These turtle brownies are perfect when you want a really decadent treat!
When I was in grade school, every December we’d anxiously await the “cookie plates” that various friends and neighbors would give each other during the holiday season.
One of my family’s favorites would come from the Brauker family — Barb made these incredible turtle brownies. One year, she included a recipe card with the cookie plate. It was the recipe for her turtle brownies!!
Years later, after my mom and Barb’s husband had both died of cancer, my dad married Barb. And that first Christmas after, I came home from college to find my dad sitting at the kitchen table, unwrapping caramels for Barb to make her turtle brownies — she’d planned to have a pan warm from the oven when I got there, but I arrived early and spoiled the plan (they were still good)!
Fast-forward another 25 years, and we were spending our first Christmas in La Paz, Mexico. As I was shopping at the local supermarket, a box of German Chocolate Cake Mix caught my eye. A trip to the candy aisle revealed caramels and chocolate chips (yes, in Mexico, chocolate chips are more often found with candy than with baking supplies). Walnuts, butter and evaporated milk were all staples that I routinely kept on board.
And so a new tradition was born. I took Turtle Brownies to the cruiser’s holiday potluck . . . and they were requested for an encore at the New Year’s Eve party. They’ve become a New Year’s tradition for us — giving away small plates of these rich treats to friends.
Here on The Boat Galley, I usually stay away from recipes that start with box mixes. But sometimes you’re in a location where you can get them and this is a very special treat — but I’ve also made them without the mix. And by the way, you can substitute any chocolate cake mix for the German Chocolate cake mix — it’ll taste a little different, but I’ve done it and it’s still good.
To make turtle brownies without the cake mix, I’ve simply made a batch of my favorite regular from-scratch brownies, baked half as in the recipe, added the caramel, nuts and chips and put the rest of the brownie batter over the top. This is also a good option if you don’t want to make a full 9″ x 13″ pan.
- 1 box German chocolate cake mix
- 1 (14-ounce) package caramels
- ⅔ cup evaporated milk (you can use a 5-ounce can, which is just slightly less)
- ¾ cup butter OR margarine
- 1 cup broken walnuts OR pecan OR macadamia nuts
- 2 cups (12 ounces) chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Unwrap caramels and place in a pan with half the evaporated milk. Melt over very low heat, stirring almost constantly to make sure it doesn’t scorch (you can also do this in a microwave on half power for about 2 minutes — check and stir after 1 minute). Set aside.
- At the same time, melt butter.
- Combine cake mix, remaining milk and butter with a spoon.
- Press half cake mixture in a greased 9″ x 13″ inch pan and bake for 6 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Remove from oven but don’t turn the oven off.
- Pour melted caramels evenly on top — don’t try to spread it around after you’ve poured it, it will just become a gloppy mess with the brownie layer underneath. It’s fine if it’s not perfectly even.
- Sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips over the top.
- Take remaining cake mix and spread over the top — you can either crumble it or take a 1″ section at a time and quickly press it between your hands then lay it over the top (I find the latter works better for me to get it evenly distributed). It’s fine if there are empty spaces.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. There’s no real test for doneness because of the caramel — you have to judge by eye. The brownie part should look dry and done.
- Cool and cut into bars — this is very rich, and generally 1″ or 1-1/2″ squares are a good size.
- Keep in an airtight container.
Want more great boat-friendly recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth? Check out The Boat Galley Cookbook!