Recipe courtesy of Jason Hisley

Special Turtle Cake

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  • Level: Advanced
  • Total: 1 hr 45 min
  • Active: 1 hr 45 min
  • Yield: One 4-layer cake
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Chocolate Cake:

Nonstick cooking spray, for cake pans

2 eggs 

4 ounces canola oil 

8 ounces buttermilk 

1 ounce vanilla extract

1 pound sugar 

10 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour 

3 1/2 ounces dark cocoa powder 

2 teaspoons baking soda 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

1 teaspoon salt 

Italian Meringue Frosting:

7 ounces sugar

5 ounces egg whites 

1 pound butter 

Dark Chocolate Ganache:

6 ounces heavy cream

6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Turtle Filling:

12 ounces granulated sugar

12 ounces heavy cream

4 ounces unsalted butter

1 cup chopped pecans 


  1. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray the bottom and sides of two 8-inch round aluminum cake pans with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, oil, 8 ounces water, buttermilk, vanilla, sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk by hand until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whisk once more to ensure no lumps.
  3. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake until the cakes are firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes.
  4. For the meringue frosting: Mix the sugar with about 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
  5. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites in a stand mixer until they just reach medium peaks. Adjust to low speed and leave running.
  6. Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches the soft-boil stage--the bubbles on the surface will start to pop more often but the sugar should not change color and caramelize.
  7. Adjust the mixer to high speed and slowly pour the cooked sugar into the whipped egg whites. Gradually add the butter, whipping until smooth. (Makes 28 ounces.)
  8. For the ganache: Bring the cream to a simmer in a saucepan, and then stir in the chocolate and cayenne. (Makes 3/4 cup.)
  9. For the turtle filling: Combine the sugar in a large saucepot and mix with just enough water until it resembles wet sand. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture begins to caramelize.
  10. Allow the sugar to cook until it reaches a dark brown color. As soon as it JUST starts to smoke, remove from the heat and immediately add the cream, CAREFUL, the mixture will boil and bubble and is very hot. Once all the cream is added, whisk the mixture and then add the butter, whisking until fully incorporated.
  11. Toast the pecans in a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes, and sprinkle with salt as soon as they come out. Mix the pecans into the caramel and let cool to room temperature. (Makes 1 pound.)
  12. To assemble the cake: Slice the cakes in half horizontally to make 4 even cake layers. Pipe a ring of frosting around the edge of one of the bottom layers and fill the center with turtle filling--the buttercream ring will prevent the turtle filling from oozing out the sides of the cake.
  13. Spread a thin layer of ganache on top of the turtle filling and repeat with the remaining cake layers.
  14. Frost the entire cake as desired with the frosting.