These beautiful sugar cookies are sure to be “gobble gobbled” at your Thanksgiving feast! This easy to follow tutorial, with video, will show you how much fun it is to decorate your own turkey sugar cookies!
Everybody loves the look of decorated cookies. They’re just fun! You have so many possible themes, and there is literally never a celebration when cookies aren’t appropriate. If you haven’t already started incorporating cookies into your Thanksgiving celebrations, now is definitely the time. A platter of these easy turkey sugar cookies decorated with buttercream frosting is a festive way to start! The best part is that you can make these as involved – or not – as you want. I’ll walk you through all the steps, I even made you a video, and we’ll flood the internet with cute turkey cookies. Let’s get started!
Materials to Make Turkey Sugar Cookies
What I love about this particular sugar cookie design is that you don’t even have to bake the cookies if you don’t want to! I mean, I do highly recommend it with one of my sugar cookie recipes, but if you’re super short on time and kitchen space, you don’t have to. Since all you need is a round(ish) cookie base, a slice and bake sugar cookie works very well. Some grocery stores also sell plain round sugar cookies near the bakery section, and that’s perfect too! All you need is a round sugar cookie thick enough to hold a little buttercream icing.
Speaking of buttercream icing, I use my classic American buttercream. It’s easy, crazy popular, and tastes fabulous. I halved the recipe to only make about 2 cups of frosting and got about 10 cookies out of it. If you’re decorating with kids, you might want a little extra. When my kids get into decorating projects they use a *lot* of frosting.
Don’t want to make the frosting? Buy canned at the store. The only thing you’ll need to do is color the white frosting red, yellow, and orange. You can use chocolate frosting for the turkey body. The detailing can either be done with black-colored frosting, or you can buy the “decorating gel” tubes sold at the store. As you can see in the video and some of the pictures, sprinkles work really well too.
Not edible materials you’ll need are minimal. You will need some piping bags and a small knife, spoon, or offset spatula. In the video, I use standard piping bags and a smaller tipless piping bag for details. It doesn’t matter which you use. All you need is something that makes it easy for you to pipe beads onto your cookie. This entire cookie is decorated with beads!
Creating the Cookie Shape
You don’t need a specialty cutter for these cookies! Hooray! We make the shape by cutting the sugar cookie dough in a circle and using a knife to cut off a little from the bottom. Cute off just enough to create a flat “base” for the cookie so it looks like your turkey is sitting.
If you are using pre-baked cookies, they should still be soft enough to allow you to cut off a bit.
Decorating Technique Tips
As I mentioned, we only use one technique for piping our frosting on the cookies. So all you need to do is focus on piping pretty beads and your cookies will be gorgeous! What do I mean by piping pretty beads? I’ll show you!
My first tip for piping pretty beads has to do with uniformity. For the prettiest feathers, you’ll want the beads to be about the same size. To achieve this, I like to count as I pipe. I’ll start piping, using the hand closest to the tip to guide and applying pressure with the hand at the back of the bag. Count 1,2, then stop applying pressure. Using this technique and a medium/light pressure, you’ll end up with perfectly sized beads!
Second, you want to try and keep the tops of the beads flat. If you apply pressure as you lift your bag away from your cookie, you’ll end up with peaks instead of beads. The way to avoid this is to stop applying pressure BEFORE you move your bag away from your bead. Then, with *no* pressure on the bag, twist the bag slightly to “cut off” the frosting, then remove it. You may still have a little peak, but it’s not a big deal. If the peaks happen in the feather beads you’ll flatten them anyway. And if you have a little peak in your turkey body, you can gently flatten it.
Finally, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the temperature of your frosting, especially if you live in a warm climate. If you find your frosting is getting too soft, put it in the refrigerator for 5 minutes and then continue working. You want the frosting to be easy to pipe, but when it gets too warm, it’s hard to create the pretty beads.
For my fellow visual learners, I created a video to walk you through the steps. It includes some of the above tips and a few more technique pointers:
I hope this tutorial inspires you, darlings! Happy decorating!
- Prepare your sugar cookies per the recipe or package instructions. Cut the dough into 3-inch rounds and use a butter knife or bench scraper to trim off the bottom of each cookie to create a flat bottom for your turkey design.
- Once the cookies are completely cooled, prepare your buttercream frosting. If you are using store-bought frosting, color it now. Gel colors work best for creating vibrant colors.
- Divide your frosting into 5 sections. You'll need just a little for the details, so only mix about 1/3 cup of black frosting. For a dozen cookies, you'll want about 1 1/4 cups of yellow frosting, 1 cup orange frosting, 2/3 cup red frosting, and 2/3 cup brown frosting. These are approximations. Actual amounts will vary.
- Pipe a row of beads around the outer round edge of your cookie. Use a small knife, offset spatula, or small spoon to pull in from the center of the bead to the center of the cookie.
- Starting halfway down your first set of feathers, pipe your next row of beads in orange. Use your spatula to create feathers, wiping the spatula clean as needed. If you are noticing buildup in the center of your cookie, scrape the excess frosting away.
- Repeat with the last row of feathers (red).
- Pipe the turkey's head and body by piping 1 small bead on top of one larger bead. Use sprinkles and your accent icing to pipe eyes, a beak, and the gobble. Heart sprinkles work great for making a pretty gobble!
- Enjoy your cookies! Cookies may be stored in an airtight container up to 2 days at room temperature, or a week in the refrigerator.
- Because these cookies are made with buttercream frosting, they cannot be shipped, and it's best if you store them in a single layer. Stacking will mess up your beautiful design.