As some of you know by now, I am often known as "Aunt Lisa" around these parts. I have turned into some sort of fertility goddess for many of my friends and family and have therefore become an "aunt" to many children. One of my favorites (I can't have ONE favorite, right?) is my little buddy Kieran. Saturday was his second birthday party and I made him a very special cake.
Kieran got a very cool train set for Christmas and is obsessed (like, dvd on repeat obsessed) with Elmo so I had to figure out a way to incorporate the two toys together in one cake. I decided that instead of taking the easy way out (store bought cake mix or frosting, sheet cake with train/elmo drawn on top) I would do it the hard (but much more fulfilling) way. Everything from scratch and without any special pans.
Here is a bird's eye view of the cake:
...and here's how I did it...
I made two yellow cake recipes because I've been experimenting with finding the ultimate in fluffy, light cakes (not dense and "pound cake-y" in texture). I will highly recommend this one from Made in Mel's Kitchen. You should double the recipe and it will make one 11 x 17 sheet cake, five cupcakes and one loaf cake. You will have some finished cake left over (scraps to snack on or extra pieces in case you don't measure correctly).
The first car is obviously the hardest because of the detail.... I cut two 6" x 3" pieces from the sheet cake and layered them to create the base of the car. The bottom of the cake was a little sticky which held the two layers together. I also cut two 2"x2"x3" triangles for the front of the car and layered them. The cylindrical shaped piece on top of the engine was actually three cupcakes trimmed with a small biscuit cutter, stuck together with toothpicks and frosted.. The double decker back is two 2x3 pieces of cake cut from the loaf pan.
The three cars behind the engine were 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" blocks cut from the loaf pan. I trimmed the top so that each was squared off. I topped each car with something fun: blueberries (coal), animal crackers (real animals) and pretzels (logs).
For frosting I used Pioneer Woman's no fail buttercream: "The best frosting I've ever had" and doubled the recipe. It really is quite good (and was about all I ate during the hours surrounding the creation of this cake) I used gel food coloring to make the four different frosting colors. I piped white borders along all the cars with a disposable pastry bag.
I broke off the bottom of an ice cream cone and used the top as the smokestack. I placed mini marshmallows in for the "smoke" and glued some of the top marshmallows in place with frosting.
The Elmo is actually a part of a toddler fork and spoon set (not a bad deal for $4 on Amazon!) and I just stuck him into the cake.
I sprinkled desiccated (unsweetened) coconut as the base on the tray and placed the train over Kit Kats for train tracks. I used Oreo cookies as wheels and a peanut butter m&m as the headlight on the first car.
IT WAS SO MUCH FUN TO MAKE! And even better was the reaction from Kieran and his family. Pure joy. I look forward to making my niece's FIRST birthday cake in May!
Some helpful hints:
** I highly recommend NOT building this cake in a hot kitchen on a warm day. It was about 80 degrees out and the cake looked fantastic when I put it together in the morning. By 3 pm when I drove over to the party, the back of the engine car was tipping over and the white piping was falling a bit. But nothing a few toothpicks couldn't fix. :)
** I had some leftover wooden mini forks that I ordered from Smarty Had a Party back in December and used them to "spackle" and smooth out the frosting. I brought a little kid to the house which included some of those forks, a sample of each of the different colors of frosting, regular toothpicks which helped.
**Don't get frustrated or wrapped up in the details. The birthday boy or girl is only going to see the cake (and you), not the little mistakes that you may have made.
What is your favorite theme birthday cake? Do you have any links or photos to share? Please share!
Chow for Now! :)