Chocolate Caramel Pecan (Turtle) Cupcakes

turtle cupcakes recipe by sugar and sparrow

Hands down, my favorite Thanksgiving tradition is spending an entire day cooking all the food. There’s something so special about working side-by-side in the kitchen with someone you love, turning the music up loud enough to sing, and tackling a huge list of foods to make! It all started with my sweet mom and I, and although she passed away years ago, I’ve been able to keep the tradition alive with my mother-in-law. Of all the things we make together for Thanksgiving, there’s one thing I’m solely responsible for: the pies.

Thanksgiving pies by Sugar and Sparrow

Although my pie game is usually a tiny bit better than average, this year it was almost as if I’d never baked a thing in my whole life! After laboring over the perfect butter crust and decadent chocolate caramel pecan filling, the pie wouldn’t set. It’s a recipe I’ve made successfully before (see the pic above), but this year.. oh man. Just imagine chocolate caramel soup with pecans floating around in it. It’s a good thing situations like these can be redeemed with these chocolate caramel pecan cupcakes!

chocolate caramel cupcakes recipe

Inspired by the pie recipe that went horribly wrong, these chocolate caramel pecan cupcakes are downright decadent: moist chocolate cupcakes topped with salted caramel buttercream, rolled in chopped pecans and drizzled with chocolate ganache and salted caramel. They’ll satisfy the chocolate caramel lover at any gathering! And best of all, they’re easier than pie.

rolling cupcakes in chopped pecans

chocolate caramel pecan cupcakes recipe

You can decorate these cupcakes any way you’d like, but I love piping a swirl of buttercream with my Wilton tip 4B and rolling the edges in chopped pecans before all the drizzling. Since the chocolate ganache and salted caramel recipes do require some cooling time before decorating, I recommend making these two elements ahead of time (they’ll keep for up to two weeks in the fridge!) so you don’t have to wait around for them to cool down. And with everything prepped and ready to go, you can really whip them up in a jiffy!

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Cupcakes

Moist chocolate cupcakes topped with a swirl of caramel buttercream, rolled in chopped pecans, and drizzled with chocolate ganache and caramel. 

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 18 cupcakes

Ingredients

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 1/3 cups (184g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (63g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (200g) white granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) boiling water

Salted Caramel Buttercream

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups (480g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) salted caramel, room temperature (recipe link below)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Garnishes

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • salted caramel (recipe link below)
  • chocolate ganache (recipe link below)

Instructions

Make The Chocolate Cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Place the sifted dry ingredients into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar to the mixture and mix at low speed until blended. Add the vegetable oil and continue to mix until the mixture is crumbly, about 1 minute.

  2. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla extract until blended. With the mixer at low speed, add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix for two minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle as necessary.

  3. Slowly add the boiling water and mix until just blended and the batter is smooth, scraping down the bowl and paddle to ensure uniform consistency. Pour the batter evenly amongst cupcake liners, about ⅔ full each. Bake the cupcakes for 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool thoroughly before frosting.

Make The Salted Caramel Buttercream

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter on high until it’s fluffy and light (almost white in color), 5-6 minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle a few times in between. Turn the mixer to low and add the powdered sugar a few cups at a time, scraping down the bowl and paddle after each interval. Add the vanilla. 

  2. With the mixer still on low, add the salted caramel. Add a pinch of salt, increase the speed to medium, and mix for 2 full minutes.

Assembly

  1. Once the chocolate cupcakes have cooled completely, top them with a swirl of Salted Caramel Buttercream (I used Wilton Tip 4B). Roll the edges in chopped pecans and drizzle the cupcakes with Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache

Recipe Notes

Make Ahead Tips: I recommend making at least the Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache recipes at least one day ahead. Each of those recipes can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you're ready to use them, bring them back to room temperature and then microwave in 10 second increments to bring them back to drizzling consistency. 

The Chocolate Cupcakes can be made ahead and stored at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, for up to two days. Alternatively, they can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to two months. 

The buttercream recipe can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, re-whip with your stand mixer.

How are the Holidays treating you? I’m in full-on Christmas mode now that Thanksgiving has passed and really excited to share some festive cake tutorials and recipes with you! Let me know how you like these chocolate caramel pecan cupcakes in the comments below, or feel free to tag me on Instagram – I love to see what you’re making!

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