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Thanksgiving Turkey Cake

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is this week!!!! Since I am a pie novice, of course I wanted to make a cake to celebrate T-Day. I was inspired by the turkey cake Baked by Dan made on one of his Food Network livestreams. This cute little turkey cake is made with colorful swirled pumpkin cake layers, and is covered in milk chocolate ganache. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “pumpkin, and chocolate??” Trust me on this one, it’s a surprisingly delicious combination. The recipe and tutorial can be found below:

Pumpkin Cake Batter:

  • 3 1/4 cup (416 grams) all purpose flour
  • 3 cups (600 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp (13 grams) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 grams) salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter or 2 sticks (226 grams), room temperature
  • 2 tsp. (9 grams) vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup egg whites (183 grams) – about 5 large egg whites; I use egg whites from the carton to avoid wasting egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (I used canned pumpkin for this)
  • yellow, orange, and red food coloring

Milk Chocolate Ganache:

  • 23 oz. (652 grams) milk chocolate chips (I use Hershey’s)
  • 1 cup + 1 tsp (230 grams) heavy cream

Additional Decorations:

  • red, orange and yellow fondant (I use the Satin Ice brand – I think it tastes best of all the premade fondant!)
  • 1 set of jumbo eye sprinkles, or eyes made with black and white fondant
  • piping bag
  • kitchen scale (for ganache)

Instructions:

The milk chocolate ganache needs a few hours to firm up before you can you cover the cake, so I like to make it in advance (usually the night before)! Note that if you want to use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, you will need to use more cream (weight ratio of dark chocolate to heavy cream is 2:1, milk chocolate is 3:1)

To make the ganache,  place chocolate chips or chopped chocolate into a bowl. In a separate bowl, heat heavy cream at a medium heat until it just begins to bubble (watch very carefully, heavy cream can bubble over in the blink of an eye!!). Pour over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for about 2 minutes without touching it, then stir until fully incorporated. If there are still lumps of chocolate, heat the bowl for 15 seconds and then stir again; continue until no lumps remain. Once the mixture is nice and smooth, place plastic wrap over the top of the ganache, and let it sit overnight.

The fondant accents also need to be made in advance, so they can dry. Roll out colored fondant to be 1/4 of an inch thick, and cut out feather shaped pieces (mine looked like giant tear drops) that are about 4 inches long. Use circle cutters to make cartoon fondant eyes, and shape a beak, two turkey feet, and a gobble. Set aside to dry.

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Next, prepare the pumpkin cake layers. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line four 7″ round pans.

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.

Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and pumpkin puree, and mix at a low speed until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Divide batter between three bowls, coloring them yellow, orange, and red with gel food coloring. Add spoonfuls of batter into the pans, then tap them on the counter to flatten the batter. Swirl together using a butter knife (full tutorial on how to make swirled layers here).

Bake for 37-38 minutes for 7 inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers on a rack to finish cooling.

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To assemble the cake, cover cake layers with a generous layer of ganache, and stack vertically. Add a thick, even layer of ganache around the cake using an offset spatula. Smooth using a bench scraper. You can see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides here.

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Place remaining ganache into a piping back, and pipe wings half way up the sides of the cake. Next, add on the facial features to the front of the cake. Secure the feathers to the back of the cake, using additional tabs of ganache. Once the entire back fan of feathers is in place, trim remaining feathers and gently insert into the top of the cake neat the other feathers. I found the cutting a slit into the top of the cake with a small knife made this process much easier.

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As fun as this cake is to build, it’s even more fun to cut into!! The swirled layers contrast beautifully against the chocolate ganache, and the pumpkin / chocolate flavor combo is a real crowd pleaser. It’s perfect for kids, and the adults don’t seem to mind it either 🙂

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