Chocolate Caramel Turtle Cake

So you all are pretty familiar with my dessert game by now- while I love to bake desserts, I don’t love to be eating them all week. To help combat this, I’ve developed a habit of making desserts on the Sundays that Evan works. That way, I can swing by the station and enjoy one slice of cake, but give the rest away to some very appreciative men. This strategy has been very helpful for my waistline, and I suspect that it’s also a hit with the firefighters 🙂

Chocolate Caramel Turtle CakeAnyway, this week I wanted to make something that would be a great Valentines dessert-  nothing heart shaped or pink, necessarily, but something that was a little bit more decadent than usual. It wasn’t heart to settle on a chocolate cake (because I have a great, fool proof recipe!) but choosing the toppings was a bit more of a challenge. In the end, I settled on a ‘turtle’ theme- because what’s more decadent than salted caramel with a double dose of chocolate, topped with toasted pecans?

Chocolate Caramel Turtle Cake3This is a great cake recipe, for which I can’t take any credit, since it’s a very slightly modified version of Hershey’s Black Magic Cake. I used a ganache/buttercream hybrid that whipped up in a second for the chocolate portion, and then made some dulce de leche, slightly thinned so it would spread. This cake isn’t difficult, by any means, but does have a few steps- so plan to take some time the morning that you plan to serve it (or, even better, the day before!). Also, it doesn’t travel very well- when I was driving to the station the top layer slid all over and the middle filling oozed everywhere. Beautiful or not, though, this cake is sooo delicious, and perfect for your next special event!

Chocolate Caramel Turtle Cake

Caramel:

2 cans sweetened condensed milk

Hershey’s Black Magic Cake (Original Recipe Here), with minor changes

2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup strong black coffee, still hot

2 tbsp white vinegar

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup pecans

Chocolate Frosting:

1 7 oz bag dark chocolate chips

¼ cup milk

1 stick butter, but into pieces

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups powdered sugar

Start with the caramel, which is really dulce de leche: peel the labels off both cans, and plunk them in a saucepan. Cover with water and boil for about three hours. Remove from the pan, let cool for at least an hour, then empty into a mixing bowl, stirring in some milk (if necessary) to achieve a spreadable consistency.

Make the cake: heat the oven to 325 and spray two 9 inch baking pans. Stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, soda and powder in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, vinegar, coffee, melted butter and vanilla. Mix only until the ingredients are incorporated, and be aware that the batter will be pretty thin. Divide into pans and bake at 325 for 30 minutes, then increase the heat to 350 and cook 15 more minutes, checking every five minutes to see if the cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely. (Baking the cakes at 325 for the first portion is sooo important- the low temp allows the batter to cook without puffing up in the middle, resulting in perfectly flat cakes that I didn’t have to level myself!)

Toast the pecans: spread out on a baking sheet and slip them into the oven while the cake is baking. Bake for about 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes to prevent burning. Remove from the over, sprinkle with a generous amount of kosher salt, and set aside.

Make the ganache/frosting/franache?/ganosting?: pour the chocolate chips and milk into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for one minute, then let it sit in the microwave for a few minutes while you’re stirring pecans or rinsing dishes to put in the dishwasher. Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir until smooth and silky. Add the butter pieces, then assemble your hand mixer (or stand mixer, I guess, if you’re so moved). Beat the buttery ganache until the butter is completely incorporated, then add the sugar and vanilla and whip til fluffy. Depending on your climate/humidity and ingredients, you may need to add a touch more powdered sugar to get the frosting to a place where it’s really soft, but holds its shape. Use discretion, my friends, but don’t be afraid! Once your frosting is the perfect consistency, set it aside and get ready for assembly.

Assemble your masterpiece: first, make sure your cakes are level, and place them side by side on the cooling rack (or cutting board, or wherever is handy). Spoon half of the frosting on each layer and spread it out so it’s about a half inch or so from the edge- and make a shallow well in the center. Then, spoon half of the dulce de leche into the center of the chocolate clouds, further spreading the chocolate until it almost reaches the edges. Sprinkle each layer with half of the toasted pecans and, if you like, some kosher salt. Transfer your layers to a serving platter, choosing the most beautiful as the top layer (I like to assemble them each separately to avoid smooshing the filling as much as possible). Service asap, and take any compliments as modestly as possible, while still acknowledging the fact that you are a baking goddess 🙂