Holiday baking season is upon us! And I’m so excited because it’s my absolute favorite season to bake. From cookies to cakes to pies, there are so many great flavors and family traditions, and then you share it all with the people you love! Like this Turtle Layer Cake! It combines some of my personal favorite holiday flavors and it’s so easy to make thanks to products from awesome brands like Clabber Girl®, Crisco®, and Baker’s Joy!
THE BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE
For this cake, I took my classic chocolate cake recipe and tweaked it a little bit so we have three layers instead of two. This recipe is great because, in terms of prep and technique, it’s no-fuss. All of the dry ingredients go into a large bowl, then you add in all the wet ingredients. Then mix! So easy and not too many dishes because you don’t need to worry about more of that in your kitchen during the holidays!
It’s also no-fuss in terms of the ingredients! We’ve got our typical baking staples like flour, sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and eggs. This chocolate cake uses some (cooled) strongly brewed coffee to balance out the sweetness and really showcase that chocolate flavor. And then it calls for a couple of ingredients that should also be staples in your pantry: Clabber Girl Baking Powder and Crisco Pure Vegetable Oil! Clabber Girl Baking Powder is my go-to for creating tall and fluffy cakes. It provides the lift we need while also lightening the texture. The vegetable oil helps keep the cake moist and soft. This is why I prefer oil-based cakes over butter-based cakes!
While I’m one hundred percent a frosting person, my goal with cakes is for the cake itself to taste as good on its own as it does with the frosting and everything on it. When I leveled out the cake layers (cut the domes off the tops), my mom and I taste-tested the cake scraps and it so good! Success! Moist, soft, flavorful, and not dry as some chocolate cakes tend to be.
While lining your cake pans with parchment ensures your cake doesn’t stick to the pan, I’ve found that it isn’t necessary when you have a good baking spray! You can skip this step and streamline your process a little by using Baker’s Joy baking spray. I love this stuff because my cakes come out of the pans nicely every single time! Just let the cakes cool for 15-20 minutes, and then invert your cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. Works like a charm!
I also always cut the domes off of my cake layers so they’re nice and even. You can do this with a serrated knife or a cake saw. I prefer a cake saw because I can never cut them evenly with a knife, but to each their own!
The filling between these cake layers is a homemade caramel sauce mixed with toasty chopped pecans. The best way to add the filling is to pipe a border of frosting around the top of the cake, and then spread the filling inside. Place the next cake layer on top and keep going!
The caramel here is thick enough that it stays in place when you cut into the cake, but it’s also used to drizzle on top and down the sides. The best way to create the drips is to use a piping bag with a small tip cut off, or use a squeeze bottle, which is what I did. I like to add the drops along the top corner of the cake first, and then go back and fill in the top of the cake.
You can also make the caramel sauce a day or even a couple of days in advance! Just keep it in an air-tight container at room temperature. And then you’ll have it ready to go when it’s time to assemble your cake!
WHIPPED CHOCOLATE FROSTING
I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again: my favorite way to make frosting is when a combination of butter and Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening! It’s the way to go. Shortening helps create a super creamy frosting that isn’t too heavy on the butter flavor. It allows the other flavors to come through!
And this frosting is divine because it’s whipped! Yes! It’s so, so fluffy. Typically, I use my stand mixer to make frosting, and for this, I used the whisk attachment instead of the usual paddle attachment. You’ll need to make sure your butter is nice and soft so it’s easy to whip. Start off with the butter, vanilla, and cream. Then add the shortening and mix until it’s all incorporated. Then you’ll add everything else as usual. I did find that I needed to scrap the sides of the bowl a lot more than usual. You really want to make sure you get all the ingredients incorporated so you’ll have the fluffiest frosting!
Once you’ve got the filling added and you’re ready to frost the outside of the cake, you can really decorate it however you like! I find it easier to decorate a cold cake, especially if you’re looking for a smooth finish, so if you’d like, you can chill the cake in the fridge for 20-ish minutes after crumb coating. I think this is especially helpful when adding drips! If the caramel sauce seems a little too thick to drip properly down the sides of the cake, you can microwave it in 5 second intervals, but I’d only do this two or three times max! You don’t want it to be too runny or hot.
To top this cake off, I added some piped frosting around the top and sprinkled on more toasted pecans. Because this frosting is whipped and a little softer than what I usually make, I suggest storing it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Let it come to room temperature before slicing!
I love seeing turtle candies pop up around the holidays and have always loved those flavors together. They’re even better in cake form! This cake is perfect for any turtle-lover, and great for chocoholics and caramel-lovers alike. While I adore classic holiday flavors like gingerbread and peppermint, sometimes it’s nice to have something chocolate at the table you know everyone will love! And I love knowing I don’t have to stress about holiday baking thanks to ingredients like Clabber Girl and Crisco. When the baking process is easier and you can count on your baked goods turning out great, it’s even easier to enjoy the final product.
You can also find this recipe over on Baking At Home!
Turtle Layer Cake
- 1 ¾ cups sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp Clabber Girl Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Clabber Girl Baking Soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup strong coffee cooled
- ¾ cup Crisco Pure Vegetable Oil
- 1 tsp Spice Islands Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup butter softened
- 1 cup Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening
- 1 tsp Spice Islands Pure Vanilla Extract
- 3 tbsp milk or cream
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp Dutch process dark cocoa powder
- 4 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 tbsp cold butter diced
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp Spice Islands Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup chopped pecans for the filling
To make the caramel sauce:
- Place sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar begins to clump together. Continue cooking until clumps begin to melt and turn amber in color. Stir occasionally until completely melted.
- While stirring, add cubed butter a little at a time, stirring quickly to incorporate. Continue stirring and gradually add cream until incorporated.
- Reduce heat to low and continue cooking, without stirring, for an additional minute. Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla extract.
- Let caramel sauce cool completely before using. Sauce can be made in advance and kept in a sealed container at room temperature.
To make the chocolate cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy baking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, Clabber Girl Baking Powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, coffee, Crisco Pure Vegetable Oil, and vanilla. Mix with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until all ingredients are incorporated. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.
- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip butter with the whisk attachment. Add vanilla and cream; whip until incorporated. Add shortening in large pieces, allowing it to be completely incorporated before adding the next piece. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Add cocoa powders and one cup of powdered sugar. Mix on low speed until mostly combined, then medium-high speed until completely combined. Repeat with remaining powdered sugar, one cup at a time.
To make the filling:
- Save ½ cup of the caramel sauce to drizzle on the outside of the cake. Place the remaining caramel in a bowl and stir in 1 cup chopped pecans. Set aside.
- To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake plate or stand. Pipe a border of frosting around the top and spread half of the filling inside. Repeat with the second cake layer and second half of the filling.
- Place the third cake layer on top and cover the whole cake with frosting. (If you plan to pipe some frosting around the top of the finished cake, it can be helpful to go ahead and save some in a piping bag so you don’t run out!)
- Using a piping bag or squeeze bottle, add caramel drips around the top edge of the cake. Start just inside the edge of the cake, squeeze the bottle, and let the caramel run over the edge. Continue adding drips around the edge and then drizzle or spread the remaining caramel over the center of the cake.
- Let the caramel set for a few minutes before piping frosting on top of it.
- Store cake in the fridge until ready to serve. You can place the cake in the refrigerator until the frosting firms up (20 to 30 minutes), and then cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Let the cake come to room temperature when you’re ready to serve!
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