Turtle Cupcakes

If you love Turtle Cupcakes, this recipe is for you. It’s a small batch cupcake recipe that can be doubled or quadrupled if needed. With caramel cream cheese frosting, pecans, chocolate chips and caramel drizzle, Small Batch Turtle Cupcakes are worthy of a celebration.

I’ve been meaning to share these Small Batch Turtle Cupcakes with you for a while now — but other things (my daughter’s college graduation) took precedence, and these delightful turtle cupcakes got pushed to the side—a shame because these turtle cupcakes deserve a shining spotlight and marching band.

dry ingredients for cupcakes in a small bowl with a whisk.

It was Scott’s birthday, and turtle cake was his favorite.  

Usually, I would make a full-size triple-layer behemoth in celebration, but there was no one in town to celebrate with.

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Emily had school commitments, my parents were entertaining in the Keys, and my cousin was ready to have a baby at any moment…

But it was his birthday, and these are his favorite…and it’s the only reason I bothered with a small batch of something so ridiculously delicious… left to our own devices, Scott and I would have eaten an entire cake.

Not good.

wet ingredients for the cupcakes.

Before you get discouraged that you may want more than just a few cupcakes — rest assured this recipe can be doubled  — or quadrupled for an ordinary crowd-sized cake.

That said, I thought there was something fun about making small-batch cupcakes… kind of like those little food cooking videos.

adding wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

So, this was less tiny than those mini food videos, but there was something strangely comical about making cupcakes from scratch in a cereal bowl.

whisking coffee into the batter.

A little mixing and whisking and then into some prepared cupcake liners to bake. The surprise here is that these small batch chocolate cupcakes are deeply chocolatey, rich and moist.  They could be dusted with powdered sugar and gobbled up in two bites, but if you really want to gild the lily, stick around…

I baked chocolate cupcakes.

The “turtle” in Turtle Cupcakes comes from the combination of caramel, chocolate and pecans.  For this recipe, I scaled down my classic cream cheese frosting and embellished it with a bit of homemade caramel sauce.

steps for making caramel sauce transitioning from golden to dark amber.

Caramel sauce is really easy to make, but it requires a watchful eye.  Sugar can burn easily and it goes from a light golden color to a deep amber faster than the Trump-meister swaps wives. So stay close and when it achieves your desired doneness, add the cream.  It will hiss and spit madly, but that’s normal.   When the mixture calms down, whisk it until it’s smooth and set aside to cool.

caramel sauce in a pitcher and cream cheese frosting in a bowl.

This caramel is rich and creamy with dark toasty notes that happen to be sublime over ice cream or drizzled over an apple tart, so if you have some leftover, keep it for another dessert.

mixing the caramel cream cheese frosting in a bowl.

A few tablespoons of caramel will transform the classic cream cheese frosting into a sultry, lush caramel kissed garnish.

cupcakes with caramel cream cheese frosting in a piping bag.

You can spoon the frosting onto the cupcakes, or if you’re feeling fancy, use a piping bag and star tip to garnish your turtle cupcakes like a pro.

turtle cupcakes with caramel cream cheese frosting.

But don’t stop with the caramel cream cheese frosting… Toasted chopped pecans, mini chocolate chips and an extra drizzle of caramel sauce take these small batch chocolate cupcakes to the moon and back.

Scott wasn’t expecting a cake because it was just the two of us on his birthday night, but you should have seen the smile spread across his face when I brought these out… Frankly, I probably should have made more, because he scarfed down two of them one after another  without hardly taking a breath.


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Unwrapping the turtle cupcake from the paper.
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5 from 5 votes

Small Batch Turtle Cupcakes

Sometimes you don’t need 24 cupcakes.  Sometimes 6 is plenty… These deeply chocolatey cupcakes with a sweet caramel frosting is garnished with toasted pecans, chocolate chips and a bit of caramel drizzle.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cupcakes
Dietary Restrictions Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 16 minutes
Total Time 36 minutes
Servings 6


For The Cake:

  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar not tightly packed — just loosely scooped into the ½ cup measure.
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon egg beaters or (one tablespoon of a whisked egg)
  • teaspoons vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk use ¼ cup milk + 1 teaspoon cider vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes)
  • ¼ cup hot coffee

For Caramel Frosting:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup whipping cream (do not substitute half and half or milk)
  • 1 cup standard buttercream or cream cheese frosting

For Garnish:

  • 1 tablespoon miniature chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon pecans toasted and chopped
  • 6 teaspoons caramel sauce recipe above


For The Cupcakes:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and spray with vegetable spray.  Set aside.
  • In a small bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda and whisk until well combined.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the egg, vegetable oil and buttermilk and add it to the dry ingredients.  Stir together until just combined and then whisk in the hot coffee. Batter will be thin.
  • Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake for 16-17 minutes or until the center of the cupcakes springs back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

For the Caramel Frosting:

  • While the cupcakes bake, in a small saucepan add the sugar and shake the pan around until the sugar is in an even layer at the bottom of the pan.  
  • Place the pan over medium high heat and let the sugar start to melt without stirring, about 2-3 minutes.  When sugar begins to melt, gently stir any granules that haven’t melted into the the melted part.
  •  Sugar will go from a clear to golden color over the course of a few minutes, but goes from golden to dark very quickly.  Take it just to the edge of burnt without going over — should be a dark amber color. 
  • When the caramel reaches a dark amber color and no sugar granules are left, pour in the cream and remove from heat.  The caramel will splutter and hiss — that’s normal.  
  • Let it bubble without stirring until it starts calming down, then whisk it to combine.  Set aside and let the caramel sauce cool. (Do not add hot caramel to the frosting).
  • When the caramel sauce has cooled, stir 2-3 tablespoons of caramel into the frosting until well combined. Frost the cupcakes with the frosting, or fit a pastry bag with your favorite icing tip and pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.
  • Sprinkle the cupcakes with chopped pecans, mini chocolate chips and a drizzle of remaining caramel.  


Note, you’ll have a little leftover caramel sauce, store it in a glass container in the refrigerator.  It’s great over ice cream or drizzled over apples — just microwave for a few seconds to heat it up.


Calories: 240.99kcal | Carbohydrates: 46.25g | Protein: 2.58g | Fat: 6.08g | Saturated Fat: 3.09g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.59g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1.75g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 12.68mg | Sodium: 305.12mg | Potassium: 95.81mg | Fiber: 1.13g | Sugar: 36.88g | Vitamin A: 190.55IU | Vitamin C: 0.09mg | Calcium: 41.45mg | Iron: 0.98mg

“Pin It” For Later!

These small batch cupcakes are worth the effort, with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting, chopped pecans, mini chips and caramel drizzle, these turtle cupcakes are great for small celebrations. Small batch turtle cupcakes recipe can be doubled or quadrupled to celebrate with a crowd, too! #cupcakes #smallbatch #smallbatchcupcakes #chocolatecupcakes #chocolate #caramel #pecans #caramelfrosting #creamcheesefrosting #turtlecake #turtlecupcake #chocolatecake #homemadecupcakes

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  1. Jaclyn Anne says:

    5 stars
    Chocolate and caramel are a match made in heaven and these amazing cupcakes prove it! Also, I love that this recipe isn’t for a full batch – a small batch is PERFECT for us!

  2. Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry says:

    5 stars
    These look amazing, such a delicious treat! My kids would adore these

    1. I don’t know a kid who doesn’t enjoy a cupcake!

  3. 5 stars
    This is an excellent example for a dessert which is made from individual favorites combined!

  4. 5 stars
    I could eat a whole batch of these cupcakes right now. Seriously. It’s been one of these days. And these look like just the right thing to ease my pain!

  5. Jessica Formicola says:

    5 stars
    I need to make a batch of these asap! You can’t beat chocolate and caramel!