Vegan Turtle Cupcakes

Salted Caramel. Chocolate Cake. Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting. Roasted Salted Pecans

I am a lover of salted desserts. When I was in culinary school, my favorite pastry chef instructor (Jeanne Krauss for those of you in the know!) was one who swore by adding salt to her desserts (and of course most recipes in general). I could not agree more with this. I see so many dessert recipes out there that lack the simple ingredient of salt that it literally drives me mad. This is such a simple ingredient that it doesn’t make sense to me that a recipe developer would not include it in their recipe.

It is one of those ingredients that we learn about first in culinary school. After learning how to use a knife and specific knife cuts, after we are cutting countless potatoes, carrots and onions, we need something to do with all of those potatoes, carrots and onions. So what did we do with them? We made mashed potatoes, French fries, countless soups, all of which may or may not have contained many ingredients but most importantly salt goes into each one of them. French fries were deep fried and finished with salt. The first week of class was eating massive quantities of French fries that you almost didn’t want anymore (okay, I’m lying, after that weekend I was totally back on board the French fry train).

But salt, it enhances the flavor of everything. Something taste flat? Add salt. The human body requires a certain amount of sodium to simply just survive. If you are a healthy individual and eat a balanced diet and have no reason to restrict your salt intake, there isn’t any reason to restrict yourself! This is why the turtle chocolate candy is such a phenomenon. You most likely know the one, layers of pecans stuck in some salty, sweet caramel and then all of that is enrobed in chocolate. This is my version in a cupcake format.

I start with my favorite chocolate cake recipe (linked below). I then make a salted caramel, refrigerate it til firm, roast my buttery pecans, and make a salted caramel cream cheese frosting for it. Top that delicious cupcake with the frosting, salted caramel and pecans and you got yourself a delicious turtle cupcake to die for. Do you happen to have some leftover chocolate ganache or chocolate shell in your fridge? Maybe top it even further with some of that. Life is too short to not.

  • One Bowl Vegan Chocolate Cake with Ganache Icing
  • Now, my recipe above can make a 8″ square or round cake pan OR you can also use it to make cupcakes with. It is a fantastic (and easy!) base chocolate cake recipe. This recipe makes about 11-12 standard cupcakes (more or less depending on how big your cupcake pan is). Make sure to use cupcake paper liners and fill each cup about 2/3 of the way full! Maybe you even want to throw in some chocolate chips or a few chopped pecans to the batter. I repeat, life is too short to not.

    Lastly, I was super excited as upon watching QVC one Wednesday night recently, I saw they were selling a Kitchenaid Cordless Hand Mixer (with fun colors and extra assorted attachments!). I got the OK from the wife so I hemmed and hawed on colors and decided to go all in and order the matte black that evening. I knew this recipe would be a perfect first trial and if you need the okay from me to order it for yourself, I highly suggest it. Although I love my stand mixers (yes, I have two…), I grew up with my moms Kitchenaid hand mixer and it always did the job (and less clean up). This new fangled model also gets a rave review from me. My mom still uses her original corded one to this day (and I’m talking probably 25 years!). Treat yourself & buy yourself the thing.

    Turtle Cupcakes

    Prep Time1 hour
    Cook Time1 hour
    Course: Dessert
    Servings: 12


    Salted Caramel

    • 20 g water
    • 220 g evaporated cane sugar
    • 70 g Earth Balance Buttery Spread
    • 130 g coconut cream refrigerated overnight (you want the hard stuff in the can)
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1 tsp fine sea salt (I use Himalayan pink sea salt)

    Roasted Pecans

    • 1 cup raw pecans
    • 1 tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Spread
    • salt, to taste

    Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

    • 100 g Tofutti Cream Cheese (this is the only cream cheese substitute I use)
    • 75 g Earth Balance Buttery Spread
    • 250 g powdered sugar
    • 2 tbsp prepared salted caramel (you want it to be cold and thick like a paste!)


    Chocolate Cake

    • Line your cupcake pan with muffin paper liners. Prepare your chocolate cake according to instructions (linked above). Portion cake batter with portion scoop and fill 2/3 of the way full. Bake at 350℉ for 20-23 minutes or until toothpick inserted is 99% clean.

    Salted Caramel

    • Prepare your caramel (and do not walk away while making it). Using a medium sauce pot, mix your water and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved in water. Turn on medium high heat and watch sugar crystals melt away (you may need to swirl pan, do not stir). Once sugar is melted, keep an eye on the sides of your pot. If crystallization on sides of pot occurs, blot sides of pot with water using a pastry brush & a little water. Let it cook until it appears caramel color (350℉ if using a candy thermometer). Remove from heat.
    • Immediately whisk in coconut cream, vanilla and salt. Once combined, transfer to a heatproof container and refrigerate til cooled down completely (it should harden into an almost paste-like consistency).

    Roasted Pecans

    • Preheat oven to 350℉. Prepare sheet pan with parchment or a silpat. Melt butter and combine with pecans.
    • Throw prepared pecans onto sheet tray and bake for 10 minutes or until to your liking of doneness. Be careful not to burn! Once baked, remove from oven & salt to your liking.


    • Combine cream cheese & butter in stand mixer (or hand mixer). Cream together until completely cohesive and add powdered sugar. Add cold salted caramel to taste (I used about 2 tablespoons) and mix until thoroughly combined.

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