Thursday, June 7, 2012

How to make a Choo Choo Train Birthday Cake

This is the 2nd part of the series of birthday cakes which I baked in May. The 1st part was an aeroplane cake tutorial which I posted a day ago.

After presenting the aeroplane cake to my son on his actual birthday on Saturday, I had to rack my brain to come up quickly with yet another cake for his classmates on Monday. My son didn't quite like the aeroplane cake despite me putting in so much time and effort into it. In fact, he didn't eat a single bite at all! Even though I consulted him and involved him every single step of the whole decoration process, I couldn't get his stamp of approval. Kids nowadays are so picky!

Anyway, I asked him again what he wanted as the design for his birthday cake. He thought that it was his birthday again, and he was so happy and said he wanted a choo choo train cake. So I had to come up with one, by hook or by crook.

Here is how it goes :
1) First I baked a 9 inch cake using my favourite chocolate cake as the cake base. You need to double the ingredients as the recipe is for a 8 inch cake. Then I cut and levelled the cake, removing any humps or uneven surfaces, to prepare for crumbcoating.

2) Next I crumbcoated the cake using American Buttercream instead of Swiss Meringue Buttercream as I wanted to try out a different frosting/icing this time. However I was quite disappointed with this American Buttercream icing as it was terribly sweet even though I only used 2 cups of icing sugar instead of the recommended 3 to 4 cups. So I am not gonna share the recipe here, I would recommend that you use the Swiss Meringue Buttercream which I used previously for my aeroplane cake. It did not involve using icing sugar and was less sweet.

As usual, I had some problems with finishing off the crumbcoating nicely. So I decided to use a different technique. I used a metallic side scraper with special serrated edges that could create grooves on the layer of icing. The effect was rather neat, I think. It kinda helped me cover up the flaws of my crumbcoating.

3) Next I did a fondant train cake topper following this tutorial. The fondants were bought at an Aveve shop with the thuisbakken (home-baking) section. They are called suikerpasta or rolfondant in Dutch (sugar paste or rolled fondant in English). Each pack of 250g costs about 2.50 euro or so. I bought and used colours such as brown, yellow, red and blue. I didn't buy any tylo glue so I just used a bit of water each time to stick the different parts together. Additionally I also used a couple of toothpicks to secure the parts of the train together.

4) When I was done with the train cake topper, I started rolling thin strips of brown coloured fondant to make the train tracks. The tracks were then laid on top of the icing, you could just use water to make it stick or you could just press it down slightly just like what I did. Then I laid the train cake topper on top of the track and again pressed it down slightly. If you are afraid the trains are not steady enough and would topple, just use a toothpick to pin it down onto the cake.

5) The train was almost done, and I decided to add some "cargo" in the form of M&M chocolates. I piped some icing onto the 2nd and 3rd train cabins and stuck the M&M chocolates onto them. Voila, the choo choo train was finished! :)

6) As the trains and tracks had covered only 1/3 of the cake, and there was still some empty space left in the middle and the front part of the cake, it dawned on me to make the number 3 with M&M chocolates. I piped some icing and stuck the chocolates onto it to form the number 3. Then what was left was just my son's name. I made a mistake in piping his name, the writing was pretty slanted so I had to use fondant to cover it up and re-piped his name again using decorating pens on top of the fondant. You could see that it was not very neatly done. I am still an amateur after all. :)

7) Finally, to cover up the edges of the cake, I used Wilton Tip #106 to pipe some dropflowers.

That's all for my tutorial on how to make a choo choo train cake for a kid's birthday. It was my 2nd attempt at cake decoration, thank goodness it didn't turn out too badly. In fact, except for the little mistake I made in piping my son's name, I was pretty satisfied with the overall result. The colours were a bit off though, blue turned out to be green and pink turned out to be orangey-pink, no thanks to the lousy food colourings that I had. I would make sure I go buy some good quality wilton colourings the next time. Coming next, I still have another mama cake which I decorated for my friend's party....stay tuned!

Just a short note on my son's reaction to this choo choo train cake. He was very ecstatic and he went completely gaga over it. He kept telling us that we should not forget to bring the cake to school. When we finally brought the cake to his school on Monday morning, he ran all the way from the car to the classroom, telling every child and parent whom he met on the way that he had a choo choo train cake for his birthday. His fellow classmates also marvelled at the cake and all of them wanted to touch the train, so much so that the teacher had to tell them to keep their hands off! It really made my day seeing how happy he was. At least all my efforts did not go to waste. :)


  1. Ahhh....yes, American Buttercream is what I would call Butter Icing as it's one part butter, 2 parts icing sugar. Yes, very sweet. I prefer making a lemon butter icing and making it as zingy as possible - it cuts out the sweetness. What I call "proper2 buttercream ~ Swiss-Meringue Buttercream, French Buttercream, or Italian Meringue Buttercream are considerably less sweet and have a smoother taste and more buttery.

    I love the train by the way! You don't need tylo-glue to stick fondant together - only if you need a rock-hard stick. Water works (but the bits sometimes fall off). I tend to mix icing sugar with a drop of water to make an icing paste to stick parts together. Trick of the trade is to use hidden reinforcements where necessary like cocktail sticks to support tall pieces of icing :)

    My son is into trains at the moment and calls them Choo-Choo too! :D

  2. The best food colourings are the gel paste ones - yes, like Wilton or SugarFlair. More pricey than the liquid ones but you do not need much and the colours are lovely and strong. Secondly, they do not change the consistency of the fondant (if you are colouring fondant that is). It is also used in making french macarons as the liquid colours alter the batter mix. :)


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