It's a Thomas the Tank Engine kind of day

June 25 - BBQ for the nephew's 2nd birthday and a big ole Thomas cake

So I didn't cook anything at all yesterday.  It was the nephew's 2nd birthday party and his Mom put together a BBQ at my sister-in-law's house.  On these occasions I'm more than happy to let someone else be in charge of dinner.  What I did contribute to the meal was some of my Watermelon Rosemary Lemonade, which is beyond addictive and what I consider to be one of the most important components to a birthday celebration, the cake!

So that's what I'm sharing with you today, a delicious chocolate cake decorated to look like a grassy meadow that a little boy might find Thomas the Tank Engine rolling through.  I had never done a cake like this before and my biggest concern was making a track that wouldn't get icing all over the extra special birthday Thomas and Caboose the Boy picked up to go on top of the cake.  Upon doing a bit of research I saw a cake with a similar idea to the one I was thinking of that had made the chocolate out of candy melts.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Melt some chocolate and pipe it onto the cake to look like a train track.  I knew I could do that.  What I failed to think about was that hot melted chocolate is extremely soft and liquidy (if that's even a word).  So I melted it on a double boiler and had to wait for it to cool enough to pipe easily but not so much so that it would harden.  While it all came together beautifully there were some hiccups along the way.

Thomas the Tank Engine Cake
serves 12-15
cake from Sweetapolita

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup high quality cocoa powder
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee
1 cup buttermilk  - room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 8oz bricks of cream cheese - at room temperature
2 sticks of butter - at room temperature
4-6 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raspberry jam
8 oz chocolate melts
gel icing in leaf green, pink, yellow & sky blue

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare 2 10" round cake pans with parchment paper or butter and flour.
2.  In the bowl of an electric mixer sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder.  Add in sugar, salt, eggs, coffee, buttermilk and vanilla and mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes or until well-combined.  The batter will not be thick.
3.  Divide evenly between the cake pans and carefully place into the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes and rotate the pans.  Bake for another 10-20 minutes until a cake teste comes out clean.
4.  Remove to a cooling rack for 20 minutes before gently turning the rounds out of the pan on to the cooling rack for a few hours or overnight.  Wrap cooled cakes well in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool while preparing the icing.
5.  To prepare the icing use the paddle attachment of the mixer to cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and well combined.  Add in the icing sugar 1/4 cup at a time until to a consistency you like.  If you are piping it will need to be rather stiff.
6.  Place 1 cup of icing in a smaller bowl and mix with the raspberry jam.  Set aside.  Reserve 1/2 cup of icing each in three small bowls.  Tint each bowl pink, yellow or sky blue.  Tint the remaining icing with the leaf green.
7.  Place one cake round on a cake board or platter.  Carefully even it out if necessary.  Place the raspberry cream cheese in the middle of the cake and gently work it out to 1/2" from the edge of the cake.  Even off the second cake, if necessary, and gently place on top of the first.
8.  Spread a thin layer of green icing around the entire cake, this is the crumb coat and place it in the refrigerator to set up for 2-3 hours.
9.  Using a double boiler melt the chocolate, whisk until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir occasionally until it has thicken slightly and is a good texture for piping, whisking occasionally. Some of the chocolate will harden on the side of the bowl.
10. Remove the chilled cake from the fridge and ice with the remaining leaf green icing.  Reserve about 1/2-3/4 of a cup of icing for the grass border.
11.  When the chocolate is ready, using a #47 tip, pipe 2 parallel arcs of chocolate across the top third of the cake.  connect with lines to make it look like a railroad track.  set in the fridge for about 30 minutes to cool and set-up.
12.  For the tufts of grass and the grass border on the bottom edge use a #233 tip and leaf green icing.  Pipe alternating colors of flowers by each tuft of grass using the #106 tip and you can even add leaves with the #65.  Use the #2 tip for piping any lettering, place in the fridge once it is done, especially if you kitchen is as warm as mine.
13 Right before presenting to the birthday boy top with a super special birthday Thomas the Tank Engine and corresponding Birthday Caboose which plays the Thomas song.

This cake was actually quite easy to put together for something so impressive looking.  The cake tasted great and was truly a hit with the adults and birthday boy alike.