Turtle Cheesecake

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My turtle cheesecake is a decadent, smooth New York-style cheesecake loaded with chocolate, pecans, and caramel. It’s rich and creamy and made with a brown sugar pecan shortbread crust that people adore!

Slice of turtle cheesecake

This is one of my favorite cheesecakes (not surprising since I love chocolate turtles so much), and I can’t wait for you to try it!

Ingredients and Equipment

The crust of this dessert is made with flour, pecan pieces, brown sugar, unsalted butter, and ground cinnamon.

On top of the crust sits an amazing caramel pecan layer made from store-bought caramel and chopped pecans.

That’s topped with two layers of cheesecake. You’ll need cream cheese, sugar, whole milk, large eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract, and flour to make both layers. You’ll also need semi-sweet chocolate chips to melt into the top layer.

When it’s all done, you make the dessert even more decadent by topping it with caramel sauce, chopped pecans, and chocolate sauce or ganache.

Like most cheesecakes, you will need a spring form pan to make this recipe.

How It’s Made

Start off by preheating your oven to 325 F. You will want to grease your spring form pan. Also, make sure that all of the ingredients are at room temperature!

Crust

Mix together all crust ingredients (flour, pecan pieces, brown sugar, unsalted butter, and ground cinnamon) until fully combined.

Adding pecan pieces

Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of your pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.

Brown sugar pecan crust in a springform pan

Once it’s entirely cool, tightly wrap the pan in aluminum foil all around the bottom and up the side. You’ll be baking the cheesecake in a water bath and you don’t want water to seep in and damage it!

Caramel Layer

Next, mix together caramel sauce and pecans and pour evenly over the cooled crust.

Pouring caramel and pecans over crust

Cheesecake Layers

Now, you’ll make the cheesecake layers that go on top. Once the plain batter is mixed, you’ll divide it in two and create the chocolate batter.

Start by adding cream cheese and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer.

looking down at butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer

Mix until fully combined, then add milk and mix until fully combined.

looking into a stand mixer where milk is being added to thoroughly mixed cream cheese and sugar

Next, in a separate mixing bowl, mix eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and flour until fully combined.

looking into a bowl where Stef whisks eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and flour until fully combined

Add this egg mixture to the mixer and mix until smooth.

You’re now going to divide the batter into two to make the chocolate layer. Remove three cups of batter and place them in a mixing bowl (I used the one I had the egg mixture in). Melt chocolate chips using a double boiler or in twenty second increments in the microwave, then mix the melted chocolate into the batter you removed until the whole batter looks chocolate.

looking into a bowl where Stef mixes melted chocolate into the batter
looking into a bowl full of chocolate cheesecake batter

Pour the chocolate batter over the caramel pecans in the pan, then slowly and gently pour the plain batter over that.

Pouring vanilla cheesecake over chocolate cheesecake

Put the pan into a glass baking dish and add boiling water to the dish (being careful not to get any on the cheesecake). Fill water to halfway up the side of the spring form pan.

Cheesecake in a water bath

Bake for one hour or until the edge of the cheesecake is set; the center should still jiggle a good amount when gently shaken.

Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake to finish baking with the residual heat for at least a few hours.

Remove from oven, cool to room temperature, then loosely cover and refrigerate overnight.

Topping

The next day, remove the side of the spring form pan. Pour or carefully spread caramel sauce all over the top, then add chopped pecans.

adding pecans to the top of turtle cheesecake

Finally, drizzle with even more caramel sauce and chocolate sauce. Let them drip down the side, and serve!

Turtle cheesecake on a plate

Expert Tips and FAQs

I’ve never really met a bad a cheesecake, but getting the perfect cheesecake consistency with a smooth top that has no cracks can be tricky. These tips will not only help with turtle cheesecake, but they will also help you make chocolate orange cheesecake or any of your favorite cheesecakes turn out perfectly.

  • Make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature. This is especially important for the cream cheese. If the cream cheese is at all cold, it won’t mix properly and the cheesecake batter will be lumpy. If your house is chilly, even room temperature may not be warm enough and you’ll need to microwave the cream cheese for twenty seconds or so to warm it further.
  • Grease the side of the spring form pan. One of the reasons that cheesecakes crack is that the cake sticks to the side of the spring form pan as it cools and contracts.
  • Bake the cheesecake in a water bath. Tightly wrap the spring form pan with aluminum foil at the bottom and partially up the side to keep water from seeping in. Place the spring form pan in a deep baking dish. Pour boiling water into the baking dish so that it goes halfway up the side of the spring form pan. (I use a tea kettle for this). The steam from the hot water will lift the cheesecake up slowly and evenly, reducing the risk of cracks.
  • Turn the heat off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for several hours after it is done. Cheesecakes that cool slowly are much less likely to crack.
Cheesecake with no cracks

Shortcuts

There are lots of steps to making this recipe. You can speed up the process by taking a few shortcuts:

  • Buy pecan pieces instead of pecan halves. This will save you time chopping the pecans or food processing them.
  • Use store-bought caramel sauce instead of making your own. Yes, you could make homemade caramel sauce, and it would be delicious. You’re already making a layered cheesecake, so you totally get a pass if you buy the sauce. I like to splurge for all-natural caramel sauce since it uses the same ingredients that I would use if I made it from scratch.
  • Use store-bought chocolate sauce. Making ganache doesn’t take much time at all, but sometimes there is only so much you feel like doing. It’s totally OK to use store-bought chocolate sauce on this cheesecake. You can find it near the ice cream in most grocery stores.
  • For the ultimate cheat, make cream cheese cookies instead and decorate them turtle-style. They aren’t nearly as decadent, but they are still delicious!
  • Make a Basque cheesecake and top it with nuts, caramel, and chocolate sauce. The Basque cheesecake (also called a burnt cheesecake) sinks in the middle after baking and that area is perfect to fill with turtle toppings.
Slice of turtle cheesecake on a plate

FAQs

Why did my cheesecake end up lumpy?

To get the smoothest cheesecake possible, make sure you start with smooth batter. Remember to allow your ingredients to come to room temperature before using them. If the batter looks lumpy after mixing, press it through a fine sieve to remove the lumps. You can then microwave any of the lumpy parts that didn’t fit through the sieve for about thirty seconds and run them through again.

What can I do about a cracked top?

Remember to leave your finished cheesecake in the warm oven to cool slowly. That said, it’s not that big of a deal if this recipe cracks; cover cracked spots up with lots of pecans, caramel, and chocolate and nobody will ever know!

How can I prevent the cheesecake from sticking to the spring form pan I bake it in?

Always grease (coat lightly with butter) your spring form pan. This should help the cake pull away easily.

Did you make this recipe? Leave a review!
Slice of turtle cheesecake
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4.6 from 22 votes

Turtle Cheesecake

This turtle cheesecake is a decadent, smooth New York-style cheesecake loaded with chocolate, pecans, and caramel. It's rich and creamy and people adore the brown sugar pecan shortbread crust.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Resting Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 16
Calories 602kcal
Author Stefani

Equipment

  • 9" spring form pan
  • Large baking dish

Ingredients

Crust Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Caramel Pecan Layer Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce store-bought or homemade
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Cheesecake Ingredients

  • 32 ounces cream cheese room temperature (four packages)
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole milk room temperature
  • 4 large eggs room temperature
  • 2 cups full-fat sour cream room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Topping Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce plus a little extra for drizzling
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup chocolate sauce store-bought or homemade, optionally use chocolate ganache

Instructions

Crust Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 F.
  • Grease a 9" spring form pan on the bottom and up the side.
  • Mix all ingredients until fully combined.
  • Evenly press into the bottom of the pan.
  • Bake for ten minutes.
  • Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • Tightly wrap the pan in aluminum foil around the bottom and up the side.

Caramel Pecan Layer Instructions

  • Mix caramel sauce and pecans and spread evenly on cooled crust.

Cheesecake Instructions

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
  • Mix in milk until fully combined.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, mix eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and flour until fully combined.
  • Add egg mixture to the stand mixer bowl and mix until smooth.
  • Remove three cups of batter and place them in a mixing bowl (you can use the one you just used for the eggs).
  • Melt chocolate chips using a double boiler or in twenty second increments in the microwave.
  • Mix the melted chocolate into the batter you removed until the whole batter looks chocolate.
  • Pour the chocolate batter onto the caramel layer in the pan.
  • Gently pour the rest of the batter over the chocolate batter.
  • Set the filled spring form pan into a large deep baking dish and fill the dish with boiling water halfway up the side of the spring form pan.
  • Bake for one hour. The edge of the cheesecake should be set but the middle will be very jiggly.
  • Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for several hours until it cools.
  • Refrigerate overnight.
  • The next day, remove the spring form pan's ring.

Topping Instructions

  • Spread caramel sauce over the top of the cooled cake.
  • Top with chopped pecans.
  • Drizzle with more caramel sauce and chocolate sauce, letting the sauces drip down the sides of the cake.

Notes

Be certain that all of ingredients are at room temperature. This is especially important for the cream cheese. If the cream cheese is at all cold, it won’t mix properly and the cheesecake batter will be lumpy. If your house is chilly, even room temperature may not be warm enough and you’ll need to microwave the cream cheese for twenty seconds or so to warm it further.
If you end up with any lumps in the batter, remove them before baking by pressing the the batter through a fine sieve. Microwave any of the lumpy parts that didn’t fit through the sieve. After about thirty seconds in the microwave, they should be able to fit through.

Nutrition

Calories: 602kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 42g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Cholesterol: 135mg | Sodium: 294mg | Potassium: 274mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 1213IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 133mg | Iron: 2mg
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