Turtle Cake

This easy homemade chocolate Turtle Cake is a decadent dessert that’s made with chocolate cake mix and a homemade caramel sauce. It’s the perfect special occasion dessert!

turtle cake slice topped with whipped cream on a white plate.

Now this is a decadent cake! Chocolate Turtle Cake has three layers—chocolate cake, caramel with chocolate chips and pecans, and more chocolate cake. Then, it’s topped with whipped cream, pecans, chocolate chips, and more caramel.

The cake is modeled after the popular chocolate/pecan/caramel confections known as “turtles”.

Since it’s made in a 13×9 inch pan, it’s perfect for a celebration or a get-together. It’s also a fun weekend baking project that you can enjoy all week long—it keeps very well in the refrigerator and tastes extra delicious when cold (just like my Old Fashioned Wacky Cake).

If you have chocolate cake lovers in your family like I do, it’ll be a hit!

Cake ingredients

ingredients for turtle cake on a white table.
  • The recipe starts with a German chocolate cake mix. If you can’t find German chocolate, a regular chocolate cake mix works well, too.
  • You’ll make your own caramel sauce with wrapped caramels, butter, and evaporated milk.
  • Pecans and chocolate chips get sprinkled in between the layers and add some crunch!

Topping ingredients

whipped cream and a bottle of caramel sauce on a white table.
  • For the top, we’ll make a quick homemade whipped cream with heavy cream.
  • I like using a bottled caramel sauce for drizzling over the top—it’s lighter than the caramel that goes in between the cake layers, and it’s easy to drizzle.

How to make Turtle Cake

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Make the cake mix according to package directions.

cake batter in a glass bowl.

Pour half of the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the butter, evaporated milk, and unwrapped caramels. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth.

caramel in a saucepan with a whisk.

Pour the caramel over the cake and spread it evenly. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and pecans.

caramel, chocolate chips, and pecans in a glass baking dish.

Pour the remaining cake batter over the top. Spread the cake batter carefully over the top to cover the caramel. I like using an offset spatula for this.

offset spatula spreading cake batter in a glass 13x9 inch pan.

Bake the cake for an additional 28–30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely.

When you’re ready to serve the cake, pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat on medium-high until soft peaks form.

Whipped cream at soft peaks in stand mixer

Cut the cake into slices. Transfer the slices to dessert plates, and top each slide with a dollop of whipped cream, a few chocolate chips (I like using mini chocolate chips for this), chopped pecans, and a drizzle of the bottled caramel sauce.

turtle cake slice on a white plate, topped with whipped cream.

Sourcing the caramels

This recipe calls for individually wrapped caramels. These can be found in either the baking aisle or the candy aisle of your local grocery store.

Leave some time to unwrap them before you start baking!

Kraft also has Caramel Bits which are already unwrapped. They can be substituted for the wrapped caramels (use the whole 11 oz bag, or measure 2.5 cups). The Caramel Bits can be found near the chocolate chips at your local grocery store.

FAQs

Can I use devil’s food chocolate cake mix instead of German chocolate cake mix?

You can use any chocolate cake mix that you like. I chose German chocolate cake mix for this recipe because it has a chocolate flavor that is more faint, which allows the flavors of the caramel and pecans to shine through. But a regular chocolate cake mix (such as devil’s food or chocolate fudge) would be good, too!

Can I substitute caramel bits for wrapped caramels?

You can substitute 2.5 cups of caramel bits in place of 11 oz of wrapped caramels. Both are typically sold in 11 oz bags.

Can I use canned whipped cream?

Absolutely. To make this recipe even easier, substitute canned whipped cream for the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. I happen to like the taste of homemade whipped cream the best, but if you enjoy canned whipped cream, then use it!

What can I do with the leftover evaporated milk?

Evaporated milk is usually sold in a 12 oz can, so you will have some leftover. You should absolutely make this Ding Dong Cake with it! It’s a reader favorite here on Gift of Hospitality. You can also add evaporated milk to your coffee or tea in place of creamer, or even whip it into mashed potatoes to make them extra creamy.

slice of turtle cake topped with whipped cream.

Serving and storing the cake

I’ve tried chocolate Turtle Cake three ways: warm, room temperature, and cold. I love them all, but I really love it warm!

To warm slices of Turtle Cake, place one slice of cake in the microwave for 15–20 seconds, or until warm. Repeat with additional slices as needed.

Store any leftover cake in the refrigerator in a covered container. It’s also really delicious straight from the fridge—the caramel gets to be fudge-like and the cold chocolate chips add a nice crunch!

You can also store any leftover whipped cream in a covered container in the refrigerator. It’s best used within two days (after that, the cream begins to deflate and can get a little watery).

slice of turtle cake on a white plate with a fork nearby.

More 13×9 inch cake recipes

Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!



📖 Recipe

turtle cake slice topped with whipped cream on a white plate.

Turtle Cake

Published by Kate
This old fashioned dessert is packed with homemade caramel, chocolate, and pecans!
4.78 from 9 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 15 servings
Calories 485 kcal

Ingredients
  

For the cake:

  • 1 box German chocolate cake mix, made according to package directions
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 1 (11 oz) bag caramels
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

For the topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup bottled caramel sauce
  • Chocolate chips
  • Chopped pecans

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray. Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour half of the batter into the pan, and bake for 15 minutes.
  • While the cake is baking, place the butter, evaporated milk, and unwrapped caramels into a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is smooth.
  • Remove the cake from the oven. Carefully pour the caramel evenly over the top. Top with the chocolate chips and chopped pecans. Pour the remaining cake batter over the top and spread it evenly to cover the chocolate chips and pecans.
  • Bake the cake for an additional 28–30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely.
  • When you’re ready to serve the cake, pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
  • Cut the cake into slices. Place the slices on plates, and top each slice with a dollop of whipped cream, a sprinkle of chocolate chips and pecans, and a drizzle of bottled caramel sauce.

Notes

You’ll make a homemade caramel sauce for this recipe, which is used in the cake. The instructions call for additional caramel sauce for the top of the cake. I used Hershey’s bottled caramel sauce. 
You can use canned whipped cream instead of making your own, if you’d like! 
If you can’t find German chocolate cake mix, you can substitute devil’s food cake mix or fudge cake mix instead.

Nutrition

Calories: 485kcalCarbohydrates: 50gProtein: 5gFat: 31gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 346mgPotassium: 227mgFiber: 1gSugar: 31gVitamin A: 415IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 119mgIron: 2mg
Keyword turtle cake
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