Why bring an apple or a pumpkin pie to Thanksgiving when you can bring the whole meal as dessert?
Here’s a creative take on the turkey tradition: bring the main dish to your dessert table. With a turkey-shaped Thanksgiving cake—complete with “stuffing,” “mashed potatoes,” “peas and carrots,” and “gravy”—you’ve upstaged paltry poultry.
This is a dessert that everyone will be thankful for. (Or you can keep Thanksgiving savory with your family, and sweeten things up with this dessert at Friendsgiving the next day.)
Here’s how to make it:
1. The base of the turkey:
The main section of the turkey is a two-layer, egg-shaped yellow cake, frosted with a can of store-bought chocolate frosting (and the same frosting between the two layers—see photo below showing the inside of the cake).
There are a few ways to get this egg shape:
- If you own an egg-shaped cake pan, you can make your own cake either from scratch or by using a mix.
- You can use a football-shaped cake pan if you have one and just trim the pointed edges before frosting the outside of the cake.
- Some people create the egg shape by layering two small rectangular, oval, or oblong cakes and sculpting the ends with a long serrated knife (like a bread knife) to produce the desired shape. (If you really want your inner sculptor to go wild, you can add a third cake and taper from the top center to create the egg-shaped dome, or you can create height with more frosting.)
- The cake in the photo was made the lazy way, using an unfrosted, egg-shaped, two-layer cake from the local bakery (for under $10). The real fun with this dessert is not in baking the base but in decorating the whole enchilada.
- Frosting: The outer frosting, as well as the frosting between the two cake layers, was made with 2 cans of store-bought chocolate frosting.
2. Turkey legs:
Each turkey leg is made from only three things:
- an ice cream cone (the ones with the pointy bottom, not the flat bottom)
- a mini muffin where a scoop of ice cream would normally go
- a large marshmallow at the end (representing those fancy paper crowns that some people place on the end of a turkey leg).
- Frost the turkey legs with the canned frosting, and attach to the turkey base with more frosting (resting the turkey leg on the plate or platter for support).
3. Turkey wings:
The wings can be made a few ways:
- You can buy two almond horns (crescent-shaped pastry filled with almond paste) from a bakery, break them in half, and stack the two halves together to create the look of a turkey wing. (The wings in the photo were made this way.)
- You could also use any regular (unfrosted) doughnut cut in half and stacked to create the same look. You might have to taper the edges carefully with a serrated knife.
- Two stacked candy bars—like a Milky Way bar—could also work if you taper the edges to look like the shape of a turkey wing.
- You can also do wonders with two Devil Dogs or two Twinkies if you are crafty with the carving knife.
- Two small jelly rolls tapered at the edges would also work.
- Frost the wings with the canned frosting, and attach to the base with more frosting (resting the turkey wings on the plate or platter for support).
- The stuffing in the photo was made from cubed devil’s food cake and cubed pound cake, with dried cranberries (about 2 ozs.) added in to finish the look.
- If you are carving off some of the yellow cake to help shape your base cake, you can get the yellow cubed cake for the stuffing from the trimmings so that there is no wasted cake.
- You can get the cubed stuffing look by cubing plain cupcakes, muffins, or cornbread bought at your local supermarket bakery.
- In the photo above, the “stuffing” is made from Entenmann’s Mini Pound Cakes and one small supermarket bakery-brand chocolate pound cake (the lazy route, but the fun is in the decorating). You can serve the leftover slices of cake to anyone who might just want plain cake.
- If you love to bake, you can make your own yellow cake and chocolate cake from scratch or a mix.
5. Mashed potatoes:
This is easy:
- Use one can of vanilla frosting for the potatoes and shape them with a butter knife and a spoon. (Let your inner sculptor go wild.)
- For the pats of butter, just place a small amount of frosting in a custard cup, add a few drops of yellow food coloring, and voila: butter!
6. Peas and carrots:
- You can use a mixture of green and orange jelly beans, gum drops, or M&M’s.
- You can separate out the green and orange candies from Mike and Ike (original flavors) or JujyFruits.
- In place of peas and carrots, you can try orange, lemon yellow, and lime green jelly fruit slices (the ones that look like sliced citrus sections).
- In the photo above, the “vegetable” was made with Jelly Belly “Peas and Carrots” (how easy was that?), but those are not available anymore.
This one’s super easy. Take a gravy boat and fill it with store-bought butterscotch sauce from a bottle or jar.
Turkey cake base: 2 cake mix boxes @ $1.79 each + 6 eggs @ $3.59/dozen + 1 cup vegetable oil for the mix @ $.80/cup = $6.18 (or approximately $10 if bought unfrosted at bakery)
Turkey wings and legs: 2 almond horns or doughnuts @ $2 each + 2 empty ice cream cones @ $.35 each + 2 mini muffins @ $.40 each = $5.50
Turkey base frosting: 2 cans chocolate frosting @ $2.09/can = $4.18
2 grocery store cakes (chocolate and vanilla) @ $3.99 each = $7.98 (used about one-third of each and served the rest, so price divided by 3 = $2.66)
Dried cranberries or Ocean Spray Craisins: 2 ozs. @ $.42/oz = $.84
1 can vanilla frosting @ $2.09/can = $2.09
Peas and carrots:
About 1 lb. of jelly beans @ $5/lb = $5
1 bottle or jar of butterscotch sauce @ $3.19/bottle = $3.19
Total cost of turkey cake with “trimmings”: $29.64 (Round to $30. The total cost sounds high, but the cake serves 20 people, lowering the per-serving cost.)
Each cake mix box makes 10 servings, so 2 boxes = 20 servings
Turkey cake cost = $1.50/serving
This is a Thanksgiving dessert that people will gobble up!
(All prices are from Peapod by Stop&Shop except for jelly bean prices, which are an estimate based on prices at online candy stores. Your local prices may differ.)