Sunday, January 20, 2008

How to Make a Train Cake

Bug's 3rd birthday party was yesterday - the theme was trains. Well, Elmo and trains, but that was cause it was easy to find paper plates and plastic bags with Elmo on them. (It was a train birthday party, not a Thomas birthday party, and apparently you can't have a party if there are no licensed characters involved.)

Anyways, one of my creative outlets is making spiffy birthday cakes for my kids. So I decided to try a train cake this year. After finding inspiration from the insanely tiny picture here, I bought my cake mix & mini-loaf plans and was ready to go!

Two boxes of cake mix (I prefer Duncan Hines as opposed to Betty Crocker; they taste the same but I find the DH cakes much easier to build with.) was enough to bake 8 mini-loafs of cake. Remembering to grease the pans would have been a good idea. Thankfully, I had 5 decent loafs, and parts of the other 3 to work with.

My plan was to have a 5-car train: engine, tinder, flatcar, boxcar, and caboose. After some trimming & leveling with my gigantic kitchen knife, I assembled the skeleton of the train as seen here:

Next up was to do the base layer of frosting. The main reason for doing this is because it will glue all the pieces together, as well as cover up any mistakes that may have occured (a crack here, a chipped corner there). I do make my own frosting - powdered sugar, a glop of plain crisco, a dash of vanilla (use clear if you need pure white frosting; otherwise it doesn't matter), and enough milk to make it all congeal together when you beat it with your mixer. More sugar will make it stiffer; more milk will thin it out. Tip: If you have slightly runny frosting, it will have a nice smooth glaze when it dries and sets - a plus if you plan on covering your cake with fondant frosting or drawing a picture on top.

(sorry about the quality of the photo, but it's the only one I took!)

Finally, the colored frosting!! After checking which dyes I actually had (food coloring just doesn't do it for me - I like much more vibrant colors), I essentially settled on a rainbow cake. It was incredibly tedious to keep rinsing the bowl & tools every time I switched colors, but the end result was worth it!

The wheels are mini-oreos and the "tinder" is crushed mini-oreos. The "logs" in the flatcar are mini Crunch bars.

Bug LOVED the cake, and couldn't wait to eat it. He claimed the front part of the locomotive - so he could have both cookies and marshmallow. And frosting. LOVED the frosting. Come to think of it... I don't think he actually ate any of the cake!!
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