February 1st, 2008

Children’s Birthday Cake – Trains – with Banana Cake Recipe!

Coco&Me - Children's Birthday Cake - in shape of Trains, with royal icing!

I baked this set of trains for my kid’s best friend’s 4th birthday!

I kept the icing simple with just three colours & as minimal as I can allow it. I stayed away from using sugary gum drops & other store-bought sweets because: One, as a parent I wouldn’t want my 4 year old introduced to those things yet, & Two, icing them is so much cheaper! :)

Coco&Me - Children's Birthday Cake - in shape of Trains, with royal icing!

Handmade paper flags glued to cocktail sticks:

I decided it’s better if the flags were not white. It will be lost in the background, & the coloured flags would add the much needed extra colourfulness that my minimal-icing-ideology doesn’t provide. – But on the other hand, I made more work for myself & D (he helped), as I couldn’t just ‘stamp’ letters on to dark coloured paper (I don’t have white ink), & had to cut each letter out & glue them!

Each child received one train each. It was easily distributed since there was no cutting slices involved. The flags were popular (“I’ve got K!” & so on). Everyone took it home with them!
Coco&Me - Children's Birthday Cake - in shape of Trains, with royal icing!

(At every children’s birthday party we go to, there’ll always be another kid who’d be blowing the candles too! :)
Coco&Me - Children's Birthday Cake - in shape of Trains, with royal icing!

(For the cake board base: I cut cardboard to size & covered it with white baking paper.)

Coco&Me - Children's Birthday Cake - Trains - with Banana Cake Recipe! - NORDICWARE

(Nordicware Train Cake Pan purchased from Lakeland)

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Am I turning in to a right old woman or what?

Because when D spotted the Nordicware Train Cake Pan in the shop, I was soooo happy – like, deliriously, over the moon style! It’s really difficult to find Nordicware here in the UK, & this particular train cake pan had been on my wish-list for over a year. I once spent a whole night trawling the internet to see if anyone sells this in this country but to no avail…

BUT…! Out-of-the-blue, there it was in front of my eyes… SO, readers, hopefully you can understand my cake-fanaticism, & picture me enthusiastically charging my way to the cash-till in nano-second-flat, flared nostrils, seeing nothing but red until I successfully purchased it, until “It-Is-Mine!” (followed by manic laughter – Dr Evil style…)
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This purchase came at the perfect timing too, as the following week I was to make a birthday cake for my son’s best friend. Like always, I test-baked several days before the real bake-day, to remove any uncertainties that could potentially ruin the result. The lessons learnt from the test-bake was valuable:

  • The cake batter must be piped (not dolloped in), so that the batter reaches all intricate detail of this cake pan.
  • Batter must be pasted/ pushed to all the sides with a spatula to avoid ugly air-holes appearing on the train surfaces.
  • Batter must be to the fullest brim to perfectly imprint the cake design.
  • Must use more colours than just white for the icing, unless it’s a snowy scene you’re trying to create.
  • It is best to pipe extra details like ‘grills’ & ‘windows’ or even abstract polka-dots, rather than faithfully outlining/ following the grooves of the cake.
  • Mustn’t pipe too much icing on it because the cake would become too sweet – & I can imagine the parents getting worried about too much sugar consumption! (especially if it’s artificially coloured!)

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After consideration, I decided it should be a banana cake. A boring sponge won’t do (it’ll taste too normal unless there’s a delicious filling layer), nor it shouldn’t be chocolate coloured (the imprinted design wouldn’t be as visible). D suggested ‘marbled cake’ but that’ll just be ‘too busy’ with the intricate designs. – But a banana cake on the other-hand I thought, is gorgeously moist, popular with everyone & should get a nod of approval from the parents as it sounds natural & it uses less refined sugar.

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So here is the recipe for my banana cake. It is a ‘Pâte à biscuit’ sponge method. (whereby the egg is separated – yolk goes in with the sugar, & the whites are whisked to a meringue, before being combined.)
I also added the recipe for the royal icing at the end.

Both recipes are easy-peasy to make!

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MOIST BANANA CAKE RECIPE:

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Ingredients:

(quantities to fill the Nordicware train pan)

200g Ripe bananas
100g Sugar
5 x Egg yolk
5 x Egg whites
100g Sugar (to whisk in to the whites)
150g Plain flour
75g Almond powder
75g Butter
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Prepare in advance the following:

  • Butter the mould (here, it is best to use a pastry brush & slightly melted butter to really get to every intricate details & grooves). And finely flour the mould by sifting it.
  • Melt 75g of butter. Set aside until needed.
  • Pre-sift the plain flour & the almond powder.
  • Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.

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Method:

  • 1. Slice the 200g of ripe bananas, place them in a mixing bowl & use the electric whisk to purée it.
  • 2. Add the 100g of sugar & whisk it together.
  • 3. Combine the 5 x egg yolks. Then set aside.
  • 4. In another bowl, whisk the 5 x egg whites to a stiff meringue with 100g of sugar.
  • 5. Combine 1/4 of the meringue in to your egg-mixture from step 3.
  • 6. Sift all the dry ingredients (flour & almond powder) in. Combine with spatula.
  • 7. Pour in the 75g of melted butter & combine with spatula.
  • 8. Fold in the rest of the meringue.
  • 9. Put the batter in to a disposable piping bag.
  • 10. Snip the end so that you get a 3mm opening, & start to pipe it in to the intricate details.
  • 11. Then snip a wider opening (say about 1cm), & pipe the rest in.
  • 12. Place in the pre-heated oven of 180 degrees, for approximately 18 minutes. – When time is up, check if it is done by skewering the middle of the cake. If the skewer comes out clean & is warm to the touch, it is done.
  • 13. Take it out of the oven. Place a cake-cooling-rack on top. Grip both cake pan & rack, then reverse it so that the train-mould is on top. Take the cake pan off. The cakes should come out easily. (It is best to cool it right side up, to flatten the bottom of the cakes.)
  • 14. Once the cake has cooled, proceed to make the royal icing.

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ROYAL ICING RECIPE:

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Ingredients:

1 x egg white

125 to 150g of icing sugar

Food colouring

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Method:

  • 1. Whisk the egg white with a table spoon (not with electric mixer as it’ll become ‘too’ foamy) for about 5 minutes.
  • 2. Mix 125g of icing sugar in to the whisked egg whites. This will give you the basic white icing. Experiment with the fluidity depending on wether you want to cover a large surface or wether you would like it to pipe patterns. If you want it to be thicker for piping patterns, gradually mix in more icing sugar. (In my case, I used 150g of sugar in the end, but it’s best to be your own judge here.)
  • 3. If you would like it coloured, add food colouring drop-at-a-time.
  • 4. Put the icing in a piping bag, snip the end off (say 2mm for pattern piping) & pipe away!

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Tip:

If you want several colours to work with, just divide your white icing at step 2 in to however-many-bowls, & then colour each bowl differently.

If the royal icing becomes hard while you’re working, add a few droplets of water to loosen it.

If artificial food colouring worries you, try to find ‘natural’ food colouring in the shops, or you can alternatively try: matcha powder for green, & cocoa powder or instant coffee for brown. (If you know of any other ways to colour naturally, please please let me know!)

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    Happy Baking!

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    28 Comments »

    1. Cute! Lucky kid…

      Comment by Louise - February 4, 2008 10:01 pm

    2. Thanx Louise!
      Y’know…, my mom never made anything like this for me when I was a child… …

      Comment by tamami - February 4, 2008 10:16 pm

    3. Oh, my four-year-old grandson would love this! He is totally into Thomas the Tank Engine!

      Comment by Lydia - February 5, 2008 3:20 am

    4. Hi Lydia! My 4 year old son also is totally craaaaazy about Thomas too! :) Btw, If only I had a great pantry like yours…! I’m wishing to the stars…

      Comment by tamami - February 5, 2008 11:09 am

    5. Lovely! I just started reading your blog and am impressed with your energy, attention to detail, and love of baking. I hope your business goes really well, you certainly go about it with lots of love. And bravo on the birthday train, my idea of a perfcct cake for kids (and I have 3): beautiful, fun, simple, relatively healthy.

      Comment by Astrid - February 12, 2008 8:13 am

    6. Hi Astrid!
      thanks for checking my blog out.
      I’m very impressed that you have THREE children, a job, a blog. And you seem like you are handling it well! Bravo back to you! – Me on the other hand, am slightly dubious as to wether how I’d cope with juggling my saturday stall work & the second child that’s on it’s way! Anyway, hope to hear from you again, Tamami xx

      Comment by tamami - February 12, 2008 11:27 am

    7. Oh, my job is only sitting behind a computer while someone else takes care of my kids… it’s the easy part of my day! And only part time. But your job is exhausting, making all those cakes! I hope you can continue, it sounds great. Best of health to you and the baby!

      Comment by Astrid - February 14, 2008 11:04 am

    8. Cheers Astrid. :)
      I know what you mean by ‘it’s the easy part of my day’! – Looking after the kids can be very tiring… And as D says, he’s sometimes glad that he can go back to work on Monday!

      Comment by tamami - February 14, 2008 11:26 am

    9. Hi,
      It was so refreshing to read your post. I have been tinkering with the idea of starting a market stall but lacked the confidence, I suppose, to start it. I have been baking macarons, tarts, french patisserie mainly, feeding my colleagues at work. But after reading you blog I feel maybe it’s time to take the plunge. Any advice for a novice? I also love the box you use for your chocolates, can you tell me where you sourced them from?
      All the the best
      Julie

      Comment by Julie - August 21, 2008 9:12 pm

    10. Hello Julie,
      wow, that’s great! It’s nice to know that my blogging has been useful. – I’ll send you an email later, possibly tonight, after I come back from my friend’s.
      Til then,
      t xx

      Comment by tamami - August 22, 2008 10:17 am

    11. Hi there! Love your blog– just stumbled upon it today via Chocolate and Zucchini. I’m an avid home baker living in Newbury, MA, in the U.S.A.

      Blueberries, a staple here in New England, make a delightful pink color if you boil a few with a little sugar and then sieve out the skins. I colored a friend’s birthday cake in this fashion and the hint of blueberry flavor was a nice bonus, since it paired beautifully with the cake– a lemon cake. I haven’t tried this method for coloring royal icing, but it might be worth the experiment….

      Comment by Melissa Mashburn - January 31, 2009 9:19 pm

    12. Hi Melissa! thanks for the great tip about colouring with blueberries! That’s a brilliant idea. I’m sure one can also try raspberries, & blackberries in the same manner. But not sure if it’ll colour the icing strong enough though, although your idea will be great for colouring whipping cream! yum! -

      Comment by tamami - January 31, 2009 9:59 pm

    13. Eeek- I also made a very exciting cake tin purchase last week- cars cakes rather than trains cake because little boys also LOVE cars!! I used your banana cake recipe and it was a huge hit at the 3rd Birthday party we held on the weekend. I am now desperately trying to get my ££ per use of the cake tin purchase to below £5 per use. Car Shaped Olive and Thyme Bread anyone?

      Comment by Jane - March 29, 2010 7:48 pm

    14. Hi Jane!!
      Thanks for trying the banana cake recipe! I’m so happy to hear that it was a success! Phew! – I guess, so long as you grease the tin, you might be able to bake diff. things, dunno! But worth a try I guess!! ;) ;)

      Comment by tamami - March 30, 2010 11:40 am

    15. Tamami,

      I just saw the train cake and it took my breath away. It is absolutely GORGEOUS! I’m anxious to make the banana cake but don’t recognize the recipe equations. You can tell I don’t cook/bake much so I am not familiar with what a “100 g of Sugar” equates to in the States. Would that be 2 cups of Sugar? Is there a way you can translate it for me? Please? Pretty please?

      Comment by AJ - June 7, 2010 9:02 am

    16. Hello AJ!! Thank you xx
      I, on the other hand am crap when it comes to conversions – that’s why I stick to grams… I googled conversion website:
      http://www.traditionaloven.com/conversions_of_measures/sugar_amounts.html
      And it says 100g of castor sugar is 0.4444cups.
      - Hope this helps!!
      T x

      Comment by tamami - June 7, 2010 12:54 pm

    17. some cake shops hire out these particular train set moulds….cheap too 3 to 4 pounds. deposit may be required…happy baking :)

      Comment by ianholland - August 20, 2010 12:12 am

    18. Hello Ianholland! Thanks for the tip!

      Comment by tamami - August 20, 2010 12:37 am

    19. Hi Tamami,

      I love reading your blog and your cakes are so tempting! :)

      Regarding natural food dyes, over here in Singapore & some neighbouring SE Asian countries, we use a flower called “bunga telang” (butterfly pea / blue pea flowers, Clitoria ternatea) to dye certain local desserts blue.

      Usually, the flowers (a lot of them) are picked & dried. When needed, the flowers are soaked in hot water to release the blue colour. How intense or subtle to colour depends on the amount of flowers and/or water used. I’m uncertain if you are able to get them in UK though.

      Comment by Michele - October 15, 2010 1:31 pm

    20. Hello Michele!!! I didn’t know about the flower! I absolutely love hearing about something like this! I just googled a bit, & I found that it has light & faint flower frangance too. Wow. Thank you for the great tip! I would love to try it one day… And thank you for enjoying the blog! xx

      Comment by tamami - October 16, 2010 12:59 am

    21. Hi!
      Been reading your blog for a while now, but never left a comment! I’m from Hong Kong and now living in Northampton, oh how I miss the lovely cakes back home! Light, spongy & pretty… I find cakes in the UK too heavy and plain looking.
      But anyway! It’s my little boy’s 2nd birthday this saturday, and I’ve bought a train cake tin just like yours, I saw it in Matalan and thought I’ve got to have it because my boy is absolutely train-mad. So I’ll be trying your recipe and posting the result on my blog.

      I’m gonna use ground almond as I’m not sure where to get almond powder? Are they the same? And can I make this cake on thursday night, ice it on friday and eat it on saturday? Will it be stale?

      Thanks for the great blog,

      Annie xxx

      Comment by Annie - January 12, 2011 11:37 am

    22. Hello Annie!! Wow, thank you for leaving your first ever comment! I’m very happy to hear from you!
      RE: almond powder, yup it’s the same as ground almond! Sorry to be so confusing! And as for the timing to bake: I suggest making it on Friday, then serve on Saturday. If you’re not too ambitious with the icing with lots of different colours & details, it shouldn’t take too long! (but please always do a ‘test-bake’ on a previous occasion to have an easy/ stress-free baking experience on the actual day!) Happy baking!! xx

      Comment by tamami - January 12, 2011 11:55 am

    23. [...] a banana cake and the recipe is taken from here. It’s a very moist cake and all the kids (and adults) loved it! Ashleigh almost ate a whole [...]

      Pingback by Choo Choo Train Cake - January 16, 2011 9:20 pm

    24. Annie!!!!!! That looks fantastic!!! Wow!!! And I’m so glad that everyone enjoyed it too! Thanks for the link back!! xx

      Comment by tamami - January 16, 2011 9:37 pm

    25. Hi,

      I love your banana cake recipe and I’m planning to do it, but I am worried about some friends with nut allergies. What can I substitute the almond powder with? Should I just use more flour instead (i.e. 150 + 75 g plain flour?
      Thanks!!

      Comment by Laura - March 14, 2012 2:43 am

    26. Hi Laura! thank you!! xx I’ve never tried this recipe without almond powder, so I can’t say for sure, but yes, try substituting with all plain flour like you say! ^^ My instinct says maybe lessen the amount though, like to 200g in total instead?? (I’m worried about the gluten) I suggest a bit of test run at home before serving friends! ^^ Happy baking!

      Comment by Tamami - March 14, 2012 8:31 am

    27. Hooray!
      I found an Australian online shop that sells this cake tin at a reasonable price and my nearly 4 year old would love it for his birthday cake!

      Comment by Belinda - August 24, 2012 1:54 am

    28. Yay Belinda~!! That’s great news!! Happy baking!!! xx

      Comment by Tamami - August 24, 2012 11:16 pm

     

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