baked goods (the moistness of the ganache will soften the pecans over time), I preferred to only fill between the layers with ganache and reserve the pecans for decorating with on top and the sides. Make sure you toast the pecans first to bring out their flavor and give them a crisp texture that will contrast nicely with the softness of the ganache and the caramel.
I really enjoyed both the taste and texture of this cake, both in the ramekin taste test and in the slice of the layer cake I had later. The sweetness of the caramel complemented the fudgy chocolate of the cake and I even liked the extra crunch and flavor from the pecans. The fun part is you can decorate this however you like; there's no right or wrong way to do it and there's never anything wrong with drizzling caramel over chocolate.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup dark or regular cocoa powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1 1/3 cups whole milk

1/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans, toasted, plus additional whole pecans for decorating
1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips (optional)
Caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe's salted caramel)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 (9-inch) cake pans. Line with parchment circles.
  2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat 3/4 cup butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla, until creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Beat in 1 cup melted chocolate chips until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture, alternating with milk, until well combined, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Evenly scrape batter into prepared cake pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees F, for 35-40 minutes, or until cake edges pull away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted into cake comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool for 12 minutes before running a knife around edges and inverting onto wire racks to cool completely.
  5. To make the ganache, melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in heavy cream and bring to a boil; turn heat off and stir in 2 cups chocolate chips until melted and smooth.
  6. Spread ganache evenly onto first layer of cake. Place second cake layer on top. Spread the rest of the ganache over cake top and sides. Sprinkle and top with remaining pecans. Decorate the top with whole pecans. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips over the top, and drizzle caramel everywhere.


  1. Wow, I never thought of pouring some of the batter into a ramekin to taste test. That is a genius idea. The cake looks fantastic, so much chocolate!

    1. Thanks! Yes, the ramekin taste test is critical and I (almost) always do it when I try a new recipe for layer cakes, bundt cakes and anything else I have to serve whole. Takes out the risk factor in serving a good dessert.