Thanksgiving Turkey Cake
Whether this Thanksgiving centerpiece incites horror, amazement, or laughter when it’s served, it’s certain to evoke some kind of outburst. Warning: This dish is not recommended for people who require an inch of space between food groups. It’s a savory layer cake composed of an entire turkey dinner: ground turkey filling, mashed potato “icing,” with stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and more. Before you begin, you’ll need to make the mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sausage stuffing (although you can get away with using raw stuffing, since it will cook in the cake once it’s assembled), and gravy; the sweet potatoes can be made ahead as well. Rewarm everything except the cranberry sauce just prior to assembling the cake, so it’s all easy to spread.
This recipe was featured in our roundup of Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes, Traditional to Trippy.
See our Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide for more traditional recipes, plus tips, tricks, and expert advice for the big day.
For the turkey layers:
- Unsalted butter, for coating the pans
- 2 pounds ground turkey breast
- 1 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated on the small holes of a box grater
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
For the sweet potato layer:
- 1 pound sweet potatoes
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
- 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- Pinch ground mace or nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- About 5 cups or 1 recipe Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes (see Game Plan note), warm
- 1/2 cup cranberry sauce, chilled and excess liquid drained
- 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups pre-cooked sausage stuffing, warmed (preferred), or uncooked stuffing
- 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
- Gravy, for serving (optional)
To make the turkey layers:
1Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat 2 (8-inch) cake pans with butter; set aside.
2Place all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix, using clean hands, until combined (don’t squeeze or overwork). Divide the mixture evenly between the pans, spreading it to the edges and smoothing out the top. Bake until cooked through and the cakes begin to pull away from the edges of the pans, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven (but leave the oven on) and let cool for about 10 minutes. Using a paper towel, blot away any excess fat from the cake layers’ surface; set aside. (While the turkey cakes are cooking, make the sweet potatoes.)
To make the sweet potato layer:
1Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan with a tightfitting lid. Add enough water to reach just below the basket; bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and gently simmer.
2Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Once the water is simmering, place the cubes in the steamer basket, cover, and steam until the potatoes just give when pierced with a fork, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the steamer basket with the potatoes to a plate; set aside.
3Discard the water in the saucepan. Place the milk and butter in the saucepan and heat over low heat until the butter has melted. Turn off the heat, add the reserved sweet potatoes and the brown sugar, measured salt, and mace or nutmeg, and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired; keep warm.
1Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Run a knife around the edge of the turkey cakes. Unmold one of the turkey layers and place it bottom-side up on an overturned 8-inch cake pan or in an ovenproof serving dish. With a long knife or offset spatula, evenly spread 1 1/4 cups of the mashed potatoes over the top of the cake, leaving a 1/2 -inch border (keep the remaining potatoes warm).
2Using the back of a clean spoon, spread the cranberry sauce evenly over the mashed potatoes.
3Using your hands, gently pack the stuffing in an even layer over the cranberry sauce, using one hand to keep any stuffing from falling off the side. Press gently on the stuffing to make sure it adheres to the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.
4Evenly spread another 1 1/4 cups of the mashed potatoes over the stuffing (keep the remaining potatoes warm).
5Unmold the second turkey layer and place it bottom-side up on top of the mashed potatoes.
6Transfer the cake pan or serving dish with the partially assembled cake to a baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 30 to 40 minutes (an instant-read thermometer should register 165°F).
7Remove from the oven and set aside. Heat the oven to broil.
8With a long knife or offset spatula, evenly coat the outside (but not top) of the entire cake with the remaining mashed potatoes (you may have a little left over).
9With a clean long knife or offset spatula, evenly spread all of the sweet potatoes on top of the cake. Arrange the marshmallows across the top and gently press them into the sweet potatoes.
10Return the baking sheet with the assembled cake to the oven and broil until the marshmallows are golden, about 1 to 2 minutes (watch closely so the marshmallows don’t burn). Using two flat spatulas, carefully transfer the cake to a serving dish. Serve immediately with gravy, if desired.
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