Thanksgiving Turkey and Acorn Sugar Cookies

Baking date: November 19, 2016

Each year, I try and let my colleagues know how thankful I am for them by making sweet treats to share. This year was no different. In order to save myself some time, I used refrigerated sugar cookie dough, that I rolled to make cut-out cookies.

This shortcut does come with some compromises. The scratch sugar cookie recipe I usually make includes a step that allows the cookies to set and hold their shape. You can probably add the step of refrigerating the cookies for 30 minutes once they are cut out to help them set with any recipe or prepared dough, but I skipped that step in the interest of time. And here’s what some of the “round shapes” looked like once they cooked. To be honest, I didn’t leave much room between each on the cookie sheet:


Some would say “what’s wrong with a giant cookie?”, and to them I respond “absolutely nothing because it still tastes great!”

I used round cut outs in two sizes to make turkey cookies. They were decorated using royal icing dyed brown for the main body of the turkey, golden yellow for the beak and legs, and black for the dots of eyeballs. Candy corns were added for the feathers, M&Ms were added for the eyes (although in the future, I won’t use the brown ones because you can’t see the dots for eyes piped on), and multi-colored jimmies were sprinkled on. Here’s how the turkeys turned out:


For the acorns, they didn’t hold their cut-out shape well either. So I used the brown icing for the top and then dipped the still wet icing in chocolate jimmies for texture. Once that dried, I darkened the brown, piped an outline of the rest of the acorn to give it more shape, and filled that in with the remaining brown icing.


With shapes that need more definition, I’ll definitely add in the 30 minute refrigeration before cooking in the future (regardless of the recipe or any shortcut I use). For the rounds that became turkeys, its not as important that they are perfectly round.

It’s always nice to remind those you work with how thankful you are to have them as colleagues!


Turkey Cupcakes

Baking date: November 17 & 18, 2015

This year, our larger work group decided to have a Thanksgiving pot luck lunch. People signed up to bring entrees, sides, and desserts. I was on dessert detail — no surprise there, right?

I had seen a cupcake decorated like a turkey that I wanted to try and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Here’s the inspiration design:


I made a chocolate cupcake because I thought that would taste best with the Reese’s Pieces. The frosting I used was a milk chocolate.

A couple of notes about this recipe and modifications I made:

  • The inspiration cupcake called for 8 brown Reese’s Pieces around the outer edge. When I did the math — Sister Frances Miriam would be so proud! — that was 192 brown Reese’s Pieces. When I emptied the bag, it was clear I wouldn’t have that many. So I started with six around the outer edge, five in the middle, and four on the inside. As I got toward the last turkeys, I modified the outer edge to be the orange colored Reese’s Pieces because I had the most of those. I actually had to use brown M&Ms for the last turkey because I ran out of brown Reese’s Pieces.IMG_0595
  • If you are making these for a party where you may not know everyone, remember there may be people with peanut allergies (I checked ahead of time). To be safe, use M&Ms for the turkey feathers to avoid problems with peanut allergies if you aren’t familiar with the guests on the list.
  • I found the mini-red M&M didn’t stick well like in the inspiration recipe, so even though I had purchased mini M&Ms, I didn’t add that element at all. I don’t think it took anything away from the final product.
  • I didn’t use candy melts for the beak — I used left over royal icing from pumpkin cookies and dipped them three times to get the “beak” portion fully covered.IMG_0582
  • I used white frosting as the background for the mini M&M eyeballs because it was one less step in the process (no melting of candy).
  • I added some multi-colored jimmies for additional visual interest.

These were the full trays of cupcakes:

And here’s the cupcake up close:


The pot luck was great. So many wonderful foods, shared with wonderful colleagues. Very thankful I work with so many amazing people.


Thanksgiving Surprise Cake

Baking date: November 26, 2014

This year, we were able to spend Thanksgiving with my family (we usually travel to visit my in-laws). I offered to make dessert and had found this inspiration cake I wanted to try, called peek-a-boo pumpkin pound cake:

Pumpkin surprise cake

So, I used a pumpkin bread mix, adding in copper icing coloring to get the real pumpkin color. Pumpkin bread is more brown without the food coloring.

This recipe calls for you to bake the pumpkin bread about 10 minutes less than the recipe calls for. Here’s what I found following this method — not cooking the the bread all the way causes the middle to collapse, and makes the cutting out of the shape very hard because the bread wasn’t solid.

Also, you need a small cookie cutter to get the shape – I didn’t have a pumpkin cookie cutter small enough, so I hand cut each pumpkin piece.

I found another recipe technique for this type of surprise cake, that calls for baking the bread all the way through, freezing the sliced/cut out pieces and then baking those inside another cake. I plan to try this for a surprise Christmas cake I’m going to make.

One thing I should have done was not use all the batter from the pound cake that surrounds the surprise cake. It took so long to bake all the way through that the top was too hard.

I iced my cake using leftover icing from my pumpkin pie cookies, instead of the brown butter icing recommended in the recipe.

So here’s how my cake turned out. You can see my pumpkin slices definitely were a little different in shape:



So, I didn’t nail it. But I learned some things along the way. I’ll take those lessons with me when I make my next surprise cake. And hopefully that one will nail it!

Thanksgiving Goodies for My Colleagues

Baking date: November 23, 2014

Each year, I bring treats to my colleagues at Thanksgiving to let them know how thankful I am to work with them. There are more than 600 employees in my organization, so I focus on the immediate groups I work with, which includes about 40+ folks. I look for recipes that make a large batch of whatever.

I used shortbread as the base. Here’s the recipe:

2 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, 2 sticks softened butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar. Cream brown sugar and butter. Mix dry ingredients together; add to creamed butter/sugar until well incorporated. Roll out batter and cut cookies to desired shape. Bake for 25 minutes at 250 degrees.

First I made turkey cookies. I used a drinking glass as the cookie cutter to get the round shape. I then frosted them with chocolate icing, added 4 candy corns per cookie, sprinkled multi-colored jimmies just under the candy corns, added M&Ms for eyes with frosting piped on for the eyeballs, and piped on a beak and feet using vanilla icing dyed golden yellow. Here’s how they turned out:

Baker’s note: you have to go through the candy corns, and pick out the good ones as not all of them have the yellow/white/orange color.  Also, make sure you turn the m on the M&M face down.

The next cookie I made used the same base recipe, but I added 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice to the dry mix. I sifted it twice to make sure the pumpkin pie spice was well incorporated.

I was inspired by this picture:

Inspiration Cookie

Inspiration Cookie

So, here are my observations about this cookie as I made it myself:

  • pumpkin pies are not that smooth, and my icing would not accurately mimic the inspiration cookie
  • mixing that right pumpkin color is not as easy as it seems. It took me modifying copper icing color with black, which still didn’t give me the pumpkin orange I was looking for
  • The “crust” works great with vanilla dyed with ivory icing color

So, with all of this, here is how my cookies turned out:

I packed my goodies for the trip to the office:

Ultimately, it’s about taste. My colleagues were grateful for the treats, and thought they tasted (and looked) awesome. And in the end, I was thankful for that!



Tastes Like Turkey

Baking Date: November 24, 2012

One of the moms from my son’s Travel/All Star baseball team is also the proprietor of a local farm. Grape Creek Farm is an ambitious undertaking, considering she is also responsible for 3 very active kids and 1 husband.

She makes soaps and cheeses from goat’s milk, and this year raised Heritage Turkeys for Thanksgiving.  She also shares the (funny) adventures of her farm life via her Facebook page – go give her like!

The experience of raising turkeys — including chasing them around the farm after a number of escape attempts — resulted in her not wanting to eat any turkey this Thanksgiving.  So, I decided she could have fake turkey — and not the tofu variety!

I made round sugar cookies and then iced them with chocolate frosting.  I added candy corns at the top, M&Ms with a dab of black icing for eyes, piped on yellow icing for the beaks and feet and added multi-colored jimmies.  I made her a big sugar cookie turkey with two rows of candy corn feathers, and added yellow icing piped around the entire edge of the cookie.

The cookies for her kids and husband were smaller in circumference, with one row of candy corn feathers.

The rest of the turkeys will be going to our football watching get-together today.  I used some of the extra candy corns to create flower cookies.

Happy Thanksgiving Meredith – glad you finally got to taste some “turkey”!

Gobble These Up

Baking Date: November 23, 2010

These are simply rolled sugar cookies cut out in a circle.  I use chocolate frosting on the cookie, then add on the candy corns.  Next you place M&Ms on for the eyes (M&M side down) – I use red, yellow, orange and green.  You pipe on a yellow beak and the feet.  You add a black icing dot for the eyeballs.  Finally, I sprinkle some multi-colored jimmies between the candy corns and M&Ms.

This is a recipe from the Betty Crocker site.