This cake provides the wow factor for kids and adults alike. If you need a birthday cake for someone who likes trains, this cake is for you – it was quite the hit!
Difficulty: Labor intensive but worth it for a little one who loves trains
Grandmother Sarah’s Pound Cake (cooked in 5 mini loaf pans)
French Silk Frosting (for engine)
Buttercream Frosting (for train cars)
Cakes: Make Grandmother’s Pound Cake (or your favorite pound cake) batter. We used pound cake so it would be less flimsy and easier to work with than regular yellow cake. Spread batter into 5 greased mini loaf pans (5.75”x3.25”) and one cleaned out corn can (we used a can that held corn and sprayed it with Pam). Turn out onto cooling rack once the cakes have cooled for about 10 minutes.
Once the cakes have cooled, you’re ready to make your engine. Cut a rectangular sized chunk out of one of the cakes by cutting about halfway lengthwise and cutting down about halfway so that you still have the entire bottom portion of the cake but the top only has about 1/3 of its original part. You are going to place the cake baked in the corn can on its side in the place of the piece you cut out of this cake. You may want to cut the bottom part of the chunk in a curve so that the corn can part will nestle nicely into place. Use a dab of icing to secure the corn can cake in place. Then place the part you cut out of the cake on top of the remaining top at the back of the engine. A dab of frosting will help this stay in place.
Now your train cars and engine are ready to be frosted.
Frosting: Make one recipe of French Silk Frosting and 2 recipes of Buttercream Frosting. If you don’t want to make French Silk but still want chocolate for the engine, make a third recipe of Buttercream frosting and add cocoa to taste. You may need to add a little more milk as you add the cocoa. Divide the Buttercream frosting into fourths and place into bowls to add the food coloring. I used Wilton gel food coloring from Michael’s. Just keep adding coloring until the frosting gets to your desired color.
Frost the train cars. If your cakes are a little rounded on top, you can cut the rounded part off and flip the cakes before frosting. It can be frustrating to frost the cut sides of cake. We did not cut the rounded parts off our cakes, and you can see ours are a bit rounded.
Spread frosting on sides, going from the bottom to the top as you go around the cake. As you do this, form a little rim of frosting above the top edge of the cake. Last, spread remaining frosting over the top. Having that little rim of frosting sticking up keeps the cake from looking like it is drooping its shoulders.
Board: Place the cake pans on the counter in desired arrangement to measure the size board you will need. We used a wooden board covered in foil. You could also use wrapping paper to cover the board and then cover that with saran wrap.
For the tracks, we used chocolate Twizzlers held in place by small dabs of French Silk Frosting. We put the cross ties on top of the rails (opposite of real train tracks) to make it easier to keep everything in place.
Pulling it all together: Place the frosted train cars on the tracks, and then decorate the cars. We used red and yellow Twizzlers for borders on the top and different candies to top each car. Our wheels are gummy Life Savers and peach gummy candies for the bigger wheels on the engine. The light on the front of the engine is a Dot, and the top of the engine is paved with mini Kit Kats. The smoke stack is a stack of two Rolos. The cow-catcher (a term I learned during the making of this cake) on the front of the engine is made of chocolate Twizzlers. Enjoy!
The Story: My mom and I volunteered to make the cake for my nephew’s second birthday, and we had a few days to plan but only one evening to make it happen. Having several older nieces and nephews who are “over” the magic of some of these things, I knew it is only for a few years of a child’s life that a birthday cake can be truly magical. So we wanted to find something fun for us to make that would be magical for him. I found a few ideas on the internet (see link above), and the train was our favorite. But we wanted to change the engine, so we got to work on planning. My dad was consulting engineer and all-around helper, not to mention both bowl-licker and bowl-cleaner.