How to Make a Turkey Cake

I had seen this cake done before by other cake decorators and I have been wanting to try it for a while. So this year I had enough time to make one for our Thanksgiving dinner.

Turkey and Dressing Cake

13X9 Oval cake pan
9 inch heart cake pan
Double batch of cake mix – (I used the White Almond Sour Cream cake. The recipe link is a double batch already)
Double batch of buttercream.   (tint 6 cups of the frosting  a medium brown). My favorite BC is Sugar Shack’s Buttercream. I do NOT recommend using store bought frosting for this cake. It is very difficult to get a smooth finish with store bought frosting.
10 store bought Rice Krispy Treats (for wings and drumsticks)
Brown Food Coloring
2 Tablespoons of corn syrup
2 Tablespoons of vodka
Large rectangular cake boards- doubled and covered in press in seal wrap
Paper towels
Roasting Pan – I used the largest size for this cake
Romaine Lettuce
Small travel hairspray bottle (new – only to be used for cakes)

How to construct the cake:
Prep the pan, using Homemade Cake Release (recipe found at the end of my Go to Chocolate Cake post) or grease and flour the pans. Fill the heart cake pan 2/3 full with batter. Place the rest of the batter in the oval cake pan. Bake the oval and heart cakes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely. You can freeze the cakes before carving to reduce the crumbs. I did not have time to chill my cakes in advance. You can see in my Turkey Cake before Carvingpics that it still worked out OK.  Level the oval cake so that it has a flat top surface.  Do not level the heart cake. The hump on the top of the cake will add to the natural shape of the turkey.

Before constructing the cake, trim your cake board so that it fits into the your roasting ban. My roasting pan was quite deep so I taped several cake boards together and placed them in the base to lift the cake to the desired height. 
Place a small amount of buttercream on the board and place the oval cake cut side down. Place a layer of buttercream on the top of the oval cake and place the heart cake in your desired location.  Carve the large piece of excess cake from the oval. Do this in large chunks and save the cake scraps. You will use them later for the stuffing.Trimmed Turkey Cake

At the pointed end of the heart cake, cut out a small cavity to represent the turkey opening. Shape the cake to simulate the shape of the turkey. Be sure to carve along the sides so that the two layers don’t look like two distinct cakes.  It does not need to be perfect because you can adjust the shape using extra buttercream

Crumb coat the cake and  leave it to set up. Crumb coating a cake is done by thinning down a portion of icing and rough icing the cake to seal in all of the crumbs. This makes icing the cake later much easier and gives you a crumb free final coat. While the crumb coat is setting up, make the drumsticks and the wings. 

Use 2 1/2 Rice Kripsy Treats (RKT) for each drum stick.  To shape the drumsticks, take 2 RKTs and smashed them together with your hands then roll them into the shape of a fat cone. Take 1/2 of another RKT and shaped it as a Rice Krispy Treat Drumsticksskinny log. Press your thumb into the bottom of the log to give it a stubby end. Then squish the log onto the cone, and using your fingers smooth the seam together so it makes a single drum stick.  For the wings, take 1 1/2 rice krispy treats and shape into a longer cone shape. Make the tail of the cone a bit longer and pointier than you would for the drumsticks. Because the wings have sharper angles, press the edges of the wings between your two palms to get a sharper edge.Crumbcoated Turkey Cake

Place the wings and drumsticks along the sides of your crumbcoated turkey cake. Crumb coat the wings and the drumsticks so that the lines between the legs and wings are smooth with the turkey. Do not use too  much frosting on the legs and wings or you will loose their definition.

Frost the turkey cake (including legs and wings) in the brown frostings. Notice I was not careful with getting perfectly smooth frosting on my cake. Since my heart cake had not risen as high as I had hoped, I built up the frosting to make the hump on the turkey’s back.
Once the cake is frosted, let the buttercream crust. This means you let the frosting setup so that it is not sticky to the touch. While the cake is crusting, cut the cake scraps you saved from earlier into small square to resemble stufRough Frosted Turkey Cakefing. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake them for 10 minutes at 325 degrees or until they have bit more color to them .

Now that the frosting has crusted, to smooth the icing you will need your paper towels. Place the paper towel on the cake, textured side to the cake. Rub your hand over the paper towel to smooth out the frosting. Rub the cake with a gentle pressure, enough to smooth out the creases but not to actually shift the icing. If you lift the paper towel and the frosting sticks then the frosting did not crust enough and you need to let it set longer. Crusting can take anywhere from 10 min to 30 min depending on your recipe, humidity etc. By placing the paper towel texture side down, it leaves an impression in the frosting that helps mimic the turkey skin.

Bottle to color turkey cake

Next you will want to color the turkey so it looks more realistic. Most people use an airbrush, however I do not own one so I had to improvise. Take a new small travel hair spray bottle and fill it about 1/2 full with vodka. Then add a significant amount of brown food coloring. Add however much food coloring you think you need and then add more:) Add corn syrup to the bottle until the bottle is about 3/4 full. Place the cap on the bottle and shake well to mix the ingredients. Spritz the cake on all sides until you reach the desired color and look. It doesn’t take very much of the corn syrup mixture to get the desired effect.  When you spritz the cake it has a tendency to go everywhere so I placed a cake board behind the cake as I spritzed it. You can see in the picture there is also a faint hint of color on the cake board. The board will be covered but I did use a dry paper towel to wipe off as much excess as I could.  The corn syrup vodka mixture will add both sheen and color to your cake. The corn syrup will also be slightly sticky and needs to dry.
Frosted Turkey CakeI left my cake in a cake box with paper towels over the top (not touching the cake) until we needed to leave.  Next wash the romaine lettuce leaves and place them on a kitchen towel (or paper towel). Dry the leaves VERY well. Place the turkey cake in the roasting pan. Trim the lettuce and place it gently around the cake to cover the cake board. Take the toasted cake scraps and sprinkle them in the cavity opening and around the turkey cake to add to the effect.


Deliver your turkey to the dinner table…oops I mean dessert table!

Turkey and Stuffing Cake

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  1. Yeah, you tried it! I turned out so good! Your tutorial is the best I’ve seen, too. Thanks for taking pictures of the process and sharing. I’m going to save remember this for next year.

  2. oops…I meant “IT turned out.” :o)

  3. Thanks Ari! It was really fun to do.

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