This month, Pooh turned 3, and we decided to celebrate his birthday with the family when we went to my parents’ house for the holiday weekend. I thought about buying a cake, but I’ve recently been inspired to try some cake baking of my own, so I googled around and found a couple cakes that I thought Pooh would like. Ultimately, I went with a train theme, complete with a little Thomas on top.
This being my first cake, I didn’t want to be overly ambitious in my baking, so I went with boxed cake mix and canned frosting. Here are my expenses:
2 Aldi cake mixes: $0.99 each
1 Aldi cream cheese frosting: $1.29
6 eggs: a free gift from my mom’s chickens
oil, food coloring, etc: shamelessly stolen from my mom’s cabinet
various and sundry small snack items: gathered from my kitchen
Total cost, not including labor: $3.27
I’ll let you decide how much my labor is worth!
First, I baked all the cake. One white cake mix made 2 round cakes, one 8″ and one 9″. One chocolate cake mix made 2 small (6X9, maybe?) oblong cakes. Once they were all baked and cooled, I gave the round ones a crumb coat and stuck them in the fridge overnight.
One oblong one I cut into 12 smaller rectangles, and gave each of those a crumb coat too. This was much more difficult since they’d been cut! It would have been much smarter to bake them all separately, or use a heavier cake mix, or even let them sit out and dry for a while before attempting any icing, even a light coat. I’ll know better next time.
The second oblong cake was extra. Since we were also celebrating my dad’s birthday, and he loves German chocolate cake, I just iced it with coconut pecan icing, which was as close as I could get (okay, as close as I could find at Walmart) to German chocolate.
The next morning, I gathered bowls, the food coloring, and my “freight”, and got to work. My sister and her daughter had arrived by then, and they helped. Here’s my niece, ready to get to work – isn’t she a cutie?!
First we iced the round cakes in white, and placed them, touching, on a cake board (we used a piece of wood covered with cake paper). My sis (who has made lots of great cakes) suggested we cut out a small portion of one cake so that the two would fit together better = great idea! Then I took a toothpick and drew two half-circles on each cake, about 1.5 inches apart, to create a giant 3, then I traced the 3 with icing. I could have just started with the icing, but I’m not that brave. With the 3 made, I used pretzels to create railroad ties on it.
We decided the juncture of the 3 needed a stop sign, and luckily we had a red Jolly Rancher handy.
That was the easy part! Next came the freight cars…
Each of the small rectangular cake pieces we iced in a different color, adding 3 cheerios along the bottom of each side to form wheels. On the top, we used pretzels to create a box, and then filled the box with some kind of freight.
Ultimately, our freight included fruit snacks, smarties, a swiss cake roll, mini chocolate rice cakes, cheeries, chocolate waves, sand (crushed up cookies), and a mixture of them. The freight cars were placed around the larger cake, with pretzels connected each one to the next.
It was impossible to hide the cake from Pooh when it was done, and once he saw it, he kept climbing up on the kitchen stools asking for some. When I told him we could not have cake until after we sang happy birthday, he happily sang the entire song for me.
I’m pretty sure this cake was a huge hit – at least Pooh seemed to love it!