Looking for a gourmet cheesecake? Try this turtle cheesecake! It’s layered with caramel, chocolate ganache, and pecans throughout. No water bath required! Recipe includes a how-to video!
A Gourmet Cheesecake Recipe
A close cousin to my salted caramel cheesecake, this decadent turtle cheesecake is *the* dessert to make if you are trying to impress dinner guests. It’s gorgeous, it’s rich, and it’s most definitely impressive.
Why you’ll love my recipe:
- Captures all the elements of classic Turtle candies: pecan infused crust, thick ripple of chocolate and caramel throughout, and of course more caramel, chocolate, and pecans on top.
- No water bath required! Like all of my cheesecake recipes (I have more than 30 now!), this turtle cheesecake is made WITHOUT a water bath. Don’t worry though, I include lots of tips for preventing cracks!
- Can be made a few days in advance and also freezes well!
- The perfect way to cap off an evening, especially after enjoying something equally gourmet like garlic butter shrimp or beef ragu.
This recipe is so much fun despite being a bit messy and involved. The end result is 100% worth the effort though, and I can’t wait for you to try it 🤩
What You Need
Despite being an elaborate and gourmet dessert, this turtle cheesecake requires just 12 ingredients. That’s not too bad, considering my turtle cookies require the same amount!
- Cream cheese. You must use full-fat, block-style cream cheese for this recipe. Low-fat or spreadable cream cheese will prevent your turtle cheesecake from setting up properly.
- Sour cream. I love adding sour cream to my cheesecakes; it adds depth of flavor and that signature cheesecake tang.
- Brown sugar. We’ll add light brown sugar to the crust (which I always do with my graham cracker crust), and we’ll also add a bit to the cheesecake itself. This adds a subtle flavor that goes SO well with the caramel and pecans!
- Caramel Sauce. You can use store bought caramel sauce (usually sold with the ice cream toppings) or use my homemade caramel sauce, which is what I prefer. You’ll dirty a few more bowls if you make the caramel from scratch, but it’s so worth it!
- Chocolate. While you could use chocolate chips, I prefer to make my chocolate ganache with couverture chocolate or a chopped baking bar. I like to use semisweet or dark chocolate to cut the richness of the caramel; milk chocolate would likely be too sweet.
SAM’S TIP: Toast your pecans! It’s easy to do and really enhances their flavor. Need a quick tutorial? Check out my post on how to toast pecans.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
Tips for Preventing Cracks
Cracks aren’t too much of a concern here, since we will be covering the top of our turtle cheesecake; however, the perfectionist in me (and many of you!) can’t help but want a smooth, crack-free surface. Here’s how to achieve that!
- Press the crust high up the sides of the pan. This is the #1 tip I can give you! Doing this will allow your crust to shrink with the cheesecake as it cools, which is a very common reason for cracks.
- Use room temperature ingredients. This will allow your ingredients to combine more easily and prevent over-mixing.
- Do not over-mix. Over-mixing can cause your cheesecake to puff up during baking, then shrink (and crack) while it cools.
- Go easy on the eggs. Mixing the eggs too much can cause a curdled, eggy tasting cheesecake that puffs in the oven and sinks in on itself. To prevent this, lightly mix each egg before adding it, add the eggs one at a time, and mix until just combined after each addition.
- Cool slowly. Turn off your oven, crack the door, and let the cheesecake remain inside for 1 hour. This will slow down the cooling process instead of immediately bringing the hot cheesecake out into the room temperature air.
These are all tricks that I use in every single one of my cheesecakes and you can use them for any cheesecake you bake.
How to Make Turtle Cheesecake
- Microwave the heavy cream and chocolate for 25 seconds, stir, then microwave for another 25 seconds.
- Whisk together until smooth, then set aside to cool.
- Stir together the graham cracker crumbs, chopped pecans, and brown sugar until combined, then add the melted butter and stir until everything is moistened.
- Firmly press the crust mixture into the bottom and high up the sides of a 9″ springform pan, then set aside.
- Beat the cream cheese and sugars together on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
- Stir in the sour cream and vanilla on low speed until combined.
- Add the eggs one at a time, lightly beating each egg before adding and mixing until just combined after each addition.
- Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is combined, then pour ⅓ of the batter in your prepared crust.
- Drizzling half of the caramel sauce over top, then repeat with half of the chocolate ripple.
- Pour half of the remaining cheesecake batter evenly overtop.
- Drizzle the remaining caramel and chocolate over that cheesecake layer.
- Add the last layer of cheesecake batter and smooth the top with a spatula. Place in a 325F (165C) oven and bake for 50-55 minutes.
Cooling & Decorating
- Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, then transfer to the fridge to chill for at least 6 hours.
- Drizzle caramel sauce and ganache over the top of the cooled cheesecake, then scatter pecans evenly overtop. Let the cheesecake chill in the fridge for 15 minutes before slicing
SAM’S TIP: Run your knife under hot water, dry it off, and then slice! Do this between each cut and you will have gorgeous cheesecake slices.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’ve ever had turtle candy (a pecan/caramel/chocolate nut cluster) then you know it looks a bit like a turtle. This turtle cheesecake mimics all the flavors of that candy, hence the name!
You could try making this turtle cheesecake with gluten free graham crackers, but I haven’t had much luck with them in the past. If you are successful, I’d love to know what brand you use!
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
- ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
- 2 oz (57 g) chopped chocolate see note
- 1 ½ cups (170 g) graham cracker crumbs
- ⅓ cup (40 g) finely chopped pecans
- 3 Tablespoons light brown sugar firmly packed
- 7 Tablespoons (98 g) salted butter melted
- ⅓ cup caramel sauce
- 1 oz chopped chocolate see note
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- ¾ cup (90 g) pecans mix of chopped and halved
For the chocolate ripple
- Prepare chocolate ripple first (so it has time to cool) by combining heavy cream and chocolate in a medium-sized microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave on high for 25 seconds. Stir well and return to microwave for another 25 seconds. Whisk until smooth and set aside while you prepare the crust and filling.¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream, 2 oz (57 g) chopped chocolate
For the crust
- In a medium-sized bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, finely chopped pecans, and brown sugar until combined.1 ½ cups (170 g) graham cracker crumbs, ⅓ cup (40 g) finely chopped pecans, 3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
- Add melted butter and stir until all crumbs are moistened.7 Tablespoons (98 g) salted butter
- Press mixture evenly and firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9” springform pan. Set aside.
For the cheesecake
- Preheat oven to 325F (165C).
- In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, combine cream cheese and sugars. Beat on medium speed until smooth, creamy, and lump free.24 oz (680 g) full-fat cream cheese, ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar, ¼ cup (50 g) light brown sugar
- Add sour cream and vanilla extract and stir on low speed until combined.½ cup (120 g) sour cream, ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a separate dish, lightly beat one egg. Add to the cheesecake batter, stirring briefly on low speed until just combined. Repeat with remaining eggs, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated.3 large eggs
- Pour approximately a third of the cheesecake batter into the prepared crust. Drizzle half of caramel sauce over cheesecake layer followed by half of the chocolate ripple (this will not cover all of the cheesecake batter, this is fine). Pour another third of the cheesecake batter evenly overtop. Drizzle remaining half of caramel sauce over cheesecake, followed by remaining half of chocolate ripple. Top with the remaining cheesecake batter.¼ cup caramel sauce, Ganache
- Place the pan on the center rack of your preheated oven. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the cheesecake is almost set (center will be jiggly and edges should be set and may puff slightly).
- Remove from oven and cool until almost room temperature (alternatively, to help reduce risk of cracks, turn off oven, crack the door, and allow it to sit for 1 hour). Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight before topping and serving.
- Once cheesecake is chilled, prepare your toppings. Make ganache by combining chocolate and heavy cream in a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 25 seconds and stir well. If not yet smooth, microwave again and whisk until smooth. Set aside.1 oz chopped chocolate, 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- Drizzle caramel sauce and prepared ganache over cheesecake. Scatter pecans overtop.⅓ cup caramel sauce, ¾ cup (90 g) pecans
- For easy slicing, chill cheesecake in refrigerator for 15 minutes to allow toppings to set.
- Once cheesecake has chilled completely, remove springform ring, slice and serve.
Chocolate for Ripple & ToppingI prefer to use semisweet or dark chocolate. You may use a chopped baking bar or use couverture chocolate. Chocolate chips are not my preference but will work in a pinch.
StoringReturn ring to pan and cover with foil. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Cheesecake may also be tightly wrapped and frozen.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.