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Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes Recipe

Love turtles? Yes, the chocolate covered caramel pecan treats? These cupcakes are a perfect mix of my popular chocolate cupcake recipe and a turtle!

If you love chocolate cupcakes and turtles, why not have both right? Not only are these made with a yummy homemade sea salt caramel sauce, but also salted caramel buttercream.

I not only use Dutch processed cocoa but also hot coffee - and here’s why!

Using the Dutch process gives a richer cocoa flavor, however, you may use regular cocoa powder if that is all you have, I just like to enjoy the deep chocolate flavor. Here is the kicker, hot coffee. You may be asking why, but I promise you it is a game changer in the chocolate-baking world. Adding hot water with instant coffee or espresso enhances the chocolate flavor even more and in my opinion gives it an additional boost of moisture.

Tools You'll Need

Here are some kitchen tools I like to suggest for making my cupcakes. These are the exact products I use every time:

  • Electric Mixer or a Bowl and Silicone Spatula

  • Cupcake tins

  • Cupcake Liners (if making cupcakes

  • Parchment paper cut to cake tin (if making cakes)

  • Cupcake corer

  • Piping Bags

  • Piping Tips

Recipe Questions

Can I freeze these cupcakes?

Yes, you may! Once they are cooled, add them to a sealed ziplock bag or container and freeze them for up to 3 months unfrosted and unfilled.

Can I use regular cocoa powder instead?

Absolutely! The chocolate flavor just won't be as intense or rich, but these are still delicious with average cocoa powder.

What can I use to substitute sour cream?

You may use equal amounts of plain greek yogurt or mayonnaise with a squeeze of some lemon juice in replacement of the sour cream.

Can I use regular milk?

Absolutely! You may use regular milk or a milk substitute if you do not have buttermilk nor want to make a buttermilk substitute at home.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Cupcakes

Prep Time: 40 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes

Servings:12-15 cupcakes


For the Cupcakes

  • 1 cup (212g) granulated sugar

  • 1 large egg (room temperature)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (room temperature)

  • 1/2 cup hot water

  • 1/3 cup sour cream (room temperature)

  • 1/2 tsp instant expresso

For the Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 2 tsp sea salt

  • 12 tbsp or 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (save for later)

For the Buttercream

  • 3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature - very important!)

  • 5 cups powdered sugar

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1 tbsp vanilla

  • 1 1/4 cup salted caramel sauce


For the Cupcakes

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line your cupcake tin with your preferred liners.

2. Whisk your flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

3. In a small bowl, whisk your buttermilk and sour cream until it is fully combined and should resemble a custard-like consistency. Then add your egg, vanilla, and vegetable oil. Set aside.

4. In another small bowl, mix your hot water and expresso powder, and stir. Measure out your cocoa powder in a separate bowl and slowly mix the hot coffee into the cocoa and then set aside.

5. Turn your mixer on low (setting 2 on a KitchenAid) and slowly add your buttermilk mixture. Once just barely combined, scrape the sides and add in your hot coffee.

6. Mix on low or fold with a spatula and fill your liners 3/4 way full and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with some crumbs and there is no jiggle.

7. Remove the cupcakes onto a cooling rack as soon as possible and let cool completely before icing and filling.

For the Salted Caramel Sauce

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar and stir until the sugar starts to melt down.

  2. Once the sugar is completely melted and smooth it should appear as a rich amber color. If it is lighter in color, stop stirring and let it caramelize for about 1-2 minutes. Immediately remove it from the heat once it reaches that rich color. This should take about 10-15 minutes.

  3. Quickly stir or whisk in the butter until combined in

  4. Pour in the heavy cream while whisking until it reaches a smooth and fluid consistency. Then add your sea salt and vanilla, and mix until fully combined and smooth.

  5. Pour the caramel into a glass jar or heat-safe container to cool to room temperature. The caramel will thicken as it cools.

  6. You want the caramel to be cooled to at least room temperature before using in the buttercream.

  7. The caramel can be stored in the fridge for up to a month. The caramel will get hard in the fridge, so microwave it for intervals of 15-30 seconds to get it back to a more fluid consistency.

For the Buttercream

1.Using a Whisk attachment, whip your room-temperature butter for about 5-10 minutes until it becomes white and smooth. Make sure your butter turns white before proceeding to the next steps or else you will taste butter more than anything.

2. Slowly add about a cup of powdered sugar at a time while your mixer is on low. Stop mixing as soon as the powdered sugar has combined with the butter.

3. Add in your vanilla and sea salt and mix until just incorporated then while your mixer is on low, add in your salted caramel sauce.

4. Turn your mixer on medium speed for 1-2 minutes and then turn it up to 6 speed until smooth and fluffy for another 5 minutes or so. The time it takes may be shorter or longer depending on the humidity, butter temperature, and the strength of your mixer.

5. While it whips, determine if you would like to thin it out any. To do so slowly drizzle in hot water until you reach your desired consistency. The more you add, the thinner and less stable it will be for detailed piping.

6. If your buttercream splits at all melt 1/3 to 1/2 of your buttercream in the microwave or double broiler and add it back into your solid buttercream while your mixer is on low.

7. To remove any air bubbles and to create a smooth, silky buttercream, switch to a paddle attachment and let the mixer run on the stir or low setting for 15-20 minutes.

Decorating and Filling

  1. Once your salted caramel has cooled to room temperature, fold your pecans into your caramel and set aside. May add more or less pecans as you wish.

  2. Take a small teaspoon or cupcake corer and core the centers of each cupcake.

  3. Fill almost to the top of the centers with your caramel pecan filling using a small spoon or large piping bag and set aside. Be sure to not overfill, as your buttercream later on can slide off or your filling will overflow.

  4. Take a large piping pag with your piping tip of choice and decorate your cupcakes. Finish off with a caramel drizzle, sea salt and chopped pecans before serving.

Recipe Notes

Freezing Your Cupcakes

Once your cupcakes are out of the oven, try to remove them as soon as possible from the tin onto a cooling rack. Once cooled, secure them in a sealed container or ziplock bags and freeze.

Once you are ready to use your cupcakes, take them out and leave them in their containers or bags until the reach room temperature.

Buttermilk vs. Milk

Buttermilk is not needed, but it adds just that right amount of extra moisture and flavor that my customers enjoy! Buttermilk has a bit of a higher fat content than regular milk. You may use regular milk any % will work or try making your own buttermilk substitute from the options in my Buttermilk Substitutes blog!

Have you tried this recipe? Tag me on Social Media!

Use #sweeteatsbyrachel and mention @sweeteatsbyrachel on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

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