Archive for November, 2009

Birthday! Choo-choo!

Last Friday we celebrated my 3 year old’s birthday at his day care. We were supposed to bring:

1) a cake;

2) a bag of goodies for each child;

3) a little present for each child.

Now, what most parents do is buy a cake (or two), buy ready bags of sweets, and buy little presents at the dollar store. I couldn’t.

I admit it: I have a problem. I cannot give things I don’t like. I’m not crazy about bought cakes, and as for bought bags of sweets, I think they’re outright disgusting. Now, the children couldn’t care less. My son loves anything sweet and doesn’t really care if it was home-made or not. But I do.

Also, what’s the point of having a birthday party if my son isn’t part of the preparations in some way?

So: He went with his dad to the dollar store. They bought something slightly more expensive, but that can actually be played with without it falling apart (and they got a discount in the end, so that was OK). For bags of goodies, I decide to make pizza dough with my son, cut it with cookie cutter, and fill with different fillings (more about that at my next post). And for the cake – I made a train cake.

I could have bought two loaf cakes, but I made them instead. The recipe is based on what is known in French as a 4-cake or quarter-cake:

200 gr each of margarine (or butter), sugar and flour; 4 eggs, 1 tsp baking powder.

I have never baked with more than 150 gr margarine, and I found that the cake was a little dense for my taste, so I lowered the amount of flour as well. It’s also a little sweet, so I lower the sugar and I have a 150-cake 🙂 . This is a base cake, you can add any flavouring you like. I usually add lemon zest from one lemon, making a lemon loaf cake. For the birthday, I added 1 tsp of vanilla. You can add orange zest, cinnamon, flavoured essence, whatever you want!

Cake ingredients: (for one cake – I doubled this for two loaves)

1 1/2 cups flour (150 gr)
3/4 cup sugar (150 gr)
150 gr margarine (or butter)
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Just mix everything in the food processor. Easy – peasy …

To make it easy to remove the cake from the pan, I lined the cake pan with aluminium foil.


Pour into a loaf pan, and bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees C for 40 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Sometimes it takes less than 40 minutes (depending on the size of your loaf) so keep an eye on it.


I made this a day in advance. The next evening, I removed the cakes from the pans, and cut into cars. I removed the rounded tops and turned the cakes upside down so they would be nice and flat. One of my pans is slightly longer than the other, so I cut the shorter one exactly in half, and longer I cut into three pieces: 2 the same size as the “cars” form the shorter cake, and an extra bit. This extra bit goes on top of one of the cars to make the engine.


Most train cake recipes advocate a colorful frosting. I am not crazy about food coloring and I hate buttercream frosting. It just kills me that I use a cup of sugar in the cake and 1 Kg of sugar for the frosting 😯 .

So I used chocolate frosting for all the cars, and vanilla cream to “glue” the engine and to decorate.

Chocolate frosting: (recipe from “cakes for all seasons” (Ugot lekol et))

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 cup water
100 gr margarine

Place sugar, water and cocoa in a little pan. Heat until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Mix margarine until fully melted. If doesn’t melt, return to heat as necessary but do not let the mixture boil.

Chocolate frosting

Vanilla Cream:

1 cup milk
1 box whipping cream (250 ml)
1 packet instant vanilla pudding (I love this. I could eat this every day!)

Whip until fluffy.

I used a dab of vanilla cream to glue the engine. Then I used an egg brush to coat all the cars and engine with chocolate frosting.

Frosting the cakes IFrosting the cakes II

Then I placed the vanilla cream in a piping bag and decorated to my hearts’ content. To finish, I placed round pretzels (“beygale” in Hebrew) for wheels: 4 for each car and six for the engine. I also built a tower of Beygale and vanilla cream to make the chimney stack of the engine.

Final Train

My son saw this in the morning. I told him it was for his birthday. After staring at it in complete shock for a few seconds, this smile started growing on his face and then he began:

“For me? I’ll have the engine, and Daddy will get the first car and  – wait, that won’t be enough for everyone… So I’ll give the first car to Daddy and the teacher and …”

He was talking about it all morning –  and the smile stayed on until waaay after the cake had gone.

This is what I bake for.

Bon Apetit!

Read Full Post »