Thanksgiving is a time for traditional foods, but there's no reason you can't celebrate with cupcakes! These cupcakes are already traditional in two ways: they either taste like traditional Thanksgiving foods or they are decorated with traditional holiday imagery. We've got both kinds for you here today.
1. Pilgrim Cupcakes
We know the Pilgrim hat with a buckle on the front is just a myth, but the image is so ingrained in the American psyche that it has become an iconic symbol for Thanksgiving, second only to the turkey. Tonya Staab took that image to cupcakes by covering marshmallows with melted chocolate. Set the marshmallow on a cookie before the chocolate cools to make a Pilgrim hat! You'll find complete decorating instructions at her site.
2. Cornucopia Cupcakes
Liz at Hoosier Homemade has a tip for Pilgrim hats -use a Rollo peanut butter cup on a cookie! I also like the cornucopia cupcakes that use a Bugle snack for the horn of plenty and Runts fruit candy for the "plenty." She has video instructions to help you out.
3. Cranberry Cupcakes
Aside from the juice, most people only think of cranberries at Thanksgiving, and only eat them out of tradition. With the possible exception of Christmas, do you ever eat cranberry sauce any other time of the year? You can skip the sauce completely and still keep the cranberry tradition alive by incorporating them in a sweet yummy dessert! The recipe for the White Chocolate Cranberry Cupcakes shown here comes from Michelle at Culinography. You'll find lots of variations and recipe links in a cranberry cupcake roundup at Slush.
4. Sweet Potatoes
The Cupcake Queen at 52 Cupcakes used a recipe from Martha Stewart to make sweet potato cupcakes with toasted marshmallows on top! Yes, there's sweet potatoes in them, but the cinnamon and nutmeg are a bit reminiscent of pumpkin pie and other familiar fall recipes. The toasted marshmallow on top make them extra-traditional -and tasty!
5. Pumpkin Pie
The Impossible Pumpkin Pie Cupcake recipe came about because the author at Baking Bites wanted a way to make delicious pumpkin pie portable. As she explains, "impossible pie" recipes involve baking a cake that stays moist in the middle and forms a crust on the outside, so the textural effect is like eating a pie. But it's a cupcake, so you can take it with you! These are topped with whipped cream. By the way, while you're at Baking Bites, you may as well check out the Thanksgiving Menu for Bacon Lovers.
6. Thanksgiving Dinner
Before you read further, be advised that this cupcake is not a sweet dessert treat. It is an entree that looks like a cupcake. Celine Willard & Michelle Andre of fêtette call them Thanksgiving Plate Cakelettes. The "cake" is a layer of turkey meatloaf and a layer of stuffing, the "frosting" is mashed potatoes, garnished with a dash of cranberry sauce and drizzled with gravy. You'll find complete instructions for making these at the website. It kind of reminds me of my grandmother's recipe for using up Thanksgiving leftovers: she would layer split cornbread, turkey, and a sauce made with leftover gravy into a dish that we called "turkey shortcake."
7. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
On the other hand, you can make sweet dessert cupcakes that look like Thanksgiving feast dishes. These mashed potato and gravy cupcakes are really cupcakes decorated with white frosting, caramel sauce "gravy," and a yellow Starburst candy for the pat of butter.
8. The Whole Table
The client who ordered this cupcake mentioned that the recipient of loved potatoes... thus the 2 varieties! The orange things in the back were supposed be carrots (though I do wish I had thought of adding a dish of cranberries!) Keep in mind; the top of this cupcake is less than 3" across, so the details are not as refined as they would be on a larger cake!
If you'd like to take a look at those larger cakes, you'll find a sampling in the Wild Cakes gallery.
You thought from the title of this post that it would be a list of cupcakes with turkeys on top, right? There are plenty of those. The problem is that not many of us have the skills to create a professional-looking turkey on a cupcake, and you can see many misguided efforts at Cake Wrecks. However, I found a few bakers willing to share techniques that non-professionals can use to make turkey cupcakes.
9. White Turkeys
When a non-professional tries to make the traditional brown turkeys out of frosting, there's the risk that they will end up looking like ...poop. One way around this is to create white turkeys, which is the kind of turkey most of us will be eating anyway. Cat from Sugar Daze Cupcakes made these turkeys in 2009 for her son's class. The frosting is vanilla/cream cheese flavor and the tails were pre-made from stiff royal frosting. Even if you don't have a steady hand with the icing, they'll still look good to eat! Image by Flickr user Sugar Daze (f/k/a LittleMissCupcakeParis).
10. Nutter Butter Turkeys
Kristin Ausk of Meringue Bake Shop posted a tutorial for making these turkeys with Nutter Butter cookies and Fruit Roll-ups. The decorations are simple enough that children can put them together, if you assemble all the right ingredients. The instructions cover both regular size and mini cupcakes! Image by Flickr user kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop).
11. Peanut Butter Cup Turkeys
Another way to make good-looking turkey shapes is with cookies and peanut butter cups. Loralee Lewis has complete instructions for putting these turkeys together. No, the pipe cleaners are not edible, but aren't they cute?