Friday, May 17, 2013

Shinkansen Cake

This week has been all about K's 3rd birthday, a.k.a. Shinkansen week! While I still have one more post about other snacks I made for the party, I figured I should finish the week off with a bang and write about his cake. In Japan, we have train sets called PlaRail. They are extremely life-like miniature versions of real trains. K has numerous PlaRail trains, both Thomas and Shinkansens, but one of his recent favorites is the Komachi Shinkansen. Of all the PlaRail trains he has, luckily for me, this one would probably be the easiest to recreate in cake form, so that is what I did!

I started with a vanilla cake recipe that ended up being super moist and quite delicious. I am often left wanting after making a vanilla cake, but I really liked this one. I think it has become my go-to for vanilla cakes. As a quick note, I only used the cake recipe - not the frosting recipe, so I really can't vouch for that bit.

It was a basic cake to mix up, but when I looked at the batter, I thought something was a bit lacking. I thought if I added blue sugar sprinkles to the mix, it would liven up the cake and be quite cute.

I added in a healthy amount of sugar crystals.

And then freaked out since they started to dissolve into the batter. It now looked a bit moldy. It was too late to do anything about it and I was already going a tad crazy with the rest of the party prep that the cake was just left looking a tad gross.

I baked it and a few spots browned more than others, but all together it wasn't bad at all. Then I measured the Komachi PlaRail and drew lines on the cake to show me where to cut.

I cut out all the little train cars into rectangles and also chopped one of the rectangles in half, stuck it to the end of one of the full rectangles, and angled the front down to make it look like the front of the Komachi.

My cake pieces ended up being bigger than the real PlaRail, but I wasn't too concerned about it.

I let the cakes chill for a bit. During this time, while I didn't take any photos (I've no idea why I didn't) I piped out a ton of windows, like roughly 150, as well as the Japanese hirgana to write "Komachi" as this is on the side of the train.

Once the piping was done, I did a crumb coat on each piece. It looked like junk, but that's exactly the point of a crumb coat!

Once the crumb coated pieces were all chilled, I did the real coat of frosting and then mixed up my silver "paint." I just so happened to have silver cake dust sitting about, so I dumped some of it into a tiny bowl.

Then I added some vodka, gave it a stir and voila, silver paint!

As I put the real frosting on to each piece, I positioned it on the serving platter and chilled the whole thing again. Then I painted the bottom third, or so, with the silver paint.

After that, I mixed some magenta food gel with vodka to get a pink paint and painted a super thin line just above the silver. In both of these paints, the vodka evaporates, so you are left with no alcohol content or taste, just the pretty colors.

It was looking pretty good, I thought, but I was tired so I went to bed without adding the windows. Also, I was a bit worried that since the windows were black, they might bleed into the frosting. I wasn't ready to risk this cake this late in the game (the night before the party).

In the morning, I added all of the windows to the train cars, as well as the "Komachi" hiragana. Everything was so tiny that I had to put it on using tweezers. It took for ever to deal with this.

In the end, it was well worth it! I think the cake looked pretty cool and everyone seemed stoked on it. I will say that it was far from perfect and as per usual, I took some artistic liberties, but all the guests could immediately tell what it was. 

At the party, K made his wish and blew out his candles. Then we ate cake!

There was a bit of batter left over, so I was able to make six cupcakes as well. These sat on the dessert table. I wasn't exactly sure how many people would be coming for cake, so I thought it was wise to have some back-up cupcakes in case the Komachi cake wasn't enough. It was plenty. In fact, while the cupcakes have since been eaten, we still have a whole train car in the fridge. Anyone want some cake!?!


  1. That is the coolest cake ever! K is a lucky kid. Hope he's been having fun celebrating his birthday!

    1. Thanks, Allison! It was a lot of work, but he loved it so all that time was totally worth it in my book. He's been having a ball being three!!