First published by Des Moines-based Midwest Living in 2005, the recipe is one of a 12-best compilation (the story also includes some other great-sounding baked goods, including Danish Pastry Apple Bars and Overnight Cherry-Chocolate Coffee Cake). The cake is clearly the most famous dish to come out of the longtime restaurant, where it has been a signature item since Cafe Latte opened in 1985.
It's a pretty straightforward recipe (although it would be nice to have a caramel sauce recipe, rather than reply upon Smucker's). There's just one bummer: Each slice packs a whopping 697 calories and 36 grams of fat.
Here's the recipe:
CAFE LATTE'S TURTLE CAKE
Makes 12 to 16 servings.
Note: Cafe Latte owners Linda and Peter Quinn recommend using a prepared caramel ice cream topping. From Midwest Living magazine.
Butter and unsweetened cocoa powder for pans
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 c. buttermilk
2/3 c. vegetable oil
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. freshly brewed hot coffee
For chocolate frosting:
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. whole milk
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 12-oz. package (2 c.) semisweet chocolate pieces
1 to 2 tsp. freshly brewed hot coffee, optional
1 1/2 c. pecan halves, toasted
1/2 c. purchased caramel ice cream topping
To prepare cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of 3 9-inch cake pans and line bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper; dust pans with unsweetened cocoa powder and set pans aside.
In a small bowl, stir together egg, buttermilk and oi and reserve. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Using an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, beating until combined. Gradually beat in coffee.
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; layers will appear shallow. (If you only have two 9-inch cake pans, refrigerate 1/3 of the batter while you bake the other two layers. Clean and prepare one of the pans as directed, and bake remaining batter.)
Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool cakes on a wire racks for 10 minutes. Loosen sides from pans, then invert cakes on racks. Remove cakes from pans. Peel off paper; cool completely.
To prepare frosting: In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and milk. Add butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add semisweet chocolate pieces. Using a wire whisk, stir until smooth. If frosting is too thick or grainy, stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly brewed coffee. If necessary, let frosting stand several minutes before using.
To assemble cake: When the cakes are cool, place 1 cake layer, top-side down, onto a serving plate with a lip. Using an icing spatula or wide knife, work quickly to frost the top of this layer with one-third of the frosting. Arrange one-third of the pecans on top and drizzle with some of the caramel topping. Top with the second layer, top-side down. Repeat with frosting, pecans and caramel topping. Top with the third layer, top side up. Repeat with remaining frosting, pecans and caramel topping. Chill cake 1 to 2 hours before serving (some caramel topping will ooze from the cake as it chills).