Birthday Train Cake

Max asked for a train for his birthday cake, so I started looking around and found these very versatile instructions for building or assembling, rather, a three-dimensional train made of cake and candy.  I was a bit concerned about it since I’ve never made anything like this before, but I can honestly say that this is a very friendly project to those of us with little cake decorating or cake building (a more correct term for what’s happening in this recipe) experience.  I think the thing about it that’s so off-putting for me is that this cake is more about structure than it is about flavor and texture, which I am inclined to snub my nose at, initially.  But, then I look at that face.  That beautiful little adorable face and I say, “ok  choo choo train cake it is!”.   I then decide that if I’m ever going to get good at this cake building thing, I must start from the beginning.  And so I did.   A very basic and very easy busy-parent-friendly recipe for a train cake.

In this “recipe” there’s no specific recipe for the cake or the frosting; it’s more like blueprints than a recipe, honestly.   So, while this project put me out of my element, the joy on his face when he saw it was well worth exploring outside of my comfort zone.  Next time, however, I will definitely use homemade cake and frosting, since the store-bought stuff the recipe called for left something to be desired in my opinion, as far as taste goes.  As for overall effect in a time-crunched way, it got the job done.   This recipe is perfect for busy parents.  The one problem with the original recipe (besides all the store-bought items in the ingredients list), is that it’s pretty dated.   I mean, “cereal straws”?  What is that?  Do they still make those?   I think I remember seeing a commercial for that once.  Needless to say, this one required a bit of improvisation.

Now, before I go ahead and try to write this in a technical way, let me just say, that it’s basically a geometry/tangram problem.  You want to  have two rectangles (rectangular prisms) that are the same size for the train cars and you can frost them and then “fill” one with whatever candy your child likes, you don’t have to use the specific cookies or candies that I chose.  In addition to the two cars, you want the front part of the train, a cylinder, which they recommend by frosting together ring dings (I didn’t do that, but I left it in the recipe since it was very dimensionally specific) and one brick shaped piece of cake that sits behind that cylinder. Then you just stick the kids cone on top of the frosted cylinder and that makes the engine.

 

Train Cake

  • 1 family-size frozen pound cake (16 oz), thawed
  • 2 cans (16 oz each) vanilla frosting
  • Yellow food coloring
  • Red food coloring
  • 1 Kids Cone (mini-ice cream cone, which I couldn’t find, so I used a regular flat bottomed cone)
  • 2 Tbsp yellow decorating sugar
  • 4 ring dings (or something else you prefer, that’s the same shape as a ring ding that you can easily frost together)
  • 3 yellow starbursts
  • 1 cup dark-chocolate frosting
  • 12 mini-Oreos
  • 4 Oreos
  • mini-marshmallows (about 1/4 cup)
  • mini fudge striped cookies (to cover the top of the middle car)
  • kit-kats (about ten sticks)

 

 

Trimming the cake:

(diagram from parenting.com)

 

  1. Using a bread knife, trim a ¾-inch piece off both short ends of the first pound cake to make the cake about 9 by 4 ½ inches.
  2. Cut the pound cake as indicated on the diagram to make two 2 ½ by 4 ½-inch cars, one 4 by 3 ½-inch car, and one 1 by 4-inch slice. Reserve the 1 by 4-inch piece and set aside.
  3. Spoon the contents of 1 can of vanilla frosting into a bowl. Add a few drops of blue food coloring to tint it a light blue.
  4. Divide the remaining can of vanilla frosting in half and spoon into separate bowls. Add yellow food coloring to one bowl of frosting to tint it yellow; add red food coloring to the other bowl of frosting to tint it red.
  5. Lay the trimmed 1 by 4-inch slice flat on a serving platter. Spread the top with some blue frosting.
  6. Stack the 4 Ring Dings, spreading frosting in between each cake, and lay the stack on its side to make the cylindrical front engine.
  7. Place the 4 by 3 ½-inch piece upright behind the stack of Ring Dings.
  8. Spread the entire engine with blue frosting to cover and make smooth.
  9. Lightly frost the kids cone bottom and sides with yellow frosting and sprinkle with yellow decorating sugar. Place on the top front third of the cylindrical engine
  10. Cut one kit-kat in half. Place cut side down, sticking straight up out of the engine behind the kids cone on the cylindrical part of the engine.
  11. Place two starbursts on the sides of the rectangular part of the front engine to create windows (D).
  12. Spoon the chocolate frosting into a resealable plastic bag. Snip a small corner from the bag and pipe a 1-inch-high layer of chocolate frosting at the base of the cake.
  13. Add 2 mini- and 2 regular-size Oreos to either side for the engine’s wheels.
  14. Cut one starburst’s corners off evenly to create an octogon.  Place starburst onto front nose of cylindrical part of the engine.  Lightly frost one minimarshmallow and stick onto the starburst to create a front headlight.
  15. Fill the kids cone with mini-marshmallows for the engine’s steam.
  16. Cut twos kit-kat in half and place on the board directly in front of and behind (touching) the engine’s base to create train tracks

Middle car:

  1. Set one of the 2 ½ by 4 ½-inch pieces of pound cake behind the engine. Frost with the yellow frosting.
  2. Trim the kit-kats with a knife to fit the length and width of the top edges of the cake.
  3. Fill the top of the cake with mini fudge striped cookies (or whatever you prefer).
  4. Pipe a small band of chocolate frosting along the base of the cake to create a border along the bottom of the train.  Attach 4 mini-Oreos as wheels.
  5. Cut another kit-kat in half and place behind (touching) the middle car, at the base to add more tracks.

Caboose:

  1. Set the remaining cake piece behind the middle car and cover completely with the red frosting.
  2. Pipe a band of chocolate frosting around the base of the cake. Press 4 mini Oreo cookies in as wheels on either side of the caboose.
  3. Gently push 2 whole kit kat bars into the top of caboose, all the way down the car so they are sticking straight up.
  4. Cut another kit kit in half and add to the back of the caboose at the base to create the last of the tracks.

Original recipe found at parenting.com

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12 Responses to Birthday Train Cake

  1. Becky says:

    I used to make train cakes for my boys, 30 plus years ago. I made the cars with the cake batter in small bread loaf pans. there was nor cutting except for the engine. I used a cupcake for the cowcatcher, and filled the cars with various candies, M&M’s peanuts, and raisins to look like coal I made one for my granddaughter, too. I ll have to see if if I can find a picture and email it to you.

  2. Liz says:

    Beautifully done! I’m sure a big smile from Max was reward enough for all the shopping, figuring and frosting involved to make this cake :)

  3. Ms. Becky says:

    my word, that seems a lot of work, but the end result is so worth it. I’m oohing and ahhing over your photos of food you’ve made. the strawberry jam, minestrone soup, baguettes. I want to try them all. thanks for visiting my blog and saying hello, I truly appreciate that. happy week to you.

  4. Anonymous says:

    thats brilliant!

  5. Parsley Sage says:

    Brilliant! Max is learning ‘ask, and you shall receive.’ I’m sure it made his day. Great work, Mom!

  6. What a gorgeous train cake! I am sure Max was thrilled!

  7. Kristina says:

    Aw omygosh this is the cutest cake I have ever seen!! My little cousin would LOVE this! Max is a lucky little boy :) So much fun!

  8. You did an awesome job!!! We did this cake for for my sons birthday when he was 2 or 3. It was so fun!

  9. Ilke says:

    This challenge appeals to my engineer side! Gotta ask my nephew if he wants a train cake soon:)

  10. Betty says:

    What a sweet cake! My six yr. old grandson would love this. I can tell that the birthday boy loved it too, and that makes all of the hard work worth it. :)

  11. Rita says:

    I am so impressed with your lovely cake; I remember making a cake very similar to this one maybe 35-40 years ago for one of my sons I have 4. I had a book like yours with patterns; you just brought back good memories. Thank you for your visit.
    Rita

  12. omg i am totally bookmarking this for my son’s 2nd birthday in november – his name is max too :) and he loves trains right now, so if he is still into them I will definitely make this for him! awesome job!

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