Vegan Maple Turtle Cake

It is world Vegan I thought, what better way to celebrate, than make a decadent vegan cake!  What first came to mind was a turtle cake...decadent layers of gooey caramel and chocolate laced with pecans and sandwiched between moist chocolate cake...the type that makes you drool just thinking about it. This cake would be inspired by one I had as a child.  My Mom used to take me to a restaurant in St. Paul called Cafe Latte which is famous for their turtle cake, and it is pretty magnificent with all of it's layers.  I always had to have a nice big piece when she took me there.  But of course theirs is not vegan, so I wanted to create my own veganized version of this fabulous cake that tasted just as decadent, and gooey in every way.
I already had a dark chocolate cake recipe that I was going to use, and a delicious chocolate  fudge frosting, but what was in question was the caramel.  I wanted a maple caramel...I had added maple to the other components of the cake, maple sugar and extract in the cake layers and maple in the frosting.  But I had never made a vegan caramel before, and I was going to try.  I didn't have a specific recipe, and my first attempt failed.  I burned the sugar, and it separated from the coconut oil I had used in place of butter creating a cement like mess in my stockpot...and making me very very frustrated.  But me not being one to give up started over with a new recipe.  This one used coconut milk in place of the heavy cream, and earth balance in place of the butter.  I had my fingers crossed and was praying that it would turn out as I finished it off with the coconut milk...and it did!  It was delicious!  I had forgotten how good home made caramel could be!
I assembled my cake, and I was so anxious to dive in that it only sat for about as long as it took me to take the photos of it.  It was heavenly...decadent, rich, gooey, the toasted pecans mingled in with the brownie like cake and fudge frosting with the salted maple caramel!  Party in my mouth!  You definitely could not tell that it was vegan.  The maple was definitley a good choice to pair with the pecans and chocolate.  If you need a decadent dessert, this would be a must...and I guess you could use store bought caramel if you don't want to deal with making it, just add a little maple extract and sea salt.  Happy Vegan Month!

Vegan Maple Turtle Cake
Makes 1 6 inch 4 layer cake
2 6 inch cake pans


  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free all purpose flour (if not gluten free, whole wheat pastry flour may be used instead)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use ghirardelli)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup maple sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed to liquid
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp maple extract
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar


Salted Maple Caramel:

  • 2 cups maple sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 2 T. Earth balance butter
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp maple extract
  • 2 tsp sea salt



  • 1 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted cocoa powder, or more if needed
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp maple extract



  • 2 1/2 cups toasted pecans


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven.
  2. Line two six-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper. Coat parchment paper and pan sides with coconut oil.
  3. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk oil, coconut milk, maple extract, and vanilla extract together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Whisk in cider vinegar and stir quickly (pale swirls will be in the batter, which is the baking soda reacting with the vinegar, which allows the cake to rise since there are no eggs).
  4. Transfer cake batter to prepared pan and bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour.
  5. Cut around sides of pan to loosen. Turn cake out onto platter; peel off parchment paper. Let cool completely, then place in the fridge to chill until very cold to make slicing easier (since cakes with no eggs crumble easier). When chilled, slice cakes horizontally in half so that you have 4 layers. Keep chilled until you are done assembling the cake.
  6. To make caramel, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the sugar, maple syrup, and water to a boil, stirring well at first to dissolve the sugar. Turn down the heat to low and cook until the liquid is deep amber in color, about 15-20 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove the pan from heat. Very carefully (the mixture will bubble), stir in the coconut milk, earth balance butter vanilla, maple extract, and sea salt until smooth. Let cool until it is a thicker consistency before using on cake (it gets thicker as it cools).
  7. To make frosting, whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl until very smooth, adding more cocoa powder if the frosting is not thick enough, or more coconut milk if too thick.
  8. Place a layer of cake on a plate, and spoon about 1/2 cup frosting over, almost to the sides, then scatter with about 1/2 cup of toasted pecans and drizzle with a heaping 1/4 cup caramel.  Top with a another cake layer and repeat. Top with another cake layer, another frosting layer, pecans, caramel, then the top cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and the sides of the cake, and arrange whole pecans decoratively on the top of the cake.  Drizzle with caramel, and let it drip down the sides.

*If you would like a 4 layer 9 inch cake, double this entire recipe and bake in two 9 inch cake pans.

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About the Author

I am a vegan girl who loves to make healthier desserts and dishes with lots of veggies. Recipes are meant to be shared, that is why I started blogging!

  1. November 7, 2010 at 19:52

    Wow, that is stunning!

  2. November 7, 2010 at 20:20

    I totally agree with Caroly, just beautiful! I would love a big slice with a cup of cafe au lait. Bravo, well done! Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe.

  3. November 7, 2010 at 21:20

    WOW!!! I really want a slice of this.

  4. November 7, 2010 at 21:24

    I didn't even know this cake existed. I live under a rock. Thank you so much for sharing, it looks stunning!

  5. November 7, 2010 at 23:10

    Yum! I've made vegan caramel before, but yours sounds so much better. I'll have to try that recipe!

  6. November 8, 2010 at 00:27

    A beautiful cake for autumn--it looks so gooey and delicious with all the caramel and icing too! ;-)

  7. November 8, 2010 at 04:36

    The cake looks so amazing! What a way to indulge a sweet tooth!

  8. November 8, 2010 at 06:24

    I don't know if I need a decadent dessert, but I sure do want one! Your recipes are always so inspiring. I have so many vegan friends, and I am glad to have a source for so many great treats! I love the coconut in this delicious cake. Thanks for sharing my sweet friend! I hope your week is full of joy.

  9. November 8, 2010 at 07:07

    wow! it looks amazing! I am gonna give it a try :D

  10. November 8, 2010 at 13:16

    That looks so good. Not in the least bit dry. Great recipe!

  11. November 8, 2010 at 15:15

    This cake looks amazing! I just want a huge slice and a nice glass of milk. Thanks for sharing :-)

  12. November 8, 2010 at 15:22

    Just sinful! Do I need to say I want it? ;) All that maple is just wonderful.

  13. November 8, 2010 at 16:42

    Oh my god, that is so absolutely gorgeous! It's making my mouth water!! I need to make this very soon.

  14. November 9, 2010 at 01:55

    Oh. my. goodness! YUM.

  15. November 9, 2010 at 08:54

    wow, this looks so great... I hear vegan cakes are very nice and moist...but have not tried one yet. Now's my chance, I guess! :)

  16. November 9, 2010 at 12:28

    What a stunning cake! I would definitely have to make quite a few trips to the gym after eating a piece of that!

  17. November 9, 2010 at 14:12

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. November 9, 2010 at 14:13

    This is one of the most delicious-looking cakes I have ever seen!!<br /><br />When I first saw the photo of this cake, I immediately thought to myself... "How awesome would that be if it was vegan?!" And then I saw that it IS!<br /><br />This would be perfect for Thanksgiving!! :<br /><br />I know what I will be making now...

  19. November 9, 2010 at 14:52

    Wow...What a fabulous looking cake. Just love your photo!I like the healthy ingredients you used...

  20. November 9, 2010 at 15:21

    Amy, I just saw this in the sidebar of another blog on the F.B. gadget-it looks amazing;) Me wants a slice...!

  21. November 9, 2010 at 20:15

    What a gorgeous cake. It looks delicious. Beautiful job. Have a great day:)

  22. November 9, 2010 at 22:00

    Oooh- that is so wrong, it's right!

  23. November 10, 2010 at 00:01

    well, this might just convert me over to the vegan looks so delicious!!!

  24. November 10, 2010 at 06:41

    Wow. I've got my keyboard all wet with drool now. Well done.

  25. November 11, 2010 at 06:43

    Vegan cake! My favorite. Happy Birthday to me. . .

  26. November 11, 2010 at 21:56

    This looks INSANELY good!

  27. November 11, 2010 at 22:08

    This looks so amazing! I love maple syrup, being French-Canadian and all... bookmarked + can't wait to try it!

  28. November 11, 2010 at 22:55

    This looks AMAZING! I so wish I had a piece right now!

  29. Anonymous
    November 12, 2010 at 06:40

    wow i thank you for veg n vegan recipe as i am a vegetarian and on the look out for veg dishes..

  30. Dinah
    November 13, 2010 at 04:29

    Stunningly scrumptious looking cake! Did you use canned coconut milk or So Delicious coconut milk beverage for the cake? I've been using it in place of milk in all of my baking, and I'm sure it would work for the cake part of this recipe. But you said "coconut milk" for the cake and frosting and "full-fat coconut milk" for the caramel, so I'm not sure what you mean.

  31. November 13, 2010 at 04:35

    I always used canned full fat coconut milk such as thai kitchen. Just be sure to mix it well before using!

  32. November 15, 2010 at 22:42

    Amazing! My family would think I was the best mom/wife in the world if I made this. Well, hopefully they think that already...but this cake would really seal the deal!

  33. November 16, 2010 at 01:39

    this is going to turn out a gem-find for vegans. but for me too though i'm no where close to being a vegan. thank you for sharing!

  34. December 4, 2010 at 00:45

    I want to make this, but don't have any maple sugar (not even sure where I'd buy it!). Can I use regular sugar for the caramel?

  35. December 20, 2010 at 16:33

    Yum!!! I love cakes. This looks so different and interesting. I am looking for a unique dish and thanks to you. I will try once and present it on Christmas. Hopefully, I can manage it.

  36. December 27, 2010 at 09:57

    Nice Cookies!!! I always loved mint flavour. Its so refreshing. I cant wait to try them especially if they are melting ones. Thanks for the info.

  37. January 15, 2011 at 18:49

    Wow, what a cake!<br /><br />We would love to feature it on <a href="" rel="nofollow">MapleSyrupWorld</a>!<br /><br />Give us a shout!

  38. January 18, 2011 at 17:55

    I would love to try this recipe, but I am allergic to coconut. Any suggestion for what I could use in place of the coconut milk and oil?

  39. January 20, 2011 at 02:22

    You could use a non-dairy soy creamer for the coconut milk, and another type of oil such as almond or canola for the oil.

  40. January 28, 2011 at 18:04

    This is a fantastic recipe. Thank you so much for sharing, it really looks delicious. I have a vegan recipe for orange cake with only 7 ingredients you might want to take a look.

  41. March 26, 2011 at 13:33

    2 T. Earth balance butter. <br />that is, how much?<br />sorry for my english is not goog ;

  42. July 17, 2011 at 00:23

    Looks like all your hard work really paid off. That cake looks delectable.

  43. November 2, 2011 at 03:46

    Happy Vegan Month! That cake is seriously amazing!

  44. Susana I.
    August 15, 2012 at 15:49

    What can I substitute for maple sugar? I don't even know where to buy this in my country and I read that maple sugar is twice sweeter than cane sugar. The cake loos really good!! Thanks!

    • August 15, 2012 at 23:19

      Actually cane sugar will work just fine. Maple sugar is a little sweeter, but not 2x. You won't even notice the difference.

    • Susana I.
      August 16, 2012 at 14:43

      Thanks!!! :D

  45. August 20, 2012 at 01:01

    For the past few years my son has requested Cafe Latte's turtle cake as his birthday cake. Since we went vegan almost a year ago that cake is no longer an option. I found your recipe and made this cake today for his 12th birthday. The whole family loved it!! It was chocolate decadence. Although my caramel didn't turn out as thick as I would have liked it (don't think I let it simmer long enough) it was one of the best cakes I have ever baked. Thank you so much for the recipe!!

    • August 20, 2012 at 02:09

      So glad you enjoyed the recipe :)! I much prefer this one to the cafe latte one now since it is slightly less sweet. Happy Belated Birthday to your son! Hope it was a wonderful day!

  46. October 3, 2012 at 00:28

    I'm allregic to coconut...& by products...milk, oil all of it. Can I substitute regular milk or something else?

    • October 3, 2012 at 01:06

      Of course! Or if you wanted to keep it vegan, a non-dairy soy creamer.

    • October 14, 2012 at 18:35

      Awesome! Hope you enjoy it :)!

  47. October 14, 2012 at 14:07

    This must have taken forever to make. So decadent. It's so decadent, it gives me a tummy ache when I see it. Mmm...

    • October 14, 2012 at 18:36

      Not too bad just the amount of time most of my cakes take ;).

  48. Anonymous
    October 16, 2012 at 18:37

    Will you marry me? =D

    • October 17, 2012 at 11:11


  49. Anonymous
    January 1, 2013 at 16:04

    Do you think I could use coconut flour instead of whole wheat flour?

    • January 1, 2013 at 23:29

      I would use quinoa flour if you are looking for a gluten free flour. Coconut tends to absorb liquid, so the proportions would be different and it may not turn out.

  50. January 4, 2013 at 15:46

    Hi Amy! Could I use regular unbleached all purpose flour for this?

    • January 6, 2013 at 02:53

      Yes you can!

  51. Anonymous
    January 6, 2013 at 01:34

    Yes I was looking to make it gluten free Amy. Have you used quinoa flour before? I did alittle research and one woman said it tastes funny unless you toast the flour at a very low temp first. Any thoughts on that?

    • January 6, 2013 at 02:55

      I have actually, and I do not find that it tastes funny. A little nutty, but not in a bad way and you will not taste it in a chocolate cake. I have had success with it in cakes and cookies, they tasted good!

  52. Anonymous
    January 8, 2013 at 17:05

    Thank you! Is there a certain brand you use? I think I'm going to order is off cus it's alot cheaper than the Bob's brand at the grocery store.

    • Anonymous
      January 8, 2013 at 17:06

      I meant the quinoa flour..

    • January 8, 2013 at 22:28

      I actually buy the Bob's brand because I work at a health food store and get a discount. I am sure the other stuff works just as well though ;).

  53. Anonymous
    January 24, 2013 at 18:55

    This looks really good!!!!

  54. Anonymous
    April 15, 2013 at 20:09

    Would an almond flour work??

    • April 15, 2013 at 22:37

      No, it would be to heavy. If you are looking for a gluten free flour I would use quinoa flour.

  55. June 15, 2013 at 22:18

    I made this for my moms birthday, and OH MY GOSH everyone loved it!! I used the caramel from this recipe on my own vegan chocolate cake recipe, put the caramel in the middle layers with some dried shredded coconut and the toasted pecans, and chocolate frosting on the outside. It was like a super delicious (clean) version of a German chocolate cake! Definitely recommend this recipe :D

    • June 15, 2013 at 23:10

      So glad you made it your own! Yum! Your version sounds delicious, I love German chocolate :)!

  56. July 4, 2013 at 21:18

    I just made this for my husband's birthday and it is divine!

    • July 4, 2013 at 21:38

      Awesome :)! So glad you enjoyed it!

  57. July 23, 2013 at 18:00

    Its really simply awesome! However, is it possible to prepare it RAW? <br />

    • July 24, 2013 at 02:56

      I'm sure it is with raw chocolate cake, raw caramel, and raw fudge. Maybe someday I will revamp it raw ;).

  58. March 11, 2014 at 19:08

    Have you ever tried making this with maple syrup instead of maple sugar? What are your thoughts about maple sugar?

    • March 11, 2014 at 21:59

      No, because I only made it once, and now I am a raw vegan so I don't bake anymore. I do not think maple syrup would work, it would create extra moisture. It is essentially the same thing as maple sugar, just not dried, so why not just use the sugar?

  59. March 15, 2014 at 14:10

    This one Amy!! Oh my goodness....DROOL! I want to make my mom this one for her birthday party on Sunday. Could you be any more tallented? WOW!<br /><br />- Mandy @

    • March 17, 2014 at 02:00

      Awesome! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did :)!

  60. Anonymous
    March 17, 2014 at 01:47

    Hi! How does this store? Counter? Fridge?

    • March 17, 2014 at 01:55

      I would store it in the fridge and it keeps a week.

  61. September 15, 2014 at 19:41

    komşu romania anunturi gratuite den selamlar. tariflerinizi hep deniyor sizi takip ediyorum. tamam çok zaman başarim yok, ben ne yapti kötü oluyor. ama çok şey öğrendim siz. Romania dan anunturi gratuite sevgiler.

  62. October 21, 2014 at 21:21

    This looks so delicious and one that I will definitely try!!

    • October 21, 2014 at 22:45

      Thank you :)! I hope you do try it!

  63. November 11, 2014 at 02:53

    What can you do if you can't find maple extract? Totally making this for my nieces birthday!

    • November 11, 2014 at 04:09

      You can leave it out. This would make the perfect Birthday cake :)!

    • November 11, 2014 at 04:23

      thanks! already made your almond, banana cake for a birthday, and it was a huge hit! thanks for the amazing recipes. they are delicious.

    • November 11, 2014 at 04:31

      No problem :)! Awesome, so happy you are enjoying the recipes, I am happy to share!

  64. Jennifer
    November 8, 2015 at 13:09

    When I try to post this recipe on facebook the pictures of the cake are not among the available photos for the post. Do you know how to make them available? Recipes like this are very inspiring for people who don't normally eat vegan and so I want to share it! :)

    • November 8, 2015 at 13:39

      Sorry, I can not control that. But you can go to my Facebook page and share the link I shared last week with the photo of that cake. I uploaded that one to FB.

  65. Landa
    May 4, 2016 at 12:14

    How many calories

    • May 4, 2016 at 12:19

      I don't count calories, I believe that you can enjoy sweets in moderation without calorie counting.

  66. Emilie
    January 15, 2017 at 01:32

    Hi! I want to make this for a family gathering. My sister-in-law made it before and it was soooo good! I'm vegan but don't make a lot of decadent desserts, can you actually freeze this and thaw in the fridge? Thank you! :-)

    • January 15, 2017 at 14:13

      Yes you can freeze it, but it might not look quite as pretty after. It will still taste good though :)!

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