Thanksgiving Pull-apart Turkey Cake Tutorial

It’s almost Turkey Day, which means it’s time to create some fun, turkey-themed treats. For a simple and festive holiday craft, perfect for school functions or kids’ holiday parties, try this pull-apart turkey cake, brought to you by Sharon Zambito (sugarshack) of SugarEd Productions.


#2 PME piping tip
Buttercream frosting, white
Cake board
Cake dummy, any size
Clip art or coloring book image
Food-safe paper
Glace icing, black (instructions below)
Unfrosted cupcakes in liners (amount depends on size of image you are using)

Airbrush colors:
- turquoise
- sky blue
- orange
- egg and lemon yellow
- black
- dusty rose
- brown (for face and body)
- warm brown (for arms)
- purple made by mixing pink with sky blue
- ivory (for sign)


To make glace icing:


2 cups powdered sugar
Corn syrup
Super black gel

Throw a couple of cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Mix in equal parts water and corn syrup, about 1 Tbs of each at a time, blending with a whisk, until you get a smooth but very stiff icing. I used super black gel to tint it.



This pull-apart cupcake cake is a great vehicle to practice on. It comes together quickly and if you mess up, who cares? It’s just cupcakes!

Find a clip art or coloring book page that you like. Enlarge it to the size you need and print it out. I had to print it out on 4 pages to make it big enough. Tape the pieces together in alignment and cut it out. (Note: You really should transfer the pattern onto a food-safe paper like parchment.)

Use the paper template to arrange your cupcakes in the desired shape on the cake board.  Secure each one down to the board with a smear of buttercream under the liner.

I had some spaces after I arranged the cupcakes. I stuck some rice crispy treat pieces into those holes to take up some room and support the buttercream I was going to put on top. I wanted to prevent sink holes in the top of the icing. Each cupcake also got a little crumb coat of icing on top just to seal it for freshness.

Ice the whole top of the cupcakes and use your favorite smoothing method. I used the Viva paper towel method and fondant smoother. This is good practice for smoothing, but don’t stress over it! If it’s not perfect, IT IS OK. I promise! It’s just cupcakes!

Now we are going to use the pin prick method. Put the template over some Styrofoam (food-safe dummy here) and use a toothpick to prick through the paper along the entire outline of the image and all the details. That will create raised bumps on the back of the paper that will serve as an impression mat on the icing.

Put the template in place and gently smooth over the entire surface with your hands. Be sure to press along the outer edges so that you get an outer outline of the graphic in the icing. I took a photo after I did this, but the camera could not pick up the impression marks on the white icing, so please trust me when I tell you that it leaves you a nice outline to follow for your piping.

I also used the same method to imprint the message I wanted to pipe on the sign.

Now let’s talk about piping the outline. For this, I highly suggest you make some glace icing for two reasons: 1) it’s easier to pipe a nice outline because of the glace’s elasticity, and 2) it is going to secure itself to the icing and not blow away when you airbrush the sections of the image. A regular buttercream piped outline is going to blow off the cake when you airbrush. (Been there, done that. :lol: ) If you do not want to bother with making glace icing, you can surely airbrush the entire image first, and then pipe the outline on top of that last. I have done it both ways.

Remember when you are piping outlines to not drag the tip across the cake. Hold the tip above the surface of the cake and let the icing drop onto the cake as you apply pressure to the bag, guiding it by moving the piping bag along as you go. This will give you a very smooth and fluid outline.

Now you just got some great practice on outlining, which can be used both for images on cakes and also for decorated cookies. Yay for practice!



If you have an airbrush, this is a great cake to practice coloring on, because you basically are just going to fill in each section of the image with airbrush color (like a coloring book). It gives you practice on fine control of outlines, following lines, and varying the width of the spray.

So here you see the first sections of blue color airbrushed in.

And now some more sections.



And here is a super close up. Do you see that little bit of over spray on the outer portion of the black outline? Do you see a few impression holes peaking out from behind the black lines? See a few spots where the icing is not super duper smooth? Do we care? No way! Are we  freaked out? No way! IT IS OK! It’s just cupcakes!



To make the eyes I piped fat dots of black and then white icing, let it crust, and patted it down with the tip of my finger.

If you do not have an airbrush, or do not want to do it that way, you can use any other easy fill-in technique for this cake, such as run sugar, star tip fill-in or piped buttercream fill-in. Run sugar uses the same glace icing in a flood consistency to create the image.

Comments (3)


Sharon, You make this sound and appear so easy. I am going to give it a try, since it's just cupcakes but I'm sure mine will not look like yours, but I guess it's practice that makes perfect! If it works out at least OK theh I'll have chance to make another before Thanksgiving. I love the inspiration artists such as yourself give to the amateurs like myself. Bob