Recipes and Cooking Ideas for Homemakers and Amateur Cooks

Thomas the Tank Engine Birthday Cake

Posted on May 21, 2009
Filed Under Birthday cakes

I am planning to make a Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake for Trevor this afternoon. Here he is:

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…

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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!)…




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.


After a bit of stacking cake and carving, meet Thomas:






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.



Thomas, coal car, circus car…

I’ll post the rest in the morning.

Good morning! :)



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


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








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!



36 Responses to “Thomas the Tank Engine Birthday Cake”

  1. Beth on May 21st, 2009 11:34 am

    What can I say? You do stuff the right way! I never dreamed it would take all that to make a Thomas train. I’ll definitely keep checking for updates. :)

  2. Freida on May 21st, 2009 11:41 am

    THIS will be interesting!! :-)

  3. Rosalyn on May 21st, 2009 12:05 pm

    wow! :) lots of interesting ingredients!! :) can’t wait to see your progress! ????

  4. Ruthie on May 21st, 2009 12:39 pm

    This should be exciting! I will be checking back to see how it is going for you! =)

  5. Shannon H on May 21st, 2009 1:59 pm

    Just checking in on Thomas. :)

  6. Cheryl on May 21st, 2009 3:53 pm

    Oh Kay…I admire you….cheers for you and Thomas.

  7. Monica on May 21st, 2009 5:45 pm

    Oh, this is so neat!! Can’t wait to him when he’s all done!! :)

  8. Beth on May 21st, 2009 7:22 pm

    It looks great…Trevor is going to be so impressed!

  9. Beth on May 21st, 2009 7:26 pm

    His exact response was, “yum, yum. That’s my Thomas cake. yum, yum.” Now he’s getting mad cuz he can’t see it anymore. :)

  10. Arla on May 21st, 2009 8:09 pm

    Wow! Kay, what a lot of time and work AND talent. I’m going to send this link to Gillian Lattin. She loves to see cakes in the making.

  11. Cheryl on May 21st, 2009 8:39 pm

    Wow….and backwards…Wow. Good going.

  12. Kay on May 22nd, 2009 6:49 am

    Great! We’ve got some positive feedback from Trevor! ????

  13. Berneice on May 22nd, 2009 1:20 pm

    I can only dream of doing something like this. I just keep wowing! :p

  14. Bobbi on May 22nd, 2009 1:47 pm

    That looks great!!! He will be one happy little boy. :)

  15. Monica on May 22nd, 2009 2:57 pm

    So very nice!! Did you come up with this idea on your own or did you have something to go by? So creative…….:)

  16. Liz on May 22nd, 2009 6:17 pm

    Wow, I am way behind the times. I am just now seeing this. Looks good. Did you have a picture to go off? wonder how long it will be till i’ll have to do a thomas one for my little guy. Maybe it’ll have to be sometime when you are around.=)ha!

  17. Kay on May 22nd, 2009 8:19 pm

    I printed a couple pictures off of a Thomas website. We are probably one of the only households in America that doesn’t have anything Thomas! No toys or books. :rolleyes: So, I just went off of those pictures to do the cake. I couldn’t find any with the back of the engine on it, so I just kinda made it however. The cars were just kinda whatever too. I think I should’ve had a passenger car because I think that’s what Thomas is mostly pulling. But, oh well, I didn’t catch onto that little tidbit in time. Now Lexi and Tiffany are all into Thomas. :)

  18. Katrina on May 26th, 2009 8:20 am

    Great job. What a lot of work! I used to make cute theme cakes, but when my kids don’t eat it and end up throwing away a lot of cake, it makes it annoying to do all that work. Awesome cake!

  19. Shannon H on May 26th, 2009 8:08 pm

    Wow wow wow. You did a splendid job. I think you could start a business.

    All at once tonight I rememebered that I hadn’t checked on Thomas again. My poor girls are looking wide eyed and saying, “Mom, could you make….” and I shut them off before they even asked. ???? No, I can’t! We’ll just call Kay! :)

  20. Shannon H on May 26th, 2009 8:10 pm

    Ok they say if that’s the case, we don’t want Thomas, we want a girly princess one. ????

  21. Anneta B on June 1st, 2009 8:28 pm

    Wow! What a lucky birthday boy to have a friend who would use her creativity to bake such a cake! I am sure it will one of the highlights of his childhood. Congratulations on a job well done! I hope you or his mother took tons of photos to memorialize this fantastic gift. You know he will be increasingly proud that someone cared this much.

  22. Mariann on June 1st, 2009 9:57 pm

    Kay, you are amazing!! That is one adorable Thomas cake.:)

  23. renita on June 3rd, 2009 8:33 pm

    Ok, I don’t think I’ll let my boys see this one. But on the other hand, maybe you just got a job for the next birthday. What an awesome talent you’ve got! I’m glad you live close to me!

  24. Judi on June 4th, 2009 12:34 pm

    I’m sure Trevor absolutely loved it!! You did a great job and your hard work really show.

  25. Kim on June 7th, 2009 6:41 pm

    What a Thomas cake! Jared had one for his bday, too, but I did mine the easy way…I put on a Thomas train toy and made the track with pretzels. I thought it looked pretty nice… till I saw yours. I won’t let Jared see the one you made, then I should be safe. =)
    I never know how much to write here that’s not cooking-related.
    Any chance you’ll be at the Midwest mtgs this summer? If not, we’d like to see you somehow. It’s been awhile….

  26. Suzanne on June 9th, 2009 12:19 pm

    I decorate cakes too and just have a question after I saw yours. How do you get such true colors of blue, red and black. I have such a problem with that and can’t figure it out. Could you please give me some tips because I can’t keep decorating cakes forever without using those colors. Thank you so much

  27. Kay on June 9th, 2009 12:33 pm

    Suzanne, I use Wilton concentrated paste icing colors. It comes in little cans about 1 1/2″ tall (there are actually some sitting around in a couple of the pictures above) and can be found in the cake decorating section at Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, etc. Also, I buy the actual colors I’m going to be using (for example, I don’t mix blue and yellow to make green, I buy green paste). I used to use food coloring (the liquid stuff) and since I discovered the paste, I’ll never go back to food coloring for cake decorating! If you use this paste and still aren’t getting the true colors, then add more… even tho’ it’s really concentrated, it’s amazing how much you have to use sometimes! Happy cake decorating! It’s fun, isn’t it?! :)

  28. Lisl Lattin on June 13th, 2009 6:52 am

    The cake is truly a work of art, Kay. I only have one question–and I suppose if I were a maker of cakes I would know the answer. But I’m not. How did you transport Thomas, and all his cars, from the surface you decorated him on, to the train track? I can just imagine the dreadful things that would happen if I were to try to figure out how to scrape him gracefully from one location onto another. Help! This shall boggle my mind until I know the answer!

  29. Kay on June 13th, 2009 11:31 am

    Ha, Lisl. You’re very perceptive. The maneuver you mentioned was VERY nerve-wracking!

    When it was time to move Thomas over, I just stared at it for awhile, not wanting to do it, and wondering what would work the best. I have a huge knife (with Chinese writing on it) that has a 4″x8″ blade. I sprayed it with cooking spray for easier sliding. That worked great by itself for the cars, but for Thomas, I had someone help me and used the knife on one end and a pancake turner on the other end.

    When we were putting Thomas over, I got a bad case of the giggles, which zapped me of my steadiness and strength. :rolleyes: Have you ever done that at in-opportune times? I was thinking, “I can’t laugh!” and that made me laugh all the more! Sigh. But miraculously, it made it on there and I only had to do minimal touch-up around the bottom edges. :)

  30. Rebecca on July 7th, 2009 4:46 pm

    Now that is a birthday cake!

  31. Larna on June 23rd, 2010 5:00 pm

    Hi, I found your blog and was inspired to try this for my son’s 3rd bday despite not being a baker! Yikes! I have one question, though, which is can I leave the frosted cake in the fridge uncovered overnight? I have to frost the cake the day before due to time constraints, and the cake is going to be too big to cover, but I am worried about the frosting drying out in the fridge overnight? Any thoughts? Thanks! Your cake is awesome!

  32. Kay on July 20th, 2010 10:47 am

    Larna, I’ve put cakes in the fridge overnight and the frosting stayed just fine!

    If you’re using fondant though, I wouldn’t put it in the fridge… I made an ice cream cake base with fondant-covered cakes on top and so it had to go in the freezer. That does NOT work!

    Regular frosting should be fine, though.

  33. Thomas the Train Table on September 9th, 2010 9:08 pm

    That is a awesome Thomas birthday cake! Great job! I am sure Trevor absolutely loved it!

  34. Shane on February 5th, 2011 9:11 am

    That is simply amazing. My son Chase loves Thomas. We are having a Thomas themed second birthday for him today. I was going to just draw the front of him on a cake. Not anymore! I have six hours to do what you did. I better get started. Thank you so much for giving me a great idea and for making my sons birthday that much better. Great job!

  35. Sara on August 31st, 2011 2:27 pm

    How creative! I made a train cake similar to this for my daughter 3 years ago, but I love how you did your track and rocks! Now my son is turning 3 and wants Thomas also. I was just going to do the tank engine, but I am inspired now to do all the cars that go with it, complete with a caboose! Great job!

  36. Helen on October 1st, 2011 8:06 pm

    That cake is AWESOME! My daughter asked me to make a Thomas cake for her son’s 2nd birthday so I was looking for ideas – yours are great!
    One question where did you use the spaghetti, carrot and popsicle sticks. Must be well hidden, can’t see it anywhere but I’m wondering if that is how you held pieces together. Please let me know. Thanks so much