This is by far the most difficult and time consuming cake I have ever prepared. But I enjoyed it thoroughly. Few months ago, my friend asked me to bake/decorate a cake for her son’s 3rd birthday. I was very excited about it.
Now after it is all done, I have to write down some things that I learnt. Before this cake, I thought I knew a lot about cake decorating. But this was a whole new learning. After reading two great detailed tutorials, I knew I was going to use fondant for covering the cake. I have not used fondant to cover a cake in a long time. Although I learnt some basics in the Wilton’s classes a long ago, I could not remember anything from then.
Day 1 : The tutorials asked to use a 12×18 sheet pan. I did not have the pan. I checked out and it was $20. I did not want to buy this just for one cake. I already have too many cake pans that I hardly use. So I decided to go with 11×8 pan I had. That meant my baking time was increased by 3 times!. I thought I would cut it later to make it 6" width. But my friend called again and said the guest list had grown a bit!. So I decided to keep it as it is. I baked 3 chocolate cakes. The recipe makes a very soft great tasting cake, I followed it exactly (last time I made this cake, I tried making some adjustments and the cake was not as soft). After all the cakes were baked, I cut them horizontally (to spread the chocolate frosting later), wrapped in silver foil and froze them.
Day 2 : Took out the cake, brushed it with sugar syrup, spread a layer of chocolate frosting in between layers and built the train. Then covered the cake with store bought Wilton’s buttercream icing. I had underestimated the amount of icing needed. So I ran out of it in between. I had to make a batch at home. (Used 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1 cup shortening, a little vanilla, mixed everything). I also prepared marshmallow fondant and colored them in blue, black, red, yellow and grey.
Although the tutorial had mentioned to make the face at least 7 days in advance, I waited till day 2 to make it. Main reason being, I had no idea what would be the size of face required. The tutorial makes it look very simple. It was much harder than that. I tried couple of times and gave up. I did not like the way it was looking. So I asked the help of resident artist. Did I mention V is a very good artist? I had full faith in his sculpting skills. I requested him to sculpt the face. And he did not disappoint me!. The face was THE best part of the cake. He got the cheeky Thomas smile too!.
Day 3 : Rolled the fondant and covered the cake. Here were the biggest hurdles. I thought covering with fondant was very easy. I was so wrong!. The fondant kept breaking – I was rolling it too thin I think. It was very time consuming to cut all the thin strips needed. I think all I need here is more practice. I am sure I can do a better job next time.
Other very important thing to keep in mind – when you are following a tutorial, figure out the mistakes in the tutorial. I blindly followed the tutorial instead of looking at Thomas toy (although I had it infront of me). I later realized there were too many small errors – like the shape of the red lines on the sides are different on Thomas toy. The Number 1 is inside the red lines – not in between the lines!. On top of that, I made my own mistakes, so they add up!
In all, the cake was a huge hit at the party. Everyone liked it. The taste and texture of the cake were too good. Unlike last time, this time I had taken enough time to properly brush the cake with sugar syrup. I did not rush anything, took enough time to cool the cake before icing. I have to improve a lot in getting a smooth finishing. I will work on my fondant skills soon. I was very happy I could do this for the little dude, nothing more satisfying than making a child happy :).