Today I thought I’d share a few photos and details about a fun project I undertook earlier this summer… a custom cake for one very special 4-year-old. This little guy, the son of an old friend from high school, happens to be just my little one’s age. Since moving back to the mountains the two have become great little buddies. What fun to see a second-generation friendship grow.
My friend reached out to me and asked if I’d help with the cake for her son’s party… and you bet I most certainly would. I gave her plenty of fair warning that I had never made a cake for anyone other than my children, and that it may not be perfect. What a fun project to be a part of though.
The birthday guy requested a Thomas the Train cake, but beyond that, left the designing up to me. After doing a bit of Pinteresting (obviously), I finalized my design plan and got busy.
The cake board came first. I chose a 14″ board such that I’d have a wide 2″ perimeter to decorate around my 10″ cake. I covered the board in white fondant, cut out the center where the cake would lie, and then let the fondant dry in place over night. Once dry, I painted the fondant with a cobblestone like patter, using gel food colors and a touch of vodka as my solvent. Once the cobblestones were dry, I added some marbled brown and black tracks, engraved with a fondant tool to look like wood grain.
Feeling pretty good about my board, I moved on to the most nerve wracking part of the project. I have gravitated towards two dimensional art for as long as I can remember. Sculpting have never been my forte, but from the moment I heard that this was to be a Thomas cake, I knew there was no way around me having to sculpt that well-known, lovable train. His coloring lent themselves well to using pre-colored fondant, which was a big time saver. After a deep breath and a “here goes nothing,” I got to work.
I first built Thomas, followed by the red brick tunnel from which he would emerge.
Once happy with my fondant figure, I set him aside to dry for several days prior to applying him to the cake. I also made a few balloons on wire supports to use as additional decoration for the cake.
A few days prior to the party, I began baking the actual cake. A two layer white cake with chocolate ganache filling.
I whipped the mixed bittersweet and semi-sweet ganache well to make sure it was nice and light! Yum! I used an extra cake board on top of the cake help with creating perfectly smooth sides. Once happy with sides, I removed the board and leveled out the top ganache.
After allowing the ganache to set and cool, I set out to cover the cake in fondant. I envisioned an ever-so-slightly marbled cake, with various shades of blue and white. I colored small balls of fondant, rolled them into ropes, twisted the ropes, and then began to roll out the fondant sheet.
I just love the effect of marbling fondant. You can stop earlier in the process to create a more pronounced, multi-colored look, or you can continue on (like I did!) for a rather subtle effect.
I moved my covered cake onto the board, using a spot of hot glue to secure it in place. (Remember, there was a board underneath the cake that was being adhered to the larger cake board, so nothing to be eaten touched the glue!).
I added the final elements to the cake the night before the party, including a marbled green rolling hill border, bushes with balloons popping out, a birthday message made of white fondant letters, a big red number 4, and, of course, my fondant Thomas figure.
The last challenge be faced was actually getting the cake to the party…
A word of advice to my fellow amateur bakers out there: this step is not to be underestimated or under planned for. I didn’t really consider cake delivery until the morning of the party, when, in addition to wrangling my two tots into their swim wear, slathering on ample sunscreen, and located their almost-always-missing puddle jumpers, I had to figure out a way to get a cake on a 14″ board safely to the event. I’ll just put it in a big cardboard box, I thought. Whelp. Do you know how many “big” boxes in your garage are actually about 13″ in width. I sure didn’t before this fiasco. In the end the only thing I could find big enough was a laundry basket… so with no shame and and a big sigh of relief, I loaded the cake in the basket into the back of our SUV and we were off. No shame, people, no shame.
As you can see from this priceless pic, the birthday boy was pretty pleased by his Thomas cake, which really is all that matters, right? And, for my first ever cake order, I was pretty pleased (read: relieved! Phew!) as well.