Thomas the choo choo birthday cake

Compare this.....
....with this! (Not bad I think)

It’s that time of year again, when I get to bake a special cake for Andrew and Tom (they share the same birthday). Last year for Andrew’s first birthday, I made a three-part cake in the shape of the letters ONE, because he wasn’t really into anything specific like a character from a book or TV programme. This year was very different – I had several characters to choose from, such as Brum, Fireman Sam, Noddy, Bob the builder, Postman Pat…… and Thomas the tank Engine. I decided that Thomas was the easiest to turn into a cake because of his shape, so I set to and created an edible Thomas.

The cake was a classic sponge cake, with the following ingredients:

  • 330g sugar
  • 330g margarine
  • 6 eggs
  • 330g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
The base cakes

I made this sponge mixture in the usual way, by creaming together the sugar and margarine, then beating in the egg, and finally adding the flour, baking powder and vanilla essence and stirring until well combined. I poured this mixture into two loaf tins and 4 holes in a muffin tin. They were beaked at 180ºC (fan) for around 10 minutes for the muffin-sized sponges, and around 40 minutes for the loaf-sized sponges, until a knife inserted into the centre came out clean. I then let them cool fully before I started anything else.

My model, ready for copying, stood in front of the base cakes waiting for them to cool down.

Next it was time to cut the cakes up to model the shape of Thomas. I began by cutting the top off both loaf cakes, to make them flat on top. I kept one loaf as a rectangle to make the base of the train, and cut the other loaf and muffins up to use to build up the rest of the train. I stuck all the bits together using jam.

The base cakes cut and stuck together with jam to form the train shape.

Once this cake model was finished, I set about decorating it with icing to make it into Thomas. As I don’t have much time these days, fitting baking, modelling and icing in around feeding Joel, I bought ready-to-roll blue royal icing and ready-to-squeeze blue buttercream icing. I rolled out the royal icing to a couple of millimetres thick, and draped to over the cake. Amazingly, it fitted just nicely except a few jagged edges which I trimmed off before sticking the edges to the cake using jam. I made sure I pushed the icing into all the corners, so I didn’t lose any of the cake shape. I used the small amount of trimmings to make the little blue hump on his top a bit behind the funnel, by rolling them up into a ball and sticking it on.

Covered in blue icing - I later cut the roof icing off to stick on the back, and covered the roof in chocolate

The two ends didn’t get covered, but that was fine for the face end because it’s not blue, and for the back end I cut the rectangle of icing off the roof of the driver’s cab and stuck it on the back using buttercream icing. The roof of the cab is black, so I covered it with melted dark chocolate, as I did for the ring around the face at the front too. For the wheels, I used liquorice Catherine wheels and stuck them on with a blob of buttercream icing. For the very front of the train, I melted some white chocolate and added some red gel food colouring, and smeared it onto the cake. Once all the cake was covered, I used red and yellow writing icing to draw the lines and number one onto the body of the train, and blue to draw on his face features, with white chocolate buttons for eyes. The funnel was half a Quality Street chocolate covered toffee finger stuck on with a blob of buttercream icing.

Then all that was left to do was stick 2 candles in it and bring it out for tea on their birthday! Andrew immediately recognised it as Thomas the choo choo, which meant a lot to me – I’d done a good job it seems 🙂 Not only did it look like Thomas, but it tasted good too, and that’s the most important thing about a birthday cake.

Look it's a Thomas choo choo!!
Birthday boys blowing out the candles

Sweetie chocolate cookies

We’re (not so slowly) getting through all the biscuits and chocolates that we accumulated over Christmas! Lots of it is being consumed overnight as I feel pretty hungry in the night whilst feeding – this is a great time of year to be breastfeeding. What we do have quite a lot of still are sweets that Andrew was given, both when Joel was born and for Christmas. I don’t mind him eating a few occasionally, but there are quite a lot to get through, and at this rate he’ll still have some left at Easter when no doubt more will arrive! Walking past the freshly baked cookies in the supermarket gave me the idea to use some sweets by baking cookies, plus I had one lonesome egg to use up by the weekend, so this seemed like a good plan.

I’ve never had fruity sweets (as opposed to chocolate sweets like buttons or smarties) in cookies before, but I wondered how they would turn out, so took the risk and used Jelly Tots. They turned out brilliantly – I love the chewiness of the sweets next to the doughy cookie, and the different fruit flavours in the sweets next to the chocolate of the cookie. It’s not a complicated recipe, but the results are very satisfying, and perfect to devour with a hot cup of tea on a wintry afternoon. Why not have a go yourself, especially if you’ve got any Christmas sweets lurking?

Ingredients

  • 200g brown sugar
  • 100g white sugar
  • 170g margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 350g flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tube of jelly tots or other sweets

Method

  1. Cream the margarine and sugars in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the egg until smooth.
  3. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and about two thirds of the sweets, and mix in until well combined, using your hands when it gets too stiff for the spoon.
  4. Bring the dough together into a ball and then shape with your hands into a long sausage about 5cm in diameter on some greaseproof paper.
  5. Wrap in the greaseproof paper and leave for 2-3 hours in the fridge until chilled and firm.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan) just before you take the dough out of the fridge.
  7. Cut the sausage shape into discs about 1cm thick using a serrated knife.
  8. Use the greaseproof paper to line two baking sheets, and place the discs of dough on these, spaced apart.
  9. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then take out the cookies and press a few sweets into the top of each one while the dough is still soft enough.
  10. Put back in the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the trays. Best eaten still slightly warm and very fresh!