A gal I used to work with a few years ago approached me about doing a cake for her son Owen's first birthday party. She specifically wanted cake balls for this train themed party she was having and we decided on creating a cardboard train that would be pulling along cars filled with cake balls. Here is the sketch I sent her of our plan:
And the final product:
Everybody really liked the cake balls...even the bees, unfortunately. They were everywhere and while I don't think anyone was stung, it was a bit disconcerting with all those younguns around! The cake balls weren't difficult to make, but they were very time consuming and I made over a hundred of them in three different flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. In hindsight, I should have started on this project sooner than Thursday night. I had to cancel on a some fun Friday plans in order to get everything done. I baked everything Thursday night and constructed the train cars. Friday night I created the cake balls, coated them, and started the smash cake. Saturday morning I made the train engine (in under an hour!) and finished the final details on everything before we made the long drive to Round Rock for the party.
In hindsight, my schedule sounds better than it really was. My chocolate ganache did not come together correctly thanks to my incorrect calculation for the ratios of whipping cream to chocolate and I had to make a late night mad dash to the grocery store. While there, I bought some white and chocolate candy bark as well. When I worked at the gourmet dog biscuit company, we actually used the almond bark mixed with a bit of canning wax to dip and decorate the biscuits (don't worry, there wasn't any wax in my cake balls!) The candy bark coating turned out to be a good buy as it made a better coating for the cake balls. NOTE TO SELF: ganache and candy bark coating do NOT mix well at all! Trust me on this one...
So because of the late night store run, I lost time and compounded my stress even more. My nerves were further rattled when the birthday mom called to make sure everything was OK because of a nightmare she'd had the night before in which the cake collapsed and everything was ruined (it suddenly made me uber paranoid that something would go wrong). To make matters even worse, my daughter jammed her toe and sprained her ankle while chasing her daddy around the living room. If you have a child, you'll understand. I am usually calm in crisis situations, but God help me should my child be injured! I go into full Mama Bear mode and it ain't pretty. Needless to say, I would have been a lot less stressed had I made the dang train parts earlier in the week.
I should also mention that I ended up having to bake additional cake whilst working from home on Friday and that dipping cake balls is VERY time consuming. It's easy, but time consuming. I started on the cake balls at 5:30 pm and went to bed at midnight. I got up at 8 as my husband left for work, finished the smash cake, made the train, got both of us dressed and out the door by 10:30. Phew!
For construction of the train, I used Chinese take out boxes to hold the cake balls and created the train from cardboard and paper. The "cars" are sitting on some brown paper bag wrapped pieces of foamcore, which I then glued wooden buttons to for train wheels. The caboose is vanilla cake that I sculpted to match the shape of the takeout boxes and iced with American buttercream. It too, is sitting on a little platform to create that 3D effect. The roof, windows and door are fondant which I then accented with some more buttercream. The engine itself was made from tissue boxes, heavy duty cardstock, and hot glue. I totally forgot the smokestack which would have been even more awesome!
So there you have it. Hope this inspires you to create your own ticket to a great cake!