Chocolate Turtle Cake

The most decadent cake you’ll ever have! Dark chocolate turtle cake with dulce de leche caramel and pecan filling. And for a touch more sweet, chocolate frosting on top.

Que the jaw dropping. The cake I’m sharing today is one of my most favorite cakes ever. We’ve made this cake several times in the past and every time people ask for the recipe.

And can you really blame them? Just look at this gorgeous slice of Chocolate Turtle Cake:

piece of chocolate cake with caramel on a plate

Why you’ll love this cake:

  • moist and delicious chocolate cake
  • easy dulce de leche filling with chocolate chips and pecans
  • chocolate frosting on top
  • additional dollops of dulce de leche and pecans

I mean can you say indulgence? I sure can, and this is exactly what it is.

overhead view of a chocolate cake with caramel and pecans

Chocolate Turtle Cake Recipe

This chocolate cake recipe is our foolproof chocolate cake that is the perfect base to so many of our favorite layer cakes. But this time, we decided to use it in this chocolate turtle cake.

Tips for making this cake:

  • Mix the wet and dry ingredients together separately, then combine them.
  • I used ¼ cup of black cocoa powder and ½ cup of regular cocoa powder. This helps give the cake a beautiful dark color.
  • Need a buttermilk substitute? For each cup of buttermilk that the recipe calls for, simply add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Stir to combine, then allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes. Buttermilk helps keep the cake tender and gives it amazing flavor.
  • Notice that the cake recipe calls for coffee. I promise that the cake will not taste like coffee. Instead, the coffee will enhance the flavor of the chocolate, making it deep and rich.
  • You’ll bake this cake in two stages, so don’t pour all the cake batter in at once. Be sure to read the instructions below.

Dulce de Leche

The original recipe that we adapted from called for Kraft caramel squares melted with evaporated milk for the filling. I happened to have two cans of dulce de leche and figured this would save a step.

I used one and a half cans of dulce de leche in the center of the cake. The remaining half of a can I dolloped on top of each piece of cake.

If you don’t want any dulce de leche for the top, you’d be fine with just one can.

Chocolate Frosting

To not complicate the recipe any further, I used canned chocolate frosting that I had in the pantry. If you’d like to make a homemade buttercream, try this chocolate frosting recipe. It’s amazing and our family loves it.

frosting a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting

How to Serve Chocolate Turtle Cake

You’ll want to allow the cake to cool before you frost it and serve it. That will make the cake slice more easily.

This cake is extremely rich and decadent. If you have vanilla ice cream, scoop some up alongside this cake to cut down the sweetness. Otherwise, just serve small slices! 🙂

slice of caramel chocolate turtle cake on a plate with a bite out
slice of caramel chocolate turtle cake on a plate with a bite out

Chocolate Turtle Cake

5 from 1 vote
The most decadent cake you'll ever have! Dark chocolate cake with dulce de leche caramel and pecan filling. And for a touch more sweet, chocolate frosting on top.
Servings 15
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes

Ingredients
 

For the cake:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup freshly brewed strong hot coffee

For the filling:

  • 2 cans dulce de leche (milk based caramel) (13.4 ounces each)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

For Topping:

  • 2 cups chocolate frosting
  • 15-20 pecan halves

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray.
  • For the cake, put flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and mix well.
  • In a stand mixer, mix the buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla together. Slowly add in the mix of dry ingredients while the mixer is on low. Add the coffee and make sure everything is combined. The batter will be very thin.
  • Pour half of the batter into the pan and bake for 22 minutes. The cake should test done.
  • Open the dulce de leche. Separate out ⅓ cup for drizzling on top of the cake. Set this aside til the end.
  • Place the rest in a bowl. Stir in the chopped pecans.
  • Pour the caramel mixture over warm cake in pan getting it as even as possible. Then sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  • Spread the remaining cake batter on top.
  • Bake 28-30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.
  • When cool, frost with frosting.
  • Cut into slices and dollop each slice with a teaspoon of dulce de leche and top with a pecan.

Notes

  • I used ¼ cup of black cocoa powder and ½ cup of regular cocoa powder. This helps give the cake a beautiful dark color.
  • The calories shown are based on the cake being cut into 15 pieces, with 1 serving being 1 slice of cake. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information.**

Nutrition

Calories: 484kcal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 397mg | Potassium: 317mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 46g | Vitamin A: 66IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 86mg | Iron: 2mg
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 484
Keyword cake with pecans, caramel, chocolate cake

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a box cake mix instead?

Yes. If you’d like to use a chocolate cake mix, you may use that for the cake batter and bake as the recipe suggests.

Can I make my own caramel?

You can try that if you’d like, but we have not tried it. We have melted a bag of Kraft Caramel squares with about ⅓ cup of evaporated milk. This creates a delicious caramel layer that you could use instead of the dulce de leche.

Do I have to put the frosting on top?

Nope! You can leave the frosting off to save calories. Trust me…the cake is plenty sweet without it, but it may not look quite as pretty either.

About Maddie Clark

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Should this cake be refrigerated till served? I’m going to make it for a co-worker ‘s birthday.