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May 16


Turtle Cupcakes

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There’s something about turtles that I find so endearing.

I don’t know if it’s their slow but determined way of getting about, or how they can disappear into the ‘homes’ they carry on their backs. Either way, they’re a fascinating creature, and as part of our Earth Week celebration at school this week and World Turtle Day on May 23rd, my classes are making Turtle Cupcakes to raise money for American Tortoise Rescue.

I know, World Turtle Day?

According to Wikipedia and American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), “…the day was created to help people protect and celebrate turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world… ATR is the founding sponsor of World Turtle Day and is certified by state and federal agencies as a nonprofit corporation to provide for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle.”

Hope you like my sweet version of these ancient fellows and definitely enjoy this decadent chocolate cupcake with a tall glass of milk!

If you’d like to try making these, the recipes and how-to’s follow:


How to Make Turtle Toppers:

The round turtle design comes from these Doodlebug scrap-booking brads, HERE.

You’ll need:



Step 1: Using a #3 tip, pipe a circle of green royal icing on slightly greased acetate paper.

Step 2: Using a #3 tip, immediately fill in the center with brown icing.

Step 3: Gently shake the acetate paper on the table so that the icing smoothes over.

Step 4: Wet-on-wet technique – Using a #2 tip, pipe the dots on the brown icing

Step 5: Immediately pipe the second layer of dots.

Step 6: Gently shake the acetate paper on the table so that the icing smoothes over.

Step 7: Using a #2 tip, add the head, legs and tail

Step 8: Let the icing dry for 24 hours and add two dots as eyes, using a black food color marker.

The second turtle kind of happened while I was playing around with the icing. Here’s how you do it:

Clear as mud?

I didn’t think I’d be using him in this post, so didn’t photograph how I did it, but hopefully the instructions were clear enough.

The best thing to do is try it out and the key element to the instructions in the photo above, is that you take the piece of acetate paper, slide it under the edge of the circle of royal icing (the turtle shell), and then move the acetate paper as if you’re about to scoop up or scrape off the icing; it makes the circle curl and create the shape of a domed turtle shell.

So now on to the cupcakes themselves:

Turtle Cupcakes

When you bite into this cupcake, you’ll find a chocolate turtle surprise!

*Note: It may look like the batter around the turtle isn’t fully baked but the tester (barbeque skewer lol), came out clean!

Besides the recipes, you’ll need:

Chocolate Turtle Cupcakes Recipe

For a printable version of the recipe, click here.


  • 2 2/3 cups (12 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) coffee
  • 24-28 chocolate *Turtles

*You can buy the name-brand Turtles, but bulk food stores usually carry them as well.  If you can’t find them, substitute some chocolate melts, a few pecans and a caramel square.



  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line your muffin tin with liners.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until smooth.
  5. Set the mixer to low speed and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping thoroughly between each addition.
  6. Alternately add the flour and sour cream mixtures to the butter mixture in two batches, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl after each addition.
  7. Gradually pour in the coffee. Scrape down the bowl and beat until thoroughly combined.
  8. Scoop the batter into your cupcake liners with a spoon or ice cream scoop.
  9. Bake for 26 minutes or until the center of the cupcake has just set. (I insert a barbeque skewer to check).
  10. Take out the cupcakes, make a little hole in the center with a knife and insert a Turtle chocolate as far as the cupcake allows.
  11. Bake for another 4 minutes. Once cupcakes have cooled and you’ve removed them from the muffin tin, top with chocolate icing  and *optional toppings.


Chocolate Buttercream Icing

For a printable version of the recipe, click here.



  • 24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cups 35% cream
  • 1 tablespoon clear corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces unsalted (room temperature) butter
  • 16 ounces (1 lb) icing sugar



  1. Use a double boiler to melt the chocolate and cream together.  (Make your own version by placing a glass or stainless steel bowl on top of a pot with simmering water).   Stir occasionally until the chips are melted.
  2. Off the heat, stir in the corn syrup and vanilla and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the chocolate mixture, softened butter and icing sugar on medium speed for a few minutes, until it has thickened.

*Optional toppings – Caramel sauce, melted milk chocolate and small pieces of Turtles chocolates. I cheated and used the caramel dipping sauce from the supermarket, which you can usually find by the apples. One tip about applying the caramel; I heated it up in the microwave for about a minute, then put it in a canvas piping bag fitted with a #2 tip, and piped it on. This prevents big globs of caramel from falling on your cupcake (although that could be kind of yummy!). Squeeze bottles work really well for this and melted chocolate as well.

* You can find a video on how to make the cupcake swirl here.


Hope you enjoy making these rich chocolate turtle cupcakes!

I’ll leave you with this:

Sorry. Couldn’t resist! (You can thank my husband for the joke).




p.s. Thanks for making me laugh with your ‘turtle speech bubble’ suggestions on facebook!

p.s.s. An update on the new Sweet of the Week contest – Wow! I’m so happy to see you’re sending me your pictures and please keep on sending them.  I have enough for weeks to come and am wondering if I should add more photos to each contest. Let me know your thoughts.

Check out this week’s contest HERE and vote for your favorite sweet.

Related Content


  1. marian
    April 28, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    @ wen chin: No problem, sugar decorations last indefinitely, like sugar! As long as they’re stored away from light, in a protected, dry spot, they’ll be fine. I would let them dry for at least a few days too. Good luck!

    @ Sarah: Have fun!

  2. May 18, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    The turtles are too cute!

  3. eileen
    May 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Can you plaese tell me how many cups your buttercream reciepes make,how many cupcakes?thank you

  4. Joey
    July 30, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian, I love your website and so far all the icing and cookie recipe had work great for me. I’ve decided to try your chocolate icing today but it turn out to be so runny that I could not pipe it. I had the recipe quartered and followed the method. However, after 15 mins of whipping, my icing is still nothing like buttercream. Do you think the weather is the cause? Where I’m from is always at 32 deg cel. 🙂

  5. marian
    July 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Hi @ Joey: Oh dear! Yes, that is probably the culprit. I live in Canada and made these when it was very dry, and hardly any humidity. Sorry to hear that! xo

  6. Joey
    July 31, 2012 at 3:26 am | Permalink

    @ marian:
    Thanks for the prompt reply. Do you think I can chill it in the fridge before whipping it up or would adding more icing sugar help? I really like the taste of your buttercream recipe. I’m also wondering what is the purpose of the corn syrup? Am so envious of the climate that you are in. I am perspiring in the hot and sunny island, Singapore. : )

  7. marian
    July 31, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Hi @ Joey: Both of your suggestions will help. I would try refrigerating first and seeing how that goes, before you add more icing sugar.
    The corn syrup adds a little bit of shine. Oh and by the way, my brother lived in Singapore for a few years… Such a beautiful and clean city!

  8. Joey
    August 1, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    @ marian:
    Thank you so much for your feedback. I will try the buttercream again with chilling it first. May do without the corn syrup so that I can add icing sugar and maintain the sweetness, if needed. Keeping my fingers crossed. I’m so glad that you like Singapore! Do come and visit for a summer holiday.

  9. Michelle
    August 6, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian, can you please tell me what brand of cocoa powder you use.

  10. L G
    September 8, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Just wondering how you made the brown royal icing?

  11. Michele
    September 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Can you freeze these cupcakes? I have a baby shower in two weeks. I wondered if I could make them ahead of time and freeze them. Then I could frost them the day before the shower. It would save me time. Thanks for sharing your skills!

  12. September 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Hi @ Michele: I haven’t actually frozen them before, but have frozen other kinds of cupcakes, which seemed to work nicely. Thaw them uncovered so the liner doesn’t peel away from the cupcake from the trapped moisture.

  13. Wendy
    September 27, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian, can’t wait to try this – quick question, what type of “cream” do you use on your chocolate buttercream icing?

  14. marian
    October 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I use 35% cream @ Wendy, but if you been brand, I use Neilson, because honestly, it’s usually what’s available at the grocery store where I am. 🙂

  15. November 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    thank you for your detailed pics and instructions! I am making these for my son’s birthday this weekend. I just have one question for you:

    with regards to the caramel “turtles” that go inside the cupcakes, how exactly can I make them? I’m not quite sure what you mean by “…substitute some chocolate melts, a few pecans and a caramel square.” – do I melt those components together and then form little semi-solid balls of them to put in the cupcakes? Or did you mean something else?

    sorry if that’s a dumb question…I’ve never made (or even eaten) turtles before! 🙂

    Thanks again, can’t wait to make these – I’m sure they’ll be a hit!

  16. November 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    ack, one more question! what is the shortening for in the turtle topper section? it’s listed in the “what you’ll need” list, but I am not seeing where it fits in with the directions. is it just to grease the paper? If so, do I need it if I’m using parchment?

    thanks again 😉

  17. November 28, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi @ Mo @ The Baby Is Fine: Not a dumb question at all! I’d be wondering too if I’d never tried a chocolate turtle. If it helps at all, here’s what one looks like:


    I would melt some chocolate, toffe and pecans together into a ball, just like you said. It won’t be the same, but the basic flavours will be there.

    And yes, the shortening is just used to grease the transparency sheet. I prefer using the transparency sheets if you can get a few, they’re sturdier than parchment. If you do use parchment, grease it a tiny bit with the shortening, yes.

    Have fun! xo

  18. Marni
    December 23, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Can I substitute something for the coffee, my family isn’t too keen on the coffee flavor?
    thanks, Merry Christmas!

    • marian
      August 25, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      HI Marni, The coffee flavour isn’t too strong, but you could try adding milk to add that extra liquid. I’m not 100% sure how it works though, as I haven’t tried it, sorry.

  19. Kathy Stogneff
    March 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the Turtles Cupcake recipe! Turtles are my mom’s fave chocolate. I’ll be baking a batch of this yummy deliciousness when I visit mom for her b-day/mother’s day in May. Thank you 🙂

  20. April 3, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    These are truly adorable! Very clever! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  21. christy11
    August 24, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    so for the coffee, is it liquid coffee or just the grounds?

    • marian
      August 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Hi Christy, the liquid only. 🙂

  22. Helen
    September 25, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    How far in advance can you make the turtle toppers and how would you store them until ready to use? Thanks!

    • marian
      September 28, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      Hi Helen,
      Royal icing decorations last indefinitely, as long as they’re stored in a cool, dry place, and are wrapped carefully in bubble wrap or sponge and parchment. (They’re very fragile).

    October 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I tried my hand at the RI turtles last night. My first time EVER playing with royal icing. I found that my turtles spread too much about 10 mins after I piped them onto parchment. I’d thought my icing was actually a bit thicker than ideal so I don’t know if my consistency was off, or if it was because I piped them all on the same sheeet of parchment and kept shaking it to settle each turtle. Is it best to use an individual sheet for each turtle? Or, as I’ll be playing with tonight, pipe the outline of the shell, wait 24 hours and then go back to fill in the shell and add the head, legs, and tail? I’ve got 60 turtles to make for a cupcake shower party this weekend =)Love your blog, btw!

    • marian
      October 23, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Hi Amanda,
      Yes, maybe use less icing as the shaking will make it move a bit, or use transparency sheets which seem a little less ‘slippery’ and the icing stays put a bit more. Hope that helps! (Oh and make sure it’s parchment, no wax paper… wax paper is def. more slippery).
      Good luck! xo

  24. Amanda
    October 23, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the quick reply!!! Silly silly question now, when I hear transparency paper, I think of tracing paper. Is it the same thing or is transparency paper a baking thing that I just haven’t heard of and where can I get it?

  25. Irma
    November 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian, thx for sharing ur knowledge, I love ur bright and pretty website and especially ur work and of course ur sense of humor. U r very clever and talented.

  26. May 13, 2014 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    So cute…Thanks for sharing ^^

  27. Raweeha
    May 15, 2014 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    My royal icing turtle toppers have been in the freezer for 24 hours and are still wet at the bottom- they break easily when I try to take them off the baking paper. Were they supposed to dry at room temperature?

  28. Sally
    December 11, 2014 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    HI, for the coffee, How much water and grounds need for making it? Or just bought from supermarket? wt’s the brand

  29. June 4, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Those look ridiculously good. I want one now! lol Do you ship?

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