Thomas the Tank Engine Birthday Cake

I am planning to make a Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake for Trevor this afternoon. Here he is:
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He’s my friend Beth’s little boy and he’s turning a big whoppin’ 3 years old! The party is tomorrow.

I’ll be taking progress pictures and hopefully this pile of miscellaneous stuff will have turned into a Thomas the Tank Engine cake by this evening. :)

thomasthetankenginestuf.jpg (Hopefully, the upside-down Whoppers don’t bug any perfectionists out there… just noticed it now and I don’t feel like taking another picture.)

Next step is to bake the cake. Or cakes. I’m actually not sure if it’ll take one or two, so I’ll probably make 2 right away so I for sure have enough. I’m planning to make the engine, a caboose, and 4 cars in between.

I’ll be back after the cakes are baked and cooled…

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 Back again, but not with cake yet. For anyone who thinks I have my act together here, I’ll admit a little tidbit that I could easily hide. And the only one who would’ve discovered it is Beth, after they’ve eaten the last of the cake and she’s throwing away the thing it was on.

I was about to start and then thought, “Oh! What am I gonna put this train on?!” Usually, I buy those little cake board things or cover my cutting board with something, but a train requires something strong and long. So, I wandered thro’ my house looking for something. In the storage room, I saw a sturdy Dewalt cardboard box. So I cut it up till I had 6 rectangles, stacked them in 2 stacks of 3, and covered them with aluminum foil. Sounds crazy, I know. But the result is a sturdy cake board that’s the right size (but doesn’t all fit on my 4′ dining table!)…

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By the way, those pieces of cardboard on there are just for an idea of how the train will fit on. Who knows what it’ll actually end up looking like or what size the cars will be, but that’s just something to go by. I’m going to leave the cake board in 2 pieces for easier moving around and transporting to the party. Ideally, when they’re pushed up against each other, it won’t be too noticeable where the crack is.

You know, I was just thinking… I don’t think I’ve EVER used the word Dewalt before in a birthday cake post! Or in a cooking post of any sort.

Now, I’m gonna go make some frosting…

Here is the frosting recipe that I always use:

Wilton Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
2 Tbsp. milk

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk. I do this step for the frosting I use to frost the cake. Then for decorating, I either save some frosting out before adding these 2 extra Tbsp. of milk or add some powdered sugar.

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After a bit of stacking cake and carving, meet Thomas:
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Thomas the Tank Engine is done. I don’t like the face. I messed around with it for quite awhile, trying to texture it (as in 3D), but just couldn’t get it to look right, so I just made it flat and piped a face on.

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Thomas, coal car, circus car…

I’ll post the rest in the morning.

Good morning! :)

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Thomas the Tank Engine, coal car, circus car, tanker, boxcar, caboose.

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And now for some close-ups (you can see all the flaws better, but I’m fine with that)…

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You know that pile of misc stuff up there? Well, some of that was a total guess of what I’d need. I didn’t use all the stuff, but I used some stuff that wasn’t on the pile. Like, speghetti, a carrot, and popsicle sticks. ;)

Ah, what fun this was to make! Hope Trevor likes it! Happy birthday, Trevor!

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Jam Bars

Usually when I’m flipping thro’ a cookbook and a recipe JUMPS out and grabs me, it’s a recipe with chocolate chunks or melted milk chocolate in it. This time, it wasn’t though. I think what grabbed me about these bars was the cream cheese. And the fact that when there’s a brown sugar/oatmeal/butter mixture, it’s always good… like these Peanut Butter Dream Bars, for example.

 This recipe comes from the Tasteful Delights cookbook. The committee behind this cookbook includes a couple of my friends, Michelle and Monica. Good recipes in there! Sometime, I want to try the stuffed mushrooms, bacon cheese chicken, frozen mocha dessert, and a bunch of others. But for now, we’ve got some scrumptious jam bars…

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Jam Bars

 Printable recipe

2 cups rolled oats (I used quick oats)
1 3/4 cup flour
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Desired amount of cream cheese filling
Any flavor jam

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
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Reserve 2 cups crumbs and press the rest in a 9×13 pan and bake for 10 minutes.
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Spread cream cheese evenly over crust, then jam over cream cheese.
jam-bars4.jpg I used about 1 cup of cream cheese filling.

jam-bars5.jpg I used about 1/2 cup of jam. Next time, I’d use more like 1/4 cup of jam. It was a little too sweet and the strawberry flavor over-powered the cream cheese flavor, I thought. And that’s not good when fruit over-powers cream cheese! ;)

Sprinkle crumbs over jam.
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Bake until crumbs are golden. After 17 minutes, it looked like this, so I got it out of the oven… looks great to me!
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These didn’t last long around here! They’re pretty easy too. They oughta cool before cutting and eating though. They didn’t hold their shape very well while still warm. They are THE best out of the fridge. I don’t think they’d need to be stored in the fridge, but they were extra good when they were chilled. By the way, I made only a half batch (and used an 8×8 pan) because I didn’t have enough of one of the ingredients and I wanted to make them NOW.

About the cream cheese filling, I buy it in tubes at a local bulk foods store, but if you don’t have access to it or would rather make your own, here’s a wonderful cream cheese filling recipe:
8 oz softened cream cheese, 1 egg, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Beat till smooth.