Turtle Chocolate Cupcakes

Caramel pecan cupcakes on a white cake stand

These Turtle Chocolate Cupcakes feature a moist and fudgy chocolate cupcake that’s filled with pecan caramel sauce and topped with the most heavenly caramel cream cheese frosting! Multiple easy recipes come together to create cupcake perfection!

INGREDIENTS
CARAMEL PECAN FILLING + SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE:
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup salted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES:
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 6 Tbsp sour cream, room temperature
  • 2 and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp buttermilk, room temperature
SALTED CARAMEL CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 packages (12 oz) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 7 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 Tbsp Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract (see notes)
GANACHE:
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
GARNISH:
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • Pecan halves, for topping
INSTRUCTIONS
FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE + CARAMEL PECAN FILLING:
  1. For the Toasted Pecans: Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.
  2. In a small bowl, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Drizzle the melted butter onto the pecans and toss together to coat pecans.
  3. Spread pecans onto prepared baking sheet and bake in oven for 5-6 minutes until toasted and fragrant.
  4. Remove the pecans from the oven and roughly chop. Set aside.
  5. For the Caramel Sauce: Add the sugar to a large heavy-bottomed non-stick saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly using a heat resistant rubber spatula or a wooden spoon until the sugar is melted and turns a medium amber caramel colour. Don't worry if the sugar clumps up, just keep stirring and it will melt smoothly. Keep a close eye on the pot as the sugar can easily burn, and you would have to start over again.
  6. As soon as the caramel turns a deep amber, add the butter cubes, whisking constantly until butter is melted and fully combined.
  7. Once butter is combined, slowly pour in the heavy cream while whisking vigorously, be careful as it will begin to bubble up furiously. The caramel may begin to clump together if your cream is too cold. If so, just continue stirring until caramel melts back down.
  8. Allow caramel to boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla (optional) and salt. You can leave out the salt if you don’t want the caramel to be salted.
  9. Pour half of the caramel into a jar and set that aside.
  10. Add the chopped toasted pecans to the other half of caramel sauce and stir until combined.
  11. Let caramel pecan filling cool to room temperature before pouring into a jar or an airtight container. Set aside or store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
FOR THE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C), and line 2 standard cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, sift flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk to combine, set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  4. Lower the speed to medium-low and add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the vanilla and instant coffee granules. Add the sour cream to the batter along with the vanilla coffee mixture and beat on medium speed until combined.
  6. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and beat until just combined, add 1/2 of the buttermilk and continue to mix. Repeat mixing in 1/2 of the remaining dry ingredients, then the remaining buttermilk followed by the remaining dry ingredients.
  7. Scoop batter into cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove cupcakes from oven and allow to cool in pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.
FOR THE SALTED CARAMEL CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add 4 cups of powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing on low after each addition until combined.
  3. Add caramel sauce and vanilla and beat until completely smooth and combined.
  4. Add remaining powdered sugar and beat on low until combined.
  5. Once combined, increase the speed to high and continue to beat for about 1-2 minutes until smooth and fluffy.
FOR THE GANACHE:
  1. In a heat safe bowl, microwave the heavy whipping cream and chocolate chips together in 30 second intervals, until the cream is steaming hot. This takes me about 1 minute, but it may be longer for you, so stir after each interval to check if the chocolate is melted enough.
  2. Stir until the mixture comes together to form a thick and silky ganache. Set aside to cool.
ASSEMBLY OF THE CUPCAKES:
  1. Core the centre of each cupcake using an apple corer. Keep the cored piece intact and cut off the bottom. Keep the tops!
  2. Transfer caramel pecan filling to a disposable piping bag or a medium ziplock bag and snip off a corner.
  3. Fill the cupcakes with the pecan filling. Then take the reserved cupcake tops and place back into the cupcake to cover the filling.
  4. Scoop the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (I used Wilton 8B) and pipe a rim around the edge of the cupcake.
  5. Dip the frosting rim into the chopped pecans. Top down first, then the sides!
  6. Pipe another swirl on top of the pecan rim. Drizzle top with remaining caramel sauce and ganache. Garnish with pecan halves, if desired. Enjoy!!

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