April 18, 2004
Is My Blog Burning? Turtle Cake

Here we are at the third Is My Blog Burning? This time out - a cake walk - hosted by shiokadelicious.

Now I'm new to cooking, and certainly, I'm no expert on cakes. So I turned to a woman who's raised three children and run Girl Scout Troops for years and years - my mother-in-law, Rosalind McFall.

She of course, dug deep in her recipe box and gave me... someone else's recipe. I think she should be able to claim it as her own after 21 years, but she's pretty scrupulous about giving credit.

My original plan was to make this cake two different ways. The first is the original method, as copied down from the yellowing recipe card she'd written it on back in 1983.

This is the Turtle Cake recipe from "Ann Tharp - Xmas '83" as recorded and modifed by Rosalind McFall:

Turtle Cake
1 box German Chocolate Cake Mix - mix as directed
Melt 3/4 cup butter & 1/2 cup Eagle Brand Milk, add to cake mix
pour 1/2 of mix into a greased and floured 9x13 pan - Bake 20 min at 350 degrees.
While baking, melt 1 package caramels and remaining 1/2 Eagle milk in double boiler.
Cook cake - spread mix evenly over baked cake
spread rest of batter over caramels and bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Finish top with sifter powdered sugar. You may add 1/3 cup nuts to the top in desired.

Rosalind's comments - the nuts make the top of the cake look more interesting than just an unbroken sheet of white. A bag of caramels is about a pound - similar to the bags of caramels you see around Halloween. We couldn't find a one pound bag, so I bought two 9.5 oz. bags and snacked on the rest.

I tried this recipe, starting with a startling number of brand-name ingredients:

I have some ideas on how to personalize the recipe. I don't usually like recipes that rely on pre-processed goods like the box of cake mix, since you never know when they're going to change the recipe or how the final cake will be different if you can't find the exact brand of mix.

Also, when I think of "turtles", I think of those gooey pecan/caramel/chocolate clusters that Fannie May and Fannie Farmer used to sell before they thoughtlessly closed all their stores (editorial comment ends here).

I may give a from scratch version a whirl before the day is out, but I don't think I'm going to have time. I'll post the from scratch recipe and result later on. For now enjoy the original.

Sometimes people ask - why do you bother with trying from scratch recipes? Why do you bake? Why not just buy the finished goods at the store?

To those people I can only offer this explanation:

It's all about licking the mixing bowls clean, baby!

The cake as made was a big hit. I did something to it that was apparently unthinkable, but that yielded very nice results - once it's cooled completely, refrigerate the cake. The gooey caramel will firm up a bit and the sweetness will be cut just a bit by the cold. It's a delicious cake anyway you slice it.

One note - I find a number of recipes similar to the original on the Internet, some even mentioning the Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk. This is clearly a recipe that's been around for a while and that continues to be popular.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at April 18, 2004 12:27 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

can you believe I've never eaten a turtle cake before? but oh, I must get my hands on a piece now... caramel baked into a cake... yum!
as for lickin' the bowls... but that's the reason why we bake isn't it? ; )

Posted by Renee on April 18, 2004 at 8:36 AM

Fannie May and Fannie Farmer have closed there stores? Since when? That's not possible!

Your comment on the bowl-licking is funny: as I was doing the same last night with my cake-batter-bowl I reflected on the fact that I first got interested in cooking (well baking) because my sister insisted that licking the bowl was the cook's sole right! Darn those older sisters...

Posted by Meg in Paris on April 18, 2004 at 10:21 AM

The Fannies have closed all their stores as part of the sale of the brand. Also they closed the West Side factory that produced the chocolates for decades. It's very, very sad. We bought $100 of chocolates the last week they were in business.

Posted by Barrett on April 18, 2004 at 2:44 PM

I am secretly (not anymore!) happy that my husband doesn't like licking the bowl clean as much as I do. I spent a good 5 minutes today getting every last bit of raw cake batter from the bowl as soon as the cake went in the oven. It's the best part of cake baking.

I've never heard of turtle cake before - is there some obvious reason that those clusters are called turtles, or is it etymologically obscure?

Posted by on April 18, 2004 at 3:27 PM

Sorry, that's me above forgetting to fill in my name....

Posted by Meg on April 18, 2004 at 3:35 PM

The original turtles to my mind are the pecan caramel clusters coated in chocolate. They kind of look like little turtles. I assume that's how they got their name. It's also why I think this cake needs some pecans in it to be a "true" turtle cake. Next time out I'll put them in the middle layer.

Posted by Barrett on April 18, 2004 at 4:44 PM

Oh. My. This cake ROCKS! I loved the Fanny Farmer turtle candies and can't believe there's a cake just like it! As for licking the bowls clean, oh yeah I'm guilty, I even lick the mixing beaters clean as an extra super secret treat.

Posted by Deb on April 19, 2004 at 9:45 AM

This is my wife's favorite cake from childhood. I did a fairly credible job according to her. I doubt it could ever be as good as her mom made when Rebecca was 7, but what ever is?

Posted by Barrett on April 19, 2004 at 2:31 PM
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