My daughter decided to have a Thomas the Train party for her 3rd birthday. Her favorite train is the black engine, Hiro, so that’s what she wanted for her cake. I decided to go ahead and make a Thomas train cake, too, since the other kids might be disappointed if there was no Thomas.
At the very start, I opted to forego making Hiro a true black cake, since I’m not a fan of black icing (even when you use the non-bitter kind, you can’t really say that it tastes good). So I made Hiro a chocolate cake with dark chocolate icing and called that close enough. My golden rule with cake-making is that it has to taste good. I don’t like to sacrifice taste for looks.
I started by making a long rectangle for the base. I have one of those grid pans that’s configurable (the kind used to make letter and number cakes), so I could make it the exact size I needed it and not waste cake. But you could also just bake it in a regular pan and then cut it down to size. The base needed to be thinner than your average sheet cake, so I didn’t put nearly as much of the cake batter into the pan.
I then made the long barrel part of Hiro by baking two halves in a “log” loaf pan. I iced one side of the log loaf and then stuck it to the other to form the whole barrel. I also iced the entire rectangular base cake and stuck a few of the Pocky sticks (choc. covered wafer sticks that you can find in the Asian food aisle at the grocery store) in the base before carefully placing the barrel on the base.
After the whole thing was assembled, I iced the sides of the barrel, making sure it looked seamless from the outside. I stacked some rectangle pieces of cake that I had baked earlier with the remaining batter from the base and made those into the caboose at the back of the barrel. I made Hiro’s tender out of chocolate chip muffin mix, which is denser than cake, so that it would be easier to carve out a space for the broken-up pieces of Oreo that were the “coal”. I used a jumbo marshmallow iced in chocolate icing for his funnel.
I happened to have gold sugar dust left over from a previous cake project, so I mixed that with yellow icing I had bought for Thomas to make the gold icing for Hiro’s stripes and other accents. I also mixed vanilla icing with a little black icing to make the gray icing for the “51” on his tender and other accents as well as Hiro’s and Thomas’s faces.
I baked 12 sugar cookies for Hiro’s wheels that I frosted with red icing. I also baked larger sugar cookies for their faces. Right after the cookies came out of the oven, I carefully molded the faces as best I could to have eye sockets and cheeks. I made their noses out of jumbo marshmallows that I cut and shaped and stuck to the sugar cookie before I iced the whole thing in gray icing. I made their eyes and mouths from white and black sugar sheets.
I took the easy route on Thomas and bought the Wilton 3-D train cake pan. I had mixed results getting the cakes out of the pan though. The practice cake I made a couple weeks before just to see how the pan did came out without a hitch, even the fragile funnel part. But the real deal broke apart into multiple pieces, of course. So I had to start over. The second time I lined the entire bottom cake pan with foil first. I never had a problem getting the top cake pan off. The foil worked perfectly, as it always does. I should have known better and done that in the first place.
The 3-D train cake was a little wobbly standing up right, so I used Kit Kat’s stuck in with toothpicks on both sides to act like feet and keep the train balanced. I placed them so that they would look like train tracks. This worked great. I then iced Thomas in blue icing (made from vanilla icing and blue food coloring). I went back and added his red stripes, black windows, yellow number, etc. I used Oreo cookies for his wheels and just piped a wagon wheel design on them with blue icing first.
My daughter thought her Hiro cake was awesome, and it was a hit with the other kids and parents at the party, too. I was just glad it hadn’t turned into a total train wreck.