Chocolate Feathers are an easy way to add an elegant touch to any dessert! You can place them on cakes, cupcakes, tarts, and much more. Here I’ve put them on top of cinnamon spice cupcakes to make these gorgeous Chocolate Feather Thanksgiving Cupcakes.
My quest to save people from the mediocrity of pumpkin pie continues! I’m convinced there’s more to life (and Thanksgiving desserts) than just goopy orange pie, and I won’t stop until we have a ton of beautiful, delicious options to end our Thanksgiving feasts.
Earlier this week I brought you Cranberry Curd Almond Cake, and today, we’re talking about Thanksgiving Cupcakes! (You know, just like the pilgrims made in days of yore…)
The idea of cupcakes may not be so exciting on its own, but what sets these cupcakes apart, and what makes them worthy to close out Thanksgiving dinner, is the edible chocolate feather decoration on top!
I LOVE these chocolate feathers. As you can see in the video above, they’re very easy to make, and they look completely amazing. They’re beautiful, delicate, and glimmer and sparkle like crazy when you see them in person. They can be made days in advance, so all you’ll need to do on the day of is just stick them on top of a cupcake!
You’ll need just a few things to make these feathers: chocolate candy coating, a clean paintbrush dedicated to food use, and luster dust, which is optional but HIIIIIIGHLY recommended for making your feathers POP.
I recommend candy coating because regular chocolate can get soft and sticky at room temperature. You CAN use regular melted chocolate, definitely, but for peace of mind and maximum safety, I use candy coating whenever possible. The paintbrush doesn’t have to be anything fancy—I usually just buy mine from the craft store. Just make sure you only use it for food and not actual crafts!
As for the luster dust, I always get angry emails about it whenever I use it in recipes. Here’s the deal: some luster dust is edible and approved by the FDA, and some is simply “nontoxic” and is recommended for decorative use only. Just be smart and read labels! Edible luster dust might be difficult to find in regular stores, but it’s easily available online—like this collection from Global Sugar Art. If it’s STILL something you’re concerned with, just leave the chocolate feathers plain—they still look amazing! Or you can use white chocolate to add some contrasting colors and patterns on the feathers.
This idea is yet another one that I demonstrate in my Craftsy Cake Decorating Class. (wahoo!) In the class, I go in-depth on how to make them (much more so than you see in the 1-minute video above!) and I show how to use them to create this pretty peacock cake below.
If you’re interested in checking out the class, I actually recommend you wait a week, because there is going to be an AMAZING Black Friday sale! All of the classes will be $17.99 or less, from Thursday Nov. 24th – Monday, Nov. 28th, 2016. So while I would normally recommend you hop on over and buy now, because I love you and your wallets, I would encourage you to check out the class trailer now, but save your pennies for Thursday, when you can use this link to buy ANY class for super cheap!
One more bit of cupcake business! I’m sharing a recipe for spice cupcakes and cinnamon buttercream below, but honestly, we all know you’re just here for the feathers. So feel free to use your favorite cupcake/frosting recipe, or even go the box mix route to save some time and sanity.
- Chocolate Feathers
- 4 oz chocolate candy coating
- Clean, food-safe paintbrush
- Luster dust in assorted colors (optional)
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the chocolate candy coating in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it in 30-second increments, stirring after every 30 seconds to avoid overheating. Stir until melted and smooth.
- Decide how large you want your feathers to be. Dip the paintbrush in the melted coating and lightly sketch out the length of the feather, to give you a guideline.
- Dip the brush in chocolate and start making small brushstrokes out from the center of your guideline. Dip in the chocolate as often as necessary, using less pressure at the end of your strokes to create a feathered look. Once you've done the length of one side of the feather, repeat for the other side.
- One coat of chocolate will not be enough, so repeat this process several times, brushing over your earlier layers, until the chocolate is no longer translucent and is a thicker layer.
- To make them more realistic, while the chocolate is still wet, use a toothpick to scratch at the ends of the feathers to make them more ragged. You can also remove larger sections of feather to create the natural gaps that many feathers have.
- After you have made all of the feathers you need, transfer the remaining melted coating to a paper cone or plastic bag with a small hole snipped in the corner. Pipe a line of chocolate down the center of the feather, extending a bit from the end. Once all of the feathers have these lines, refrigerate the tray to set the chocolate, for about 10 minutes.
- To add some sparkle to your feathers, use a dry brush to brush luster dust over the feathers once the chocolate is set. Metallic colors like gold, silver, and copper look especially good.
- These feathers are very delicate, so they need to be handled with care! Remove them from the tray when they are fresh from the refrigerator—the cold chocolate will be more sturdy than room temperature chocolate. I find it easiest to lift up the parchment with one hand underneath, and with the other, run a metal spatula under the feather and lift it from the parchment that way.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 6 oz butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 3 fl oz pasteurized liquid egg whites
- 12 oz (3 cups) powdered sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 12 oz (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 TBSP vanilla extract
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a small bowl, and whisk them together. Set aside for a moment.
- Place the butter and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla extract.
- Turn the mixer speed to low and add about a third of the dry ingredients. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, add half of the buttermilk and mix it in. Add half the remaining drys, then the rest of the buttermilk, and finish with the remaining dry ingredients. Stop the mixer when just a few streaks of flour remain. Finish mixing by hand with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl well.
- Scoop the batter into 18 cupcake liners. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 F, until the tops spring back lightly when touched. Cool completely.
- Combine the whites, powdered sugar, and salt in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix everything together on low speed, until the sugar is moistened and no dry patches remain. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula, then turn the mixer to medium speed. Beat on medium for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, turn the mixer to medium-low and start adding the softened room temperature butter, 1-2 tablespoons at a time. Once all of the butter is incorporated, add the vanilla extract and cinnamon and mix it in. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides once more. Turn the speed to medium and beat the buttercream for 10 minutes. At the end, you’ll have a frosting with a wonderfully light and creamy texture. It can be used right away, or stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or the freezer for up to two months. If you have chilled the frosting, let it come to room temperature and then beat it for several minutes to smooth it out and restore its texture before using it.
- Fit a piping bag with a large open star tip, and fill it with cinnamon buttercream. Pipe a big dollop of frosting on top of each cupcake, and if desired, add a few gold sprinkles. Finish by gently place a chocolate feather on top of each cupcake.