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turtle cupcakes recipe by sugar and sparrow

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


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


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


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.


  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.