I found a recipe for vanilla cake on allrecipes and used that to make the engine--but it was not a great recipe at all for making this kind of cake. It didn't come out of the pan well and upon cooling, the edges curled and so when I put the engine together the smoke stacks were pulling away from each other. So I had to use a lot of frosting to fix that. I realized this pretty early on and so I looked for a different recipe to use for the cars. This second recipe was perfect! It was moist and delicious to eat but also dense enough to cut and make cars out of.
Vanilla Buttermilk Cake from phe/MOM/enon (see blog for original source)
4 whole large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp of vanilla extract
1 1/4 C buttermilk
3 C cake flour
2 C sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz butter, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of three 8-inch cake pans. Line with parchment paper and grease the paper.
Place the eggs and the yolks in a medium bowl. Add the vanilla and 1/4 C of buttermilk and whisk all the ingredient together. Set aside.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a mixer; whisk to blend. Add the remaining buttermilk and butter to the dry ingredients and with the mixer on low speed, blend together. Raise the mixer to medium speed and beat until light and fluffy; 2 minutes.
Add the egg mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Divide the batter among the pans.
Bake the cake layers for 28-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out the cakes onto a wire rack and remove the paper from the bottoms. Cool completely.
I wish I could say that I thought up this whole cake idea on my own. No...I'm just good at copying. I found my inspiration from coolest-birthday-cakes.com. So I put together some different ideas that were shared on that site to come up with this cake. The train tracks were made from the Keebler chocolated covered wafer cookies, chocolate licorice, and smashed graham crackers put in between the tracks to look like dirt.
I used the Wilton 3D train engine pan to make the engine. I then baked two loaf-sized cakes to make the cars. Here is the buttercream frosting recipe I used:
1 C unsalted butter
2 T vanilla extract
2 T milk
4 C powdered sugar
This frosting was the perfect consistency for piping. I then just colored the frostings as I went along (the biggest time sucker).
I used pretzels to make the bear cage. I frosted a piece of cardboard cut out to be the same size as the car for the roof of the cage. I just put the pretzels in the cake and then piped frosting on top of each pretzel and then applied the cardboard roof. I let the roof sit for a bit and so the frosting on it was already hardening.
The wheels are made out of oreos. After the cake was all complete, I frosted the board where I wanted my "dirt" to be and then poured it on and pressed it into the frosting a bit.
And finally, the light on the front of the engine is an orea with one side of the cookie removed.