Sunday, March 6, 2011

In Training...

Seriously...up to my eyeballs in trains!  Our friends' oldest, Anderson, turned 2 yesterday and he was having a train party.  Fun!  So, train cookies for the kids and a fun train cake for the birthday boy.  I'll show you some pictures of the finished products, and then dive into some of the construction. 

First, the cake!

And the cookies:

Okay, so now let's talk about structure. For the cake, I started with a sketch...a very rough sketch (don't make fun of me for sharing!)  I just wanted to plan ahead to make sure that I cut the cake into the correct size shapes and make the right colors of icing, etc. 

I baked the cakes in sheet cake pans...1 chocolate, 1 yellow, and 1 white cake.  All would be covered with white frosting because I knew I was going to color them (much more difficult to do with chocolate frosting).  I froze the sheet cake for a couple of hours so that I could cut the cake into quarters (slightly larger than loaf size) without them falling apart.  I then stacked and frosted them.

To frost them, I put the frosting in a piping bag and piped it on, so the layers were all fairly equally spaced (a new trick...I didn't use a tip, just straight out of the hole in the piping bag).  Then I covered the sides with a spatula, and to smooth the frosting afterward, I used my favorite technique (which only works with a nice, dry make it yourself, don't use the tub kind, it's too sticky), which is to rub a Viva papertowel over the frosting gently with your hand.  It works wonders and smooths out lots of bumps and spatula marks!

You MUST use Viva papertowels (no, I'm not being paid to sponsor's just the truth).  Something about their texture is just's not waffle-ish.

When it came to putting together the chocolate piece (which was the oh-so-important steam engine section) I ran into a BIG problem.  The chocolate cake, despite being frozen for a few hours too, was different enough in consistency that the frosting would NOT spread onto the sides.  It fell apart (and I nearly did too).  I had the presence of mind to take a breath, and a photo:
See?  I wasn't exaggerating!  Everytime I spread it, it crumbled into the side of the cake and made a real mess.  So, I improvised...I took the piping bag I had filled with frosting and piped it onto the side.  My thinking was that if I could just get the frosting down on the side, I could smooth it out and not have to drag it through the cake.  Like so:

Then, of course, the Viva technique get applied over the spatula marks above, and now we're ready for some color. 
Okay, now, in this respect, I'm spoiled.  My husband bought me the Kopycake Airmaster machine years ago and I LOVE it.  I was afraid of it for awhile, but once I got the hang of it, I found it very very useful. 

I painted one car blue, one car yellow, and one car red...and I painted a touch of black at the bottom (to help the cake look like it was riding on the rails of the track) and black on the top (knowing that I was going to put some candy in the boxcars and I wanted to fake some depth).
If you don't want to invest in an airbrush machine (totally understandable), just color your frosting before you spread.  I like the Americolor gel paste colors...very nice, concentrated colors.  I added some grey "cement" to hold the cargo (some Whoppers, in this case).
I added some red accents...and then...I accidentally dragged my fingernail through the side of the cake.  I did not have the presence of mind to take a picture this time, but I covered it with a bow. :)  Some Oreos added to the bottom with a little extra frosting.  This is the back, because "is 2!" gets put on the other side:
With a matching bow, so it looked intentional.  Also added in my Kit Kat train tracks.  I attached them with a little of the extra grey icing.

The yellow car was constructed in essentially the same manner, so I'll skip it.  But the engine part required some component pieces.  I've worked with gum paste once before when I made a Vegas sign cake for my husband's birthday a couple of years ago. So I knew the consistency would hold up to making my smokestack and front part of the train.  Just follow the instructions on the side of the canister.  I like the Wilton brand.

I mixed it and colored it blue...and then needed to figure out how to roll it up into the smokestack shape.  My husband suggested draping it on a decorating bottle, which worked perfectly. I sprayed the bottle with some Pam first, and then let it set.
I put an extra piece on the inside, just to keep it from cracking...and then jammed it into the red cake and used some of the grey icing to cement the side together.  Voila!  I used the same technique to create the shape for the front of the cake.
A Hershey's hug is used for the "light" on the front, and a little more frosting and some cotton candy top off the smoke stack. :)

Now, for the cookies.  Much less to discuss...I used my train cookie cutter and my Americolor icing colors and created the initial cookie, which I didn't particularly care for.
I felt like the colors bled over the outlines, and thought it looked a little unfinished.  So, I decided to go over a couple of key parts with some disco dust!  When in doubt, distract people with glitter! So, this is how they looked after the accent:
And the names of all of the kids were added with some of my food color markers.
Finally, I bagged them all up for the kids with some little bits of train ribbon.

And there you have it!  One very happy birthday boy, and a very tired baker...LOTS of training!  Stay tuned next week for a Lego cake!