Given my penchant for mismatched socks, funky earrings, and Mickey Mouse, it usually doesn’t surprise folks to learn I was a preschool and kindergarten teacher for many years before coming to King Arthur Flour. I love watching the uniqueness and curiosity of kids, and finding new ways to help them discover the world around them.
Being an artsy-crafty kind of gal, too, I must admit that project time was one of my favorite times of day. Macaroni necklaces, stained glass (plastic, really) windows, sugar art, and giant murals made me as happy, as the children and I still have a few of those masterpieces tucked away for safekeeping.
One of my favorite yearly projects has always been the hand-print turkey. What better way to capture the uniqueness of each child than with the hands they use everyday to explore and learn and share? Sure, it was messy, sure someone always wore paint home on hands, heads, and hair, but that’s part of the turkey’s charm to me.
When Halley on our King Arthur Web team, and Bill on the marketing team asked that we feature a turkey cake in the blog for this holiday season, I wasn’t sure if they wanted a cake made to look like a turkey, or a cake made of actual turkey and stuffing. I researched both, and neither was really sending me anywhere. Then I came across some photos of turkey hand-print cookies, and the Turkey Cake was born.
Your favorite cake, a little colored buttercream, some willingness to get messy, and ta-da, the traditional paper turkey takes on a whole new (sweet) life! Won’t Grammy and Papa be thrilled to see their favorite little chefs present this for dessert on the big day?
Let’s get started.
First, bake and frost your favorite cake. You can do round layers, or square, or even a 9″ x 13″ . Size and shape don’t matter, as long as you have room for your turkeys.
Place the cake in the freezer for about 20 minutes before beginning, to firm up the icing.
I’m so lucky to have such great friends in the kitchen. Fellow blogger Amy and her three munchkins came in to help out on this project. HI guys!
Measure out about 2 additional cups of icing. Decide how many colors you want to have. We decided to have red, orange, yellow, and brown for our little birds.
Color individual bowls of icing with gel food coloring. Using gel rather than liquid will keep the icing from getting too thin.
We decided we’d like to add some candy corn accents to our cake, too. Note to self : put candy out AFTER icing is made. We nearly ran out from all the nibbling going on.
How’s that dark brown comin’ along there?
Once all of your colors are ready, retrieve your cake from the freezer and let it sit for just a minute or two. Next, paint a thin layer of icing on each finger and the palm of the hand, just like you would have done in school.
You can do all one color, or you can vary the “feathers” by painting each finger a different color.
Press your hand gently onto the top or side of the cake, pressing just enough to make a full hand print, but not hard enough to squash the cake.
Little bakers may need someone to help out with this step.
Hey buddy, you are busted! You’re supposed to wash your hands afterwards!
Oooops! Looks like I’m caught in the act, too. Just be sure all of your printing is done before the licking begins.
Add details of feathers, beaks, and feet by finger painting with more icing.
Different fingers pressed along the upper rim of the cake make great stripes. Try polka dots, zig-zags… whatever suits your fancy.
One more turkey on top ought to finish out this cake.
But wait! If you still have room, you can add candy corn decorations or fondant pumpkins to the base of your cake.
I love this cake because it really is a family project that everyone from baby Bob to Great Aunt Sally can take part in. No one needs to say “I can’t pipe a flower” or “I’m not a good decorator.” If you can lift a finger (pun intended!) then ANYONE can decorate this cake.
Oh, hi Frank! Wow, that’s a big hand. I guess I need to make a bigger cake next year so you can play too!
There’s no printable direction sheet for this project, but do check out the recipes for some of our favorite cakes and icings.