Friday, August 12, 2011

Turtle Layer Cake

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 Sometimes you're just in the mood for cake. Well, I'm always in the mood for cake, but last weekend I was also in the mood for caramel and chocolate. And so I made a turtle cake.

I read on a blog that baking super thin cake layers reduces the dome that often occurs, but that definitely wasn't true for this recipe. Instead of having two domed cakes to trim I had four. Not a huge deal since I snacked on the scraps until dessert, but it took extra time since I only two pans of each size. I also used some leftover salted caramel for the caramel drizzle, which my husband said was a bit much.  I actually liked it but I'm a total salt addict so you may want to adapt according to your taste.  I also used salted pecan pieces so that might have something to do with it.

I was really pleased with the flavor of this cake, the buttercream is like silk but it absolutely must be at room temp when served.  There is a boatload of butter in it (3 sticks!) and if it is even a little cold it hardens up. 

Turtle Layer Cake
Makes 4 layer 6-inch round cake

1 recipe chocolate cake, recipe below
1 recipe caramel buttercream, recipe below
1 recipe salted caramel sauce, recipe below
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans, can be salted or not depending on your preference

For the cake layers:
Chocolate Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 cup butter
1 cup water
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter two 6 inch round pans.  Cut parchment to fit into the bottoms and butter the parchment.  Dust with flour and tap out the excess.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Beat in the sour cream and eggs. Set aside. Melt the butter on low in a saucepan, add the water and 5 tablespoons cocoa. Bring mixture to a boil then remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly, then stir cocoa mixture into the egg mixture, mixing until blended.
Pour batter into prepared pans . Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool for about 10-15 minutes and then run a small knife around the side to unmold.  Turn out onto a rack and cool completely.  Once it is cool use a long serrated knife to cut each layer in half, giving you four layers.  If the tops have domed trim them so they are relatively flat.

For the caramel buttercream:
From Martha Stewart

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook, undisturbed, until caramel is dark amber. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let cool.
Beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place whites and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add beaten butter, cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla.

Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add caramel, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

For the caramel sauce:
From David Lebovitz

Rich Caramel Sauce
slightly adapted from David Lebovitz 

1/2 cup unsalted or salted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel

In a large saucepan or a Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.  Add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar begins to caramelize, then turns dark amber in colour and begins to foam a bit (it should smell and look like it's just on the verge of burning).  Remove from heat and slowly and carefully add in the cream (the mixture will bubble vigorously), whisking constantly until all of the cream is added.
Return the pan to med-low heat and stir until the sauce is smooth, about 1 minute.(this took about 5 minutes for me).  Then stir in vanilla and salt. 
Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then taste, and add more salt, if desired.

Assemble the Cake:
Place the first cake layer on a plate or cake round.  Place pieces of parchment underneath the cake so when you're frosting you don't have to worry about getting the plate covered in frosting, just pull out the parchment when you're done.

Put about 1/4 cup frosting on the first cake layer and smooth with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of chopped toasted pecans over the layer.  Then drizzle with caramel sauce.  Repeat for the next two layers.  Once you've put the last layer on top, do a crumb coating if you have time.  This is basically putting a very thin layer of frosting on to seal in any stray crumbs from your final buttercream coating.  With buttercream frosting I like to stick the cake in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour to firm up the crumb coat.  Then slather on the rest of the frosting.  I bought a frosting smoother from Ateco, you just dip it in hot water, shake off the excess, and it smooths the frosting quite nicely.  A bench scraper also works.

Top with more pecans and a final drizzle of caramel sauce.  Enjoy!!

Linked to:
Sweets for a Saturday


  1. Wow! It looks like a stunner! Your icing is amazing. I love the idea of all the salt to counter balance the sweet. Divine!

  2. This cake looks amazing! So yummy and I'd definitely drizzle too. X

  3. Turtles..pecans..caramel...chocolate..I'm dying right now. This looks so good! I saw your link of sweet as sugar cookies. Great blog! You can check out mine if you like :)

  4. Another beautiful cake coming from your kitchen, Corinne. I would love to taste caramel buttercream. Caramel is one of my favorite flavors. Great job!

  5. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. This dessert looks fantastic! Looks like you have some fabulous recipes on here! Can't wait to explore and try them.


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