Gluten-Free Realistic Turkey Cake

Gluten-Free Turkey? Isn’t turkey already gluten-free? Oh wait, you said gluten-free turkey cake? What even is that? Well, you might know about the hit show Nailed It! on Netflix. Their 2018 Holiday special included a turkey cake – a cake shaped into a realistic turkey form. A cake so realistic that you’ll have to do a double take when you cut into it and you see buttercream instead of well…meat. Thankfully, a partnership with Hungry Harry’s helped make me bring this Nailed It! (semi) success to my home for the holidays!

an image from the Netflix show "Nailed It" featuring a cake shaped like a turkey.
Netflix.com Nailed It! “Holiday 2018”

Nailed It! Realistic Turkey Cake

It’s true Jacques, “it look difficult” – and I did panic, but that was part of the fun! I didn’t follow a recipe (besides just making the cake), just the instructions from Nailed It! – bake some cakes (several of them, for days), use buttercream frosting, carve the cake, and cover it in fondant! Simple, right? It’s not easy, and it’s time consuming – but this gluten-free turkey cake is totally worth it, and totally delicious.

Once I got the idea for this cake after Nailed It!, I went to the internet to see if there were any real instructions for this cake. I watched an entire video (and you should too because it’s hilarious) about it on How To Cake It. While I ended up doing it a completely different way, I learned so much from her videos! I ended up using her fondant coloring (more on that later).

I mean just look at those fondant potatoes! And she even made edible twine to tie the legs together. But I realized that I’m not a cake pro, and ain’t nobody got time to make fondant potatoes. I continued on my deep-dive internet search, and I found a frosted version of the turkey cake that pooped out candy corn (hard pass). I decided to just take my knowledge, head to a cake decorating store, and pray for the best. And honestly, I knew that it would taste good even if it was a fail worthy enough for its own Netflix show.

Pinterest pin of gluten-free life-size turkey cake, a gluten-free cake shaped like a turkey

Hungry Harry’s Yellow Cake Mix

I started by baking as many Hungry Harry’s yellow cake mixes as possible. It’s super easy to order a 6 pack off of Amazon or the Hungry Harry’s website. I ended up baking two 10″, two 8″ and two 6″ cakes. Whatever I didn’t use for the cake body itself I knew that I would use for the wings and legs. I also just went bonkers and baked 5 bags of cake mixes and made assorted cupcakes for a neighborhood block party. Basically my house smelled like vanilla cupcakes for a week.

If you remember, I used this versatile yellow cake mix for Island Time Cupcakes, with a coconut rum twist!

Get 20% off your purchase on HungryHarrys.com through 11/28 with code GIVETHANKS20!

a gluten-free cake layered in butter cream with a bag of Hungry Harry's yellow cake mix in the background.

Forming The Realistic Turkey Cake Body

After I had made the two 10″, two 8 or 9″ and two 6″ cakes, I stacked everything but the 6″ cakes together using vegan buttercream. I really love my girlfriend Flippin’ Delicious’ vegan buttercream – as it’s dairy-free and easy to use making the stick vegan butter I already have in my fridge on the regular, and some vegan shortening (which makes for great frosting.

I did not soak this cake, but all the pros use this Amazon cake soaker for simple syrup to keep the cake moist.

carving the gluten-free layered cake to look like a turkey breast

After the four layers of cake were assembled, I took one of the 6″ cakes and split it for the turkey breasts. I set them on the top of the cake, with a small space in between to mimic the breastbone. I crumbled the other cake and used cake crumbles to smooth out the transition between layers and between the two breasts. I then took a knife and carved out the look of my cake. I tried to imagine what the cake would look like with a layer of fondant over it, and if it would seemingly look like a butterball. For my first attempt, I was really impressed.

Erica folding Satin Ice gluten-free dairy-free nut-free vegan fondant, mixing food gels to make the fondant brown

Using Gluten-Free Fondant

I was happy to find gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, nut-free fondant at my cake decorating store. I used Satin Ice Ivory Vanilla fondant for the entire turkey, including molding the thigh bones and carrots. Because the fondant is naturally white, I bought the gel colors that How To Cake It recommended – Chefmaster Liqua-Gel Food Coloring in Buckeye Brown, Golden Yellow, and Burgundy Wine. Looking for the perfect turkey “skin” color, I played around with these colors until I found a color that resembled cooked turkey…So much so that when we put the fondant layer on, non-GFBF said “that’s super gross.” I knew after that it had passed the turkey test.

a carved gluten-free cake, covered in brown fondant, to look like a turkey breast

To make the wings and drumsticks, I used the extra cake shavings, extra 6″ cake, and some cupcakes and crumbled them up into a bowl. I combined with So Delicious CocoWhip! to make a formed cake-pop – a meat-shaped cake pop. Next, I formed them into what looked like wings and drumsticks, hoping for more reality when they were covered in fondant turkey skin. I added white fondant shaped into a bone onto the end of the drumsticks. Netflix’s Nailed It! used fondant and modeling chocolate for this.

After forming, you can attach the realistic turkey cake appendages using dowels or toothpicks, but remember before you serve them to guests!

shaped gluten-free cake into turkey drumsticks and wings, covered in fondant

Decorating Your Turkey Platter

If you have endless amounts of time and perhaps an unlimited amount of fondant, go bonkers over setting the plate for this turkey. I made a few carrots just to illustrate what you can do to really take this cake to the next level. Behind the scenes deets – I made fondant potatoes but they ended up just looking like fondant turds, so I left them off. Use green food gel to make fondant asparagus spears and use scissors to make realistic stems. I used matcha tea powder to make these green carrot tops! Make Brussels sprouts, leeks, squash, stuffing, or whatever you think would look good on this platter.

A Hungry Harry's Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix bag next to a gluten-free turkey cake

Cutting the Realistic Turkey Cake

I’m actually not a fan of fondant – or at least eating fondant. I sliced directly into the turkey breast itself, like how I would carve it for Thanksgiving. I tried to cut down far enough to get a buttercream layer in each serving of cake. I know you’ll probably ask me how many servings this is and the truth is that I have no idea. If each bag of Hungry Harry’s makes about 18 cupcakes. This turkey is probably made from 72 cupcakes. And writing that makes me think that I ate a LOT of cupcakes this week.

Remember, you can get 20% off your purchase on HungryHarrys.com through 11/28 with code GIVETHANKS20!

A Hungry Harry's gluten-free yellow cake mix on a table with a gluten-free cake shaped like a holiday turkey on a platter, and a slice removed from the cake

This post is sponsored by Hungry Harry’s – a paid sponsor of Celiac and the Beast. I just love their food-allergy-friendly mixes and what they stand for as a brand. Everyone should be able to enjoy baked goods!

Get 20% off your purchase on HungryHarrys.com through 11/28 with code GIVETHANKS20!

A gluten-free cake shaped like a holiday turkey on a platter

Hungry Harry’s Giveaway

Enter to win a Hungry Harry’s giveaway with Celiac and the Beast! This prize pack is perfect for the holidays! Thanks again to Hungry Harry’s for this great opportunity!

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