Rev up festivities of a child's birthday party with the presentation of a Thomas the Tank Engine cake. Thomas is the main character in a cartoon television series narrated by such notables as Ringo Starr, George Carlin and Alec Baldwin, based on books that began publication in 1945 in the United Kingdom about the adventures of animated trains. As of 2011 over 400 episodes have delighted children worldwide and made Thomas a household name among preschoolers.
Prepare a surface that will accommodate your cake. You can use as many cars to follow Thomas as you want, as long as you have enough space to put them and ideas to frost them.
Bake or buy 6-inch by 3-inch loaf cakes that will become the cars and caboose.
Bake a 9-inch square cake. Allow to cool. Make enough icing to cover all of the cakes, plus some for piping and decorations. For a four-car train, double the normal cake-size recipe. Wilton's Buttercream icing recipe is a good one to use.
Cut the 9-inch cake in half. Cut one inch off the end of each of the halves, making two long pieces and two small ones.
Turn one of the long pieces upside-down onto the engine's position on the cake display surface. Ice the side that is now facing up. Place the bottom of the other long piece on top of that, creating a layer cake.
Ice the rear two inches of the layer cake. Place one of the 1-inch cake pieces at the rear of the cake and the other directly in front of it, covering the icing. Use toothpicks to secure them, if needed.
Sculpt Thomas' front by slicing ¼-inch off the top edges of the front six inches of the cake.
Colour ¼-cup of icing bright blue and another ¼-cup black. Cut a 2-inch piece of the straw and press it into the top of the cake for the smokestack. Frost ½-inch of the rounded top, including the straw, ½-inch circles for the headlights in front and the top of the back with black. Frost the rest with blue, keeping a circular front untouched for the face.
Colour about one tablespoon very light blue and frost Thomas' face with that. Put a tiny bit of black icing into the piping bag and pipe Thomas' facial features.
Colour 1/4 --cup of the icing red and pipe the outline of the train. Put a dollop of white icing on top of the smokestack. Pipe six blue wheels.
Lay liquorice pieces down for the tracks.
Frost each little cake for the cars using your imagination after connecting them with plastic straws. One car can be the zoo car that has animal cookies pressed onto its sides and bars piped over it. Another can be the coal car that is brimming with chocolate chips. A third can be a red caboose. Pipe a line to connect the vanilla wafers wheels of each car.
Scatter granola to simulate the dirt of the rail bed.
Be careful of toothpicks, if you use them, when serving the cake.