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11 Impressive Thanksgiving Cupcakes

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

This cupcake is a work of art, but it's still a cupcake underneath. All that fondant depicts a Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a fancy double tablecloth. The artist from Wild Cakes said,

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

Turkey Day 2009 Cupcakes

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

Turkey cupcake tutorial

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?

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15 Things You Might Not Know About Chewbacca
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images
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Even if you don't know the name Peter Mayhew, you surely know about Chewbacca—the seven-foot tall Wookiee he has played onscreen for over three decades. In honor of Mayhew’s birthday, here are 15 things you might not know about Han Solo's BFF.

1. HE WAS INSPIRED BY GEORGE LUCAS'S DOG.

The character of Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’s big, hairy Alaskan malamute, Indiana. According to Lucas, the dog would always sit in the passenger seat of his car like a copilot, and people would confuse the dog for an actual person. And in case you're wondering: yes, that same dog was also the inspiration behind the name of one of Lucas’s other creations, Indiana Jones.

2. HIS NAME IS OF RUSSIAN ORIGIN.

The name “Chewbacca” was derived from the Russian word Sobaka (собака), meaning “dog.” The term “Wookiee” came from voice actor Terry McGovern; when he was doing voiceover tracks for Lucas's directorial debut, THX 1138, McGovern randomly improvised the line, “I think I just ran over a Wookiee” during one of the sessions.

3. HE'S REALLY, REALLY OLD.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Chewbacca is 200 years old.

4. PETER MAYHEW'S HEIGHT HELPED HIM LAND THE ROLE.

Peter Mayhew
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Mayhew was chosen to play everyone’s favorite Wookiee primarily because of his tremendous height: He's 7 feet 3 inches tall.

5. HIS SUIT IS MADE FROM A MIX OF ANIMAL HAIRS, AND EVENTUALLY INCLUDED A COOLING SYSTEM.

For the original trilogy (and the infamous holiday special), the Chewbacca costume was made with a combination of real yak and rabbit hair knitted into a base of mohair. A slightly altered original Chewie costume was used in 1999's The Phantom Menace for the Wookiee senator character Yarua, and a new costume used during Episode III included a specially made water-cooling system so that Mayhew could wear the suit for long periods of time and not be overheated.

6. ONE OF STANLEY KUBRICK'S CLOSEST CREATORS DESIGNED THE COSTUME.

Chewbacca's costume
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To create the original costume for Chewbacca, Lucas hired legendary makeup supervisor Stuart Freeborn, who was recruited because of his work on the apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Freeborn had also previously worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove to effectively disguise Peter Sellers in each of his three roles in that film.) Freeborn would go on to supervise the creation of Yoda in The Empire Strike Back and Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.

Lucas originally wanted Freeborn’s costume for Chewie to be a combination of a monkey, a dog, and a cat. According to Freeborn, the biggest problem during production with the costume was with Mayhew’s eyes. The actor’s body heat in the mask caused his face to detach from the costume's eyes and made them look separate from the mask.

7. FINDING CHEWBACCA'S VOICE WAS BEN BURTT'S FIRST ASSIGNMENT.

The first sound effect that director George Lucas hired now-legendary sound designer Ben Burtt for on Star Wars was Chewbacca’s voice (this was all the way back during the script stage). During the year of preliminary sound recording, Burtt principally used the vocalization of a black bear named Tarik from Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California for Chewbacca. He would eventually synchronize those sounds with further walrus, lion, and badger vocalizations for the complete voice. The name of the language Chewbacca speaks came to be known in the Star Wars universe as “Shyriiwook.”

8. ROGER EBERT WAS NOT A FAN.

Roger Ebert was not a fan of the big guy. In his 1997 review of the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, Ebert basically called Chewbacca the worst character in the series. “This character was thrown into the first film as window dressing, was never thought through, and as a result has been saddled with one facial expression and one mournful yelp," the famed critic wrote. "Much more could have been done. How can you be a space pilot and not be able to communicate in any meaningful way? Does Han Solo really understand Chewie's monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes? Never mind.”

9. HE WAS ORIGINALLY MUCH MORE SCANTILY CLAD.

In the summary for Lucas’s second draft (dated January 28, 1975, when the film was called “Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars”), Chewbacca is described as “an eight-foot tall, savage-looking creature resembling a huge gray bushbaby-monkey with fierce ‘baboon’-like fangs. His large yellow eyes dominate a fur-covered face … [and] over his matted, furry body he wears two chrome bandoliers, a flak jacket painted in a bizarre camouflage pattern, brown cloth shorts, and little else.”

10. HIS DESIGN WAS BASED ON RALPH MCQUARRIE'S CONCEPT ART.

Chewbacca’s character design was based on concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas had originally given McQuarrie a photo of a lemur for inspiration, and McQuarrie proceeded to draw the character as a female—but Chewbacca was soon changed to a male. McQuarrie based his furry design on an illustration by artist John Schoenherr, which was commissioned for Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin’s short story “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Sharp-eyed Chewbacca fans will recognize that Schoenherr’s drawing even includes what resembles the Wookiee’s signature weapon, the Bowcaster.

11. HE WON A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.

Fans were angry for decades that Chewie didn’t receive a medal of valor like Luke and Han did at the end of A New Hope, so MTV gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. The medal was given to Mayhew—decked out in full costume—by Princess Leia herself, actress Carrie Fisher. His acceptance speech, made entirely in Wookiee grunts, lasted 16 seconds. When asked why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the first film, Lucas explained, “Medals really don’t mean much to Wookiees. They don’t really put too much credence in them. They have different kinds of ceremonies.”

12. HE HAS A FAMILY BACK HOME.

According to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, Chewbacca had a wife named Mallatobuck, a son named Lumpawaroo (a.k.a. “Lumpy”), and a father named Attichitcuk (aka “Itchy”). In the special, Chewie and Han visit the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day,” a celebration of the Wookiee home planet’s diverse ecosystem. The special featured appearances and musical numbers by Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur, and marked the first appearance of Boba Fett. Lucas hated the special so much that he limited its availability following its original airdate on November 17, 1978.

13. MAYHEW'S BIG FEET ARE WHAT KICKSTARTED HIS CAREER.

Mayhew’s path to playing Chewbacca began with a string of lucky breaks—and his big feet. A local London reporter was doing a story on people with big feet and happened to profile Mayhew. A movie producer saw the article and cast him—in an uncredited role—as Minoton the minotaur in the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of the makeup men on Sinbad was also working on the Wookiee costume with Stuart Freeborn for Star Wars and suggested to the producers that they screen test Mayhew. The rest is Wookiee history.

14. MAYHEW KEPT HIS DAY JOB WHILE SHOOTING STAR WARS.

Peter Mayhew
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During the shooting of Star Wars, Mayhew kept working his day job as a deputy head porter in a London hospital. Though he was let go because of his sudden varying shooting schedule at Elstree Studios, he was eventually hired back after production wrapped.

15. DARTH VADER COULD HAVE BEEN CHEWBACCA.

Darth Vader
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David Prowse, the 6’5” actor who ended up portraying Darth Vader—in costume only—originally turned down the role of Chewbacca.  When given the choice between portraying the two characters, Prowse said, “I turned down the role of Chewbacca at once. I know that people remember villains longer than heroes. At the time I didn’t know I’d be wearing a mask, and throughout production I thought Vader’s voice would be mine.”

Additional Sources: Star Wars DVD special features
The Making of Star Wars: The definitive Story Behind the Original Film, J.W. Rinzler

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