Sunday, June 19, 2011

Heavenly Cake Baker: Mud Turtle Cupcakes

heavenlycakeplace This week's Heavenly Cake Baker cake was Mud Turtle Cupcakes on page 377 of Rose's Heavenly Cakes. This was a multi-stepped dessert which took me several hours from start to finish. However, a lot of the time was spent, as usual, waiting for the ganache to set up. After the ganache was ready there was more waiting, this time for the caramel blobs on the turtles to get firm enough to hold the pecans in place and support another dollop of caramel...the fact that it was 85 degrees out and very humid did nothing to help the situation!

I served them to my girlfriends that night at a wine and cheese party - er, I mean a book club meeting - and both the presentation and taste got rave reviews.

A couple of things I realized when making these cupcakes:
One, I need a better thermometer! Because I was only making a small amount of caramel, my old fashioned candy thermometer didn't reach the sugar syrup and I had to keep tilting the pan to take the temperature. Tilting the pan causes crystals to form on the sides of the pan. You then have to brush the sides down with water and, I think, this tilting business messed with my caramel in general, since you are supposed to let it boil undisturbed. So, while I really hate the idea of spending almost $100 on a may be necessary if I am to gain any confidence in the world of caramel...

Two, speaking of caramel...I am kind of intimidated by working with sugar! In one of my CSCA baking classes we were making an Italian meringue and the instructor asked if anyone wanted to dip their fingers into the pot of boiling sugar-water (and then in the nearby bowl of water) to see if it was at soft ball or hard ball stage. Me: "um...are you NUTS?!" I guess I should have been more brave that day and maybe my caramel for the turtles would have turned out better ;) Anyway, at about 280 degrees, my caramel started to smell like it was burning so I was too afraid to let it go all the way to 360 degrees as instructed. I think I made it to about 330-340 or so and then it started smoking - which freaked me out - so I declared it done and stirred in the heavy cream, butter and vanilla. The resulting caramel tasted a bit too strong to me and never got very firm in the end so I'm not sure whether this was how it was meant to be or I should have cooked it longer. It would have made a great topping for ice cream, but for the turtles - where I was trying to get the pecans to stay stuck on the top of the cupcakes - it was a little bit too soft.

But, three, cupcakes are really fun to make! While these turtle cupcakes were very time consuming, I did enjoy myself. I love small things and once my little turtle buddies were all done, they looked pretty adorable all lined up on a tray.

A few months ago, my 4 year old niece drew me a picture of everyone in the family each walking a turtle on a leash...these cupcakes reminded me of her and that drawing. Little turtles on parade.

turtles on parade

a close up

From the beginning...

toasting the pecans

making the ganache

it was super runny at first, giving me absolutely no confidence that it would ever firm up...but

...finally, after about 5 hours, my ganache has set up

mise en place for the cupcakes

wet ingredients mixed until

it resembles thick brownie batter

gorgeous cupcake batter!

I like to use a scoop so they are all the same size. Much faster and neater this way too.

they were slightly domed just out of the oven

but then they fell a bit and left a convenient little dip in the middle...just right for a bit of ganache

mise en place for the caramel

is it ready yet? nope. is it ready yet? nope. is it ready yet? nope. is it ready yet? nope.

it's GOT to be ready now...I'm too nervous to let it go any longer!

cream has been added, now it's butter's turn

oh, yum!

a dollop of ganache goes down on each

they'd be quite good like this, topped with just ganache

next, some caramel

then pecans

at this point they actually looked like flowers to me

but with another dollop of each caramel and then ganache they begin to look like little turtles...


ready for the party!

but first, I'll have to try one...

each bite has a bit of soft ganache, sweet caramel, moist cupcake and
the crunchy toasted pecans...delicious!

instead of making 16 cupcakes, I made 12 and a 6" cake

Bye for now...


  1. They turned out picture perfect for your "book club"! Definitely, a Thermapen instant read thermometer makes a world of difference.

  2. So pretty! All lined up ready for the party! And I love that you made a 6 inch. It looks like a big mama turtle!

  3. If you splurge on a nice thermometer, be careful. I've dropped two into the liquid I was testing. I'm back to dripping a bit into cold water.

    Your cupcakes and little cake look wonderful - perfect for your "book club."

  4. They look absolutely adorable! And I love the cake too. I wonder if that caramel has a typo because I definitely had the same problem.

  5. Love the cupcakes and the 6" cake. Very creative! I'm hoping I can squeeze this in tonight after work (maybe make 1/2 or 1/4 recipe). Btw, where do I sign up for your "book" club? :o)

  6. These look wonderful!!! Great job!