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Turtle Cupcakes

These Turtle Cupcakes are a moist chocolate cupcake with a rich chocolate ganache filling, salted caramel buttercream, and crushed pecans. They’re the perfect sweet and salty dessert!

This post is sponsored by Danish Creamery, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

side view of a turtle cupcake with sticks of butter in the background.

Easy Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

When I was in high school I worked at an ice cream parlor/candy store. The perks, of course, were that I got to snack on candies and ice cream more frequently than I probably should have. My favorites were always chocolate-covered pretzels and chocolate turtles. Pecans or cashews covered in caramel with chocolate on top? They were perfectly sweet and salty bites of heaven!

That’s exactly what inspired these Turtle Cupcakes. These cupcakes start with a batch of my moist chocolate cupcakes. The cupcakes are hollowed out and filled with a soft, rich ganache filling which really takes them over the top.

And just wait until I tell you about the buttercream. For the frosting, I grabbed my favorite Danish Creamery Sea Salt Butter and mixed it with some of the Danish Creamery unsalted butter.

Now, I don’t normally use salted butter in my frosting recipes, because it can easily get too salty. But this buttercream is…dare I say…perfect? Mostly due to the incredible quality of Danish Creamery butter. It has a velvety texture and rich flavor in part due to the cows that produce their products and the land they feed on. The cows are pasture-raised, so they feed on grass in wide open fields. This keeps them healthier and a healthier cow produces a better dairy product!

overhead of a chocolate cupcake on a gold tray with more cupcakes.

Key Ingredients

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you put together your shopping list. See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients!

  • Sour Cream – sour cream keeps the cupcakes super moist. If you don’t want to use sour cream, I recommend substituting it with Greek yogurt.
  • Espresso Powder – this is optional but helps enhance the chocolate flavor of the cupcakes. And no, it doesn’t make them taste like coffee.
  • Brewed Coffee – this recipe is best with brewed coffee for the richest chocolate flavor. You can try substituting it with milk, but the flavor won’t be quite the same.
  • Dark Chocolate – Use a good quality chocolate bar for the ganache filling.
  • Butter – I use sea salt butter and unsalted butter
  • Caramel Sauce – You can either make your own salted caramel or use a store-bought version. I do recommend salted caramel specifically, though.
side view of a frosted chocolate cupcake topped with a pecan on a platter.

How to Make Turtle Cupcakes

These easy chocolate cupcakes take just 30 minutes to prep! Here’s a quick summary of the recipe:


  1. Combine wet ingredients: In a bowl, mix together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat until combined, then mix in the sour cream.
  2. Add dry ingredients: In another bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter followed by half of the coffee. Repeat and mix to combine.
  3. Portion and bake: Use a large cookie scoop to portion the batter into a lined cupcake pan, then bake at 350ºF until a toothpick comes out clean.


  1. Make the ganache: In a microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate and heavy cream. Microwave for 60-90 seconds, then stir until smooth. It’s important to microwave at 50% power for 60-90 seconds and then stir it until it’s completely smooth. Allow a couple of minutes for the ganache to cool. Reducing the power on the microwave is important so that the chocolate doesn’t burn.
  2. Fill the cupcakes: Use a cupcake corer, melon baller, or knife to remove the centers of each cupcake, set them aside, do not discard them! Fill the center of each cupcake with 2 teaspoons of ganache, then place the piece you removed back on top to cover the ganache.


The butter in this recipe should be cold, and straight from the fridge. You’ll spend several minutes beating the butter in the beginning until it’s ultra-light and fluffy. This is an important step when working with cold butter, so don’t rush it!

  1. Whip the butter: Cut the butter into pieces, then use the paddle attachment of your electric mixer to whip until fluffy and easily spreadable.
  2. Add sugar and cream: Add 2 cups of powdered sugar, mixing until well combined with the butter. Then add the vanilla extra and caramel sauce and beat until incorporated along with 2 more cups of powdered sugar, beating until well combined. The frosting should still be fluffy at this point. Mix in the remaining sugar and the heavy cream. Once combined, increase the speed and beat until fluffy.
  3. Top the cupcakes: Transfer the frosting to a piping bag, then pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes using a large open star tip. Garnish with caramel and pecans.
side view of a platter filled with chocolate cupcakes with caramel buttercream.

Tips and Notes for Turtle Cupcakes

  • Use high-quality chocolate. The ganache is only chocolate and heavy whipping cream. It’s worth it to use the good stuff. A chopped-up dark chocolate bar is perfect!
  • Microwave at 50% power. Full power can cause the chocolate to seize up.
  • Sift the dry ingredients. Sifting the dry ingredients through a sieve helps prevent clumps. We want the batter to be nice and smooth!
  • The caramel sauce matters. Opt to use a true salted caramel sauce, not a syrup (such as Hersheys). The syrup is not as thick or nearly as flavorful.
overhead of a tray filled with frosted turtle cupcakes.

Preparation and Storage Instructions

The best way to prep this recipe ahead of time is to bake the cupcakes and store them until you’re ready to fill and frost. Baked and cooled cupcakes will last in an airtight container at room temperature for two days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

When you’re ready to assemble the cupcakes, thaw the cupcakes at room temperature, then add the ganache and frosting!

Storing Frosted Cupcakes: Once the cupcakes are fully assembled, they can be stored at room temperature, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. They should be stored in a cool place, outside of sunlight. If you live in a hot and humid area, you can also store them in the fridge. They are best served at room temperature.

side view of a frosted chocolate cupcake with a bite taken out.
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side view of a gold platter filled with chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream

Turtle Cupcakes

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  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 24 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American


These Turtle Cupcakes are a moist chocolate cupcake with a rich chocolate ganache filling, salted caramel buttercream, and crushed pecans. They’re the perfect sweet and salty dessert!


For the cupcakes:

  • 1 ½ cups(285g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup(118 ml) light sour cream
  • 2 cups(280g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (55 g) cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon (5g) espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons (9 g) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 ¼ cup (355 ml) brewed coffee

For the ganache filling:

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ cup (12 tablespoons) (177ml) heavy whipping cream

For the frosting:

  • ¾ cup (172g) Danish Creamery Sea Salt Butter, cold
  • ¾ cup (172g) Danish Creamery Unsalted butter, cold
  • 5 ½ cups (716g) powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons (59ml) salted caramel sauce
  • 12 tablespoons (15-30ml) heavy whipping cream
  • Pecans for garnish
  • Caramel sauce for garnish


For the Cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Next mix in the sour cream until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Then alternate adding half the dry ingredients followed by half of the coffee and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  4. Using a large cookie scoop, divide the batter evenly, filling each liner 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F for 14-16 minutes. Test the cupcakes for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cupcake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cupcakes are done. Cool Completely.

For the Ganache 

  1. Combine the chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 50% power for 60-90 seconds. Allow it to sit for about 1 minute before stirring and then stir until it’s completely smooth.
  2. To fill the cupcakes with the ganache, remove the centers using a cupcake corer, a melon baller or a knife. Fill each one with about 2 teaspoons of ganache. Place a piece of the cupcake you removed back on top of the ganache.

For the Frosting: 

  1. Cut butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip the butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until the butter looks light in color and is easily spreadable.
  2. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating until well combined. 
  3. Next, add an additional 2 cups of powdered sugar, vanilla extract and the caramel sauce and beat on low speed until sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining powdered sugar along with the heavy cream. Beat on low until ingredients start to mix together. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 2-3 minutes. Use a large open star tip to frost these cupcakes.
  5. Garnish with a caramel drizzled, crushed and whole pecans.


  • Substitutions:
    • Sour cream can be substituted with Greek or Plain yogurt but it adds moisture and texture to the cake, so don’t skip it.
    • Brewed coffee helps bloom the cocoa, you won’t notice the coffee flavor, it simply enhances the chocolate flavor. If you have to, you can substitute it with milk.
  • Storing: Once the cupcakes are fully assembled, they can be stored at room temperature, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. They should be stored in a cool place, outside of sunlight. If you live in a hot and humid area, you can also store them in the fridge. They are best served at room temperature. 


  • Serving Size: 1 cupcake
  • Calories: 419
  • Sugar: 44.3g
  • Sodium: 147.2mg
  • Fat: 21.8g
  • Saturated Fat: 14.2g
  • Carbohydrates: 55.7g
  • Fiber: 1.4g
  • Protein: 2.8g
  • Cholesterol: 46mg

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