Months ago my Awesome Niece, Natalie, asked me if I could make her a birthday cake that looked like a roasted (or roast?) turkey.
Of course I said yes, because Awesome Nieces tend to have Awesome Aunts.
I let my brain quietly work on the cake for the first few months, when I was nowhere near her actual birthday and didn’t really have to focus on it, and then, when July rolled around, I brought the cake idea to the front room in my brain – the one with the big windows and the skylight – so I could really focus on it. I imagined how it should look from all angles, and I deconstructed it in my head so I could figure out how to put it together in real life.
And then I did it.
I started with three boxes (yeah, boxes, I know) of Red Velvet cake mix. I baked five 8” square cakes from all of that. I let them cool, and then I started to build.
I layered three of the cakes on a foil edged roast-serving plate (because of course) and trimmed two of the corners so the whole thing would fit nicely into the plate. I think I trimmed across the neck end of the body. Then I loosely wrapped everything and that was it for one day.
The next day I took the other two square pieces and cut triangles from opposite corners. These became the wings and legs.
I haven’t done a fun cake project like this in a while. The burst pipe (see some previous posts) in January and all the demolition and rebuilding that has consumed us for all the months to follow kind of derailed our cooking/baking/doing anything creative in the kitchen mojo for a while. For my kids’ birthdays I did really simple layer cakes with uneventful decorating. As I worked on Natalie’s cake in a kitchen that finally had enough counter space for such a project, I felt twinges of guilt for not trying harder to do better cakes for Alex and Julia, eyes-rolling self-forgiveness for not doing those better cakes because at the time there was nowhere to DO cakes and no, Jayne, you’re not a bad mother, and, finally, giggly excitement because making silly cakes is FUN.
I covered the entire red velvet turkey body with cream cheese frosting (from a can) and then pulled out a package of fondant and my box of food colorings. I got a sort of roasted-brown-skin color (brown, with some yellow added) and after looking at online pictures of roasted chickens and turkeys, I told myself that this was close enough already!
I cut out an oval and draped it over the body, trimming extra sections of fondant. And I cut out other pieces of the fondant and draped them over the wing and leg triangles, pressing and folding the extra fondant to cover all the cake and make the triangles kind of resemble the body parts they were meant to be.
Oh, yeah, and I made a sort of shallow cavity where the stuffing would go. Hee hee hee. Turkey cake!
And there it is. The basic form of my turkey cake. This one clearly spent much of it’s life lying on its chest, which is why it’s kind of flat like, oh, like a cake, instead of proudly arched up like your typical Thanksgiving bird.
Now, I don’t know how you roast your turkey or chicken, but sometimes I like to scatter cut up onions, carrots, and potatoes around the bird. They roast in the juices and brown a bit and when you remove them and the turkey from the pan, the remaining fats and flavors help make a wonderful gravy.
I didn’t make any onions, but I did make small potatoes an a chopped up carrot.
I’m particularly proud of the carrots.
And in case you were worried, I wasn’t going for perfectly real looking food here. It’s more…representational.
I also made stuffing, but I confess the celery was too bright a green, and when I tried to tone it down with some brown (because it was cooked and so of course it would no longer be a bright color), I used too much brown and it looks like I managed to cook the turkey just fine but burn the stuffing.
I put the little white fondant-paper booties on the legs because the points of those particular triangles just didn’t want to be the bone ends of turkey legs. They wanted to be triangles. They also didn’t want to remain upright, so I had to prop them up with potatoes and carrots.
That’s one end, here’s the other:
Oh! And I’m also pleased with myself about the salt and pepper on that lovely crispy skin.
The pepper is black colored decorating sugar that I happened to have left from decorating projects for holidays past.
The salt is crushed snowflake decorations. I didn’t have any pure white non-melting decorating sugar, and I didn’t have time to run out to the store, so I improvised. Nice big chunks of salt!
Oh, yeah, and to get that pretty shine? I just painted the surface of the fondant with water. It doesn’t stay wet, but it keeps the shine.
And that was the cake. I brought it down to Natalie, and my sister was working from home that day, so she was there as well. Both of them liked the cake. Yay!
Happy Turkey Day, Natalie!