Birthday dinner: Double-caramel turtle layer cake

Let’s talk about cake and New Year’s Resolutions. Usually if the two are connected it’s a resolution to avoid wonderfully sugary concoctions. Mine is the complete opposite. I’m challenging myself to make 12 layer cakes in 2012.

Let’s talk about why. I don’t have a great reason. I made a personal challenge to myself in 2011 to read 1 non-fiction book a month. It worked pretty well. I think I managed to get through 10 books total. There were a few in the mix that I struggled through and finally abandoned. In the end, I read more. In fact, I probably read more for the sheer pleasure of reading than I have since high school.  


This year I wanted something different, and something I could blog about made sense. Plus Hubster gifted me with a gorgeous cake stand that simply wasn’t getting enough use!

I actually read the other day that layer cakes are tracking as one of the up and coming foods of 2012. So maybe there is something in the air? Either way, I decided that turning out a perfect layer cake is something I’d like to be able to do… and that only comes with practice.



My January birthday was the perfect occasion to start this journey. Almost instantly I knew which cake had to take the #1 slot. The Double-Caramel Turtle Cake and been staring at me from the pages of Cooking Light’s Ultimate Recipes Cookbook for years. Literally. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve paused on the full color photo of this cake and thought “I should make that.” Then I continue on, looking for something that’s a little faster or only includes ingredients I already have on hand.



My 30th birthday party + my personal challenge seemed like the right combination to finally give this recipe a go. In the end I was happy with it but not bowled over. The cake was moist! But the icing definitely had a diety flavor… and I swear they used twice as much in that photo! Or they’re much better at icing layer cakes than I am. It’s probably the former…


Double-Caramel Turtle Cake
Very slightly modified from Cooking Light

Cooking spray
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups boiling water
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 ½  cups granulated sugar
6 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp  vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

2 Tbsp butter
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 to 3 Tbsp fat-free milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sifted powdered sugar

2/3 cup caramel topping
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
1 tsp coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°. To prepare cake, coat bottoms of 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray (do not coat sides of pans); line bottoms with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray; dust with 1 tablespoon flour. Combine boiling water and cocoa, stirring well with a whisk. Cool completely. Place granulated sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, and vanilla in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon 1 2/3 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 1 2/3 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and cocoa mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pans; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and 2 tablespoons milk; cook 1 minute or until sugar melts. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Combine butter mixture and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a large bowl. Gradually add powdered sugar; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, beating until spreading consistency.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread top with half of frosting. Drizzle half of caramel dip over frosting. Top with other cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top of cake; drizzle with remaining caramel dip. Sprinkle with pecans and salt.

ashley - January 30, 2012 - 12:51 am

Happy belated birthday! If you’re a chocolate and coconut fan, check out this one…It’s by far the best layer cake I’ve made! Not quick, and definitely not healthy, but totally worth it :)

hhawes - January 30, 2012 - 2:06 pm

Thanks! Woah! That cake sounds intense. Maybe by month 4 or 5 I’ll be ready to tackle something like that :) I’m thinking carrot cake for February, for no other reason than I like that cake and it’s not too Valentine’s Day-ish.

Carrot layer cake » Modern Meals for Two - February 24, 2012 - 8:22 pm

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