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Turkey Cookie Cake

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Friends and family will adore this simple Turkey Cake with made a sugar cookie base and frosted with vanilla buttercream. Follow this simple tutorial to make the most adorable Thanksgiving dessert.

Thanksgiving Turkey Cookie Cake

I will be the first to admit that coming up with adorable and themed desserts really is not my forte, but I even impressed myself when I first saw my finished Turkey Cake.

This simple yet elegant design can be replicated at home following this step-by-step tutorial. I made this cookie cake using my favorite easy sugar cookie, but this design can be used to decorate cakes, brownies or cookie bars too.

Close up of a cookie cake decorated with buttercream to look like a turkey

Tools You’ll Need

Preparing to Make and Decorate the Cookie Cake

Prepare a base. This is a 9-inch sugar cookie cake, but you could also try this with chocolate chip cookies or any number of options I suggested below. Prepare in a springform pan, and cool completely.

Prepare the buttercream. This is my easy vanilla buttercream recipe. It starts with cold butter, which makes it the perfect consistency for piping.

Divide and color the buttercream: I used 4 colors for this design, and in the recipe card you’ll find exactly how much of each frosting color you’ll need. To color the frosting, start with just a drop of gel color. They are highly concentrated, and it’s easy to add more color than to adjust after you’ve added too much. Here’s a full tutorial for you on how to color buttercream.

Fill the piping bags: Since the yellow and orange use the same size piping tip, I used a double bag method. I filled the piping bags individually with buttercream and then used a third bag fitted with the piping tip. For the yellow, orange and brown, I used a Wilton 1A.

Following the double bag method allows you to easily wash the tip between colors without having to disassemble the piping bag. If you need a further explanation, here’s a full tutorial on how to use a piping bag.

Great now you are ready to start decorating!

How to Decorate a Turkey Cake

I am terrible with making sure things are evenly spaced, so I made this quick template (linked above and in the recipe card) which you can print and cut, then place over the cake. The feathers end right near the head, but you could also go lower if you prefer.

Place the template over the cookie and put toothpicks are the marker spots. Then remove the template, cut out the turkey body, and secure it to the cookie with toothpicks.

Pipe the first row. Starting with the yellow, pipe dots of frosting around the outside edge of the cookie. Apply the frosting with consistent pressure for the same size circles and pull straight up. Use the toothpicks to help guide the number of circles between each toothpick so you can replicate it on the other side.

Then use an angled spatula or the back of a spoon, and about 1/2 of the way up, apply gentle pressure and pull and drag the frosting inwards towards the center of the cookie.

Overhead view of a cookie cake with a row of yellow frosting on the outside

Pipe the second row. Starting about halfway up the first row, repeat the process, piping dots of yellow frosting all the way around the circle and then use the angled spatula to pull inwards.

Overhead shot of a cookie cake with yellow buttercream pedal frosting technique

Pipe the second color. Repeat the above steps with two rows of the orange color, using the same size piping tip as the yellow.

Overhead view of a cookie cake with a rows of yellow and orange frosting to make turkey feathers

Pipe the third color. As you get closer to the center of the cookie, where the body will be, you may find that you need to adjust the placement of the paper template so you can pipe the design. For the red, I used the same, Wilton 1A. I only did 1 one of red, but you could fit 2 rows if you did a tighter design.

Pipe the turkey. I found it helpful to again place the paper template very gently over the last layer of red buttercream to see how big the head should be. I used the large piping tip (Ateco 806 or 808) to make the head and body and then used the angled spatula to flatten and smooth.

Add the details: To finish it off I placed the candy eyes, and used leftover red and orange frosting, with a size 5 piping tip to draw the beak, the wattle and the feet.

Close up of a cookie cake decorated with buttercream to look like a turkey

How to Tell When The Cookie Cake is Done Baking

Deciding when to remove the cookie cake from the oven makes all the difference. If you pull it too early the center will be so underdone, and you may even notice it collapses in the center. If the top is browning, cover it with foil halfway through baking.

Check the top of the cake, does it still look wet or dark under the top layer? It’s not done yet. It’s okay if the middle of your cake is slightly underdone, that is what gives it a chewy texture, but you don’t want to majority of the cake to be underbaked. The below images show the difference in the cookie cake baked for 30 vs 35 minutes. The top one was pulled at 30 minutes and is very underdone.

two halves of a cookie cake cut in half to show the inside

What if I Don’t Have a Springform Pan?

Springform pans are the easiest because you can remove the edges of the pan, making it that much easier to remove the cookie. However, a cake pan will work, but you’ll want to generously grease the bottom and sides of the pan with shortening, and also line the bottom with parchment paper to prevent sticking. You may need to run a knife around the outside edges to remove it.

Cookie Cake Alternatives

If cookie cakes aren’t your thing, you can use this on any type of cake.

A plated slice of cookie cake with yellow, orange and red frosting

How to Prepare Ahead of Time

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, you may find it easier to prepare a little bit in advance of serving.

  • Cookie Cakes (prep head): A freshly baked cookie cake will stay good for 3 days. If possible, make the cookie a day before decorating and serving.
  • Freezing Cookie Cakes: These will freeze well, so you can also prepare the cookie cake and freeze it for up to 1 month. Bake and cool, then wrap twice with plastic wrap and once more with aluminum foil. Thaw to room temperature before decorating.
  • Buttercream (prep ahead): A prepared buttercream can be refrigerated for 7 days. If preparing the buttercream in advance and storing it, I recommend not adding the gel colors, because the buttercream should be re-whipped before you use it. Keep stored in an airtight container and rebeat in the mixer for a minute or two until fluffy, then divide it out and color it.
  • Freezing buttercream: Buttercream can be frozen for up to 2 months. Place the buttercream in a freezer-friendly bag, and press it to the bottom of the bag, flatten and remove as much air as possible. Seal and freeze. Alternatively, you could use an airtight container. Thaw to room temperature, rebeat it in the mixer for a couple of minutes, then divide it out and color it.

How to Store

A finished and frosted cookie cake should be kept in an airtight container, such a cake carrier for best results. It can be kept at room temperature as long as it’s not too hot or humid. If you live in a warm climate, consider storing it in the refrigerator and removing it a couple of hours before serving. It’s best served at room temperature.

To freeze the prepared cake, flash freeze on a sheet tray until the buttercream is frozen, then transfer to a pan and double wrap in plastic wrap. Thaw overnight.

A cookie cake decorated with buttercream to look like a turkey on a plate surrounded with plates, napkin and utensils.

More Thanksgiving Dessert Ideas

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A cookie cake decorated with buttercream to look like a turkey on a plate surrounded with plates, napkin and utensils.

Turkey Cookie Cake Recipe

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 34 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 4 minutes
  • Yield: 10 servings

Description

Friends and family will adore this simple Turkey Cake with made a sugar cookie base and frosted with vanilla buttercream. Follow this simple tutorial to make the most adorable Thanksgiving dessert.

Ingredients

For the Cookie Cake

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups (285g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the Frosting

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, cold from the refrigerator
  • 2 1/2  cups (567g) powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 23 teaspoons (10-15ml) heavy whipping cream or milk

Instructions

For the Cookie Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Prepare a 9-inch springform by generously greasing the sides with shortening and lining the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Soften the butter in the microwave for 10-12 seconds. Combine the butter with the sugar and beat on medium speed until well creamed together.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Mix into the butter and sugar until the eggs are well beaten.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Slowly add into the dough and beat on medium-low speed until well combined and dough forms.
  5. Bake at 350° F 30-35 minutes. Cover the top of the pan with aluminum foil after 20 minutes of baking.  Allow the cookie to cool in the pan for 20 or so minutes and then remove the edges from the pan and cool completely.

For the Frosting

  1. Cut the butter into pieces, about 1 tablespoon size. Using the paddle attachment, whip the butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally, and beating until the butter is light and fluffy.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated into the butter then add the vanilla extract and heavy cream and mix to combine. Beat for about 60 seconds.
  3. Continuing beating on low until the ingredients start to mix together. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 3-5 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting.
  4. Divide the buttercream into 4 bowls and add gel colors one drop at a time until the desired color is reached. If you have leftover frosting, drop a spoonful in each bowl.  You’ll need:
    • 3/4 cup for yellow,
    • 1/2 cup for orange
    • 1/4 cup for red
    • 1/4 cup for brown
  5. Fill a large piping bag for each of the colors, without a piping tip and snip off the edges about 1 inch up. Using another piping bag, fit a large open round piping tip (Ateco 808) in the bottom, snip the bag above the bottom of the tip. When ready to pipe, you’ll drop one of the frosting bags into the other one fitted with the tip, and then clean in between colors.

Decorate

  1. Place the template over the cookie, and put toothpicks in the marker spots. Then remove the template, cut out the turkey body, and secure it to the cookie with toothpicks.
  2. Pipe the first row. Starting with the yellow, pipe dots of yellow color around the outside edge of the cookie. Then use the angled spatula, or the back of a spoon, and about 1/2 of the way up, apply gentle pressure and pull /drag inwards towards the center of the cookie. Repeat with a second row starting about halfway up the first row.
  3. Pipe the second color. Repeat the above steps with two rows of frosting for the second color using the Ateco 808 tip. 
  4. Pipe the third color following the same method as described above, two rows, but switch to a smaller tip, Ateco 804 or Wilton2A.
  5. Pipe the turkey. Used the large piping tip (Ateco 808) to make the head and body and then used the angled spatula to flatten and smooth. 
  6. Add candy eyes, and use leftover frosting to pipe the beak, wattle and feet. Use a piping bag with a size 5 piping tip for best results. 

Notes

  • See the blog post for further detailed instructions and step-by-step photos.
  • Template for 9-inch or Template for 8-inch Do not scale or shrink the templates when printing. The 9inch one will run off the page but that’s perfectly fine.
  • Storing: A freshly baked cookie cake will stay good for 3 days. If possible, make the cookie a day before decorating and serving. A finished and frosted cookie cake should be kept in an airtight container at r0om temperature. If humid or hot, storing in the refrigerator and remove it a couple of hours before serving. It’s best served at room temperature.
  • Freezing Cookie Cakes: These will freeze well, so you can also prepare the cookie cake and freeze it for up to 1 month. Bake and cool, then wrap twice with plastic wrap and once more with aluminum foil. Thaw to room temperature before decorating.
  • Additional instructions for preparing the buttercream in advance can be found in the blog post.
  • Check for doneness: Check the top of the cake, does it still look wet under the first layer? It’s not done yet. It’s okay if the middle of your cake is slightly underdone, that is what gives it a chewy texture, but you don’t want to majority of the cake to be underbaked.
Nutrition Information:
1 slice
715
59.6 g
200.4 mg
38.3 g
88.9 g
1 g
5.5 g
135.4 mg
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Turkey Cake, Cookie Cake, Thanksgiving Dessert

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