I have had zero cake decorating classes, but this Homemade Lightning McQueen Birthday Cake was easy enough that I was still able to pull off. This Lightning McQueen cake my 3 yr old requested in a fairly short amount of time.
1. I prepared one boxed cake mix according to directions and then baked it in a full-size (greased and floured) bread loaf pan and cooked it approximately the length of the bundt pan directions (just watched and tested for doneness).
2. I cooled the cake in the pan for 15 min. then turned it out onto a cooling rack for another 15 min. and finally put it in the freezer for a couple of hours to make it easier to carve.
3. I used my son's toy as a model and then used a steak knife to carve the frozen cake into the shape of the car.
4. I used homemade buttercream frosting for decorating, but wish I had made it a bit less runny (it would have looked much cleaner with a fondant, but I was in a hurry!) I used a decorating gel coloring to make the dark red frosting, and just food dye for the other colors. I piped the eyes, words, and other details with a decorating tip, and then added darker tints (like the pupils and parts of words) by putting a toothpick directly into the food coloring and then straight onto the piping.
5. I used chocolate covered marshmallow cookies (like pinwheels) as the wheels and attached them with toothpicks and then piped red hubcaps on top.
6. I smoothed the overall cake by dipping a butter knife in warm water and gliding it across the entire cake.
Tips: *To make it less hectic on party day, it would be easy to make and freeze the cake the day before (you could even carve it the day before, just store it in the freezer wrapped in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out)--freezing also makes it less crumbly when you are trying to frost.
*If you are using store bought frosting and it is difficult to spread (pulling up crumbs from the cake) try adding a tiny bit of milk to thin it a bit--just careful not to add too much!