Friday, September 19, 2014

Thomas & Friends Themed Cake

A certain little boy in the Carpenter house is completely obsessed with trains. So, naturally, his eyes are constantly pulled in the direction of Thomas & Friends. In lieu of a birthday party this year, we actually took him to visit Tweetsie Railroad, but I promised to bake him a Thomas cake for a small family celebration.

My very first thought for this cake was to just make Thomas. It would have been so much fun to actually build a Thomas cake, similar to how Ann Reardon explains on her Youtube video. But, when I asked Bubby what he wanted, he did not want a Thomas.

One of Bubby's favorite parts about trains is the idea of rolling things across tracks. He even loves to play little track building games on his tablet. And, he specifically requested a toy train on the cake in lieu of a fondant train. That was probably best anyway, because I could just imagine his disappointment when he learned that we would have to eat Thomas or throw him away! So, I knew this cake had to have tracks on which he could roll a toy train. I first thought about a tiered cake similar to the one created by Dream Day Cakes. I loved the idea of cutting out a space for the tracks on each layer all the way down and around. But, it became kind of impossible to get our family together for a small celebration, thus I realized we weren't going to need such a big cake.

So, I decided to go with something small and simple but with all the elements that I knew Bubby would love...tracks on which he could actually drive his toy train AND a tunnel through which he could actually drive it. He loves tunnels too! My inspiration for a tunnel came from a cake I found on I loved the stone rock idea, so I decided to create my own version of it. The tunnel needed to be accessible by a toy train though, so I had to build one. This is where I had to get creative. It had to be able to withstand the play of a 3 year old little boy, yet be edible (simply b/c I prefer it that way). So, I cut up a cleaned out, plastic butter bowl to give it a little more structure. Then, I made the shape of the tunnel by stuffing some homemade rice cereal treats and the plastic bowl into a Small Batter Bowl by Pampered Chef. Finally, I covered the tunnel shape with icing and fondant. The inside of the tunnel was a little tricky to cover. I didn't want it to be the exposed white bowl color, but couldn't use green icing either, because Bubby's hands would have been covered in it! So, I iced the inside of the tunnel and pieced together fondant just enough to cover the icing. No easy task. But, a functional enough tunnel was born!

Bubby does also really enjoy bridges, so I really wanted the cake to have a bridge. So, I thought I would go with something like a cake on Coolest Birthday Cakes. However, my rice cereal treats came out too sticky and wouldn't hold the shape I needed. Let's just say that I completely lost patience with it and gave up. LOL

Considering all things (needing a smaller cake, a place for a tunnel, a functional track, etc.), it just seemed easier to make a sheet cake. After wrapping the tracks all around the edges of the cake, I had this big empty spot in the middle of the cake. The island of Sodor on Thomas & Friends does have a LOT of water around, so the big empty space on the cake just had to be water. :) I simply left out a little white icing, colored it blue, and spread out a little circle of icing inside the circle of tracks.

All that was left was adding accents. I made a few pine trees. Chef Sam has a good "how to" video on how to do that. I did not have a clean pair of nail scissors, so I just used my kitchen shears. I also made a few gray fondant rocks. Then, I sprinkled around "dirt". Not real dirt. LOL I found this nifty little bottle of German Chocolate Sprinkles by Betty Crocker in the baking aisle at the grocery store. Lastly, I piped some grass all around. All that was left was adding some toy trains! We chose Thomas, Annie and Clarabelle, but he ended up playing with Thomas alone. Yes, he actually played on the cake before we ate it. :)

This cake was fairly simple to make yet was loved very much by a sweet little boy. Hopefully this has given you some ideas for your next cake! Happy baking!

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