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11 Impressive Thanksgiving Cupcakes

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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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Pop Culture
The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
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For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before being called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior in 1980 to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song, “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

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20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

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Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

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Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

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Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

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Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

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The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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