Train cake for a second birthday

So I’m 36 weeks pregnant and it’s my son’s second birthday party … of course I need to get all fussy over the dessert and make a train cake from scratch! Honestly, as I made this cake, I questioned why I was going through all the trouble. It probably cost 2-3 times as much as a sheet cake from the grocery store, and it took about 2-3 hours, instead of 2-3 minutes when just picking one out. But knowing exactly what went into this cake (including all the love), getting to be a bit creative, testing my “abilities” and seeing my son’s smile as the result of my work really did make it all worthwhile.
Since I’d be cutting the cake prior to frosting, I needed something “sturdy,” so a pound cake fit the bill. It’s not my favorite cake in terms of texture, but it did perform as required. A 7-minute frosting would have been my first choice, but it was 85 degrees and I needed something I could work with for as long as it took, so a modified cream cheese frosting fit the bill.
I was happy with the outcome, and so was my son, so I’m going to call this one a success.
Chocolate Pound Cake
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 4 sticks softened butter: unsalted plus 1 t salt, OR use salted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 9 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees, line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper (leaving paper an inch above pan on all sides), and combine flour and cocoa powder in a bowl
  2. Cream butter (and salt, if using unsalted butter) and sugar with a mixer on high speed, scraping down sides of bowl, until pale and fluffy
  3. Reduce speed to medium and add vanilla extract
  4. Add eggs in 2-3 additions, mixing thoroughly after each and scraping down sides
  5. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture in 3-4 additions, mixing until just incorporated
  6. Scoop batter into pan and smooth top
  7. Bake until a tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes
  8. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Pick up by parchment paper to remove from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack. Gently remove paper when cool and transfer to serving platter.
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

Directions

  1. Mix together sugar, cream cheese and butter on low speed until well blended, then increase speed to medium and beat until fluffy.
  2. Add vanilla and milk and continue to beat on medium speed. Add more milk or sugar as necessary to achieve desired consistency.
Train Cake Tips
  • This was the first time I used parchment paper for a 9 x 13 pan, and it worked great! No fear of breaking the cake upon “unmolding.” I’m a convert.
  • Use a very sharp knife to cut pound cake, and don’t get too fancy!
  • A “crumb layer” of icing is absolutely essential. I just covered the cut cake with a thin layer of un-colored frosting.
  • Yes, I used standard food colorings for the icing, I admit it.
  • I used chocolate Twizzlers, M & Ms, E.L. Fudge cookies and a German black-liquorice-and-chocolate gummi (yum!) to decorate the “train.”
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