Ideally, make this cake a day in advance as it will be easier to ice. Alternatively, place the cooked cake in the freezer for 30 minutes so that fewer crumbs come off when you are icing it. Once iced, this cake will keep for 2–3 days, so it is a good one if you need to make a birthday cake in advance. Kids will love it!
For the cake:
- 225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 225g (1 cup, plus 1/2 tbsp) golden caster (superfine) sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 225g (1 3/4 cups) self-raising flour
- 40g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 5–6 tbsp milk
For the buttercream:
- 150g (2/3 cup) unsalted butter
- 235g (3/4 cup) icing (powdered) sugar
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1–2 tbsp milk
- icing (powdered) sugar, for dusting
- 350g (12 1/4 oz) green ready-to-roll fondant icing
- 20 chocolate fingers
- 1 small chocolate Swiss roll
- 250g (6 oz) each of red, blue, yellow and orange ready-to-roll fondant icing
- 16 mini chocolate cookies with white cream filling
- 20 coloured sugar-coated chocolate buttons
- 2 chocolate cookies with white cream filling
- 1 bag coloured sugar-coated round sweets
- 30g (1/2 cup) mini marshmallows
- 1 small bag jelly beans
- 1 marshmallow
- sugared flowers
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Lightly grease a 20cm (8in) square non-stick deep baking tin with butter and line it with baking paper.
For the cake:
- Start by making the cake. Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
- Sift over the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and fold in using a large metal spoon.
- Add the vanilla extract and enough milk for the mixture to be of a dropping consistency.
- If the mixture looks like it is splitting, add a spoonful of the flour mixture before adding the next egg; this should help stabilize the mixture.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula.
- Bake for 40 minutes, or until well risen and springy to the touch and when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If it isn’t clean, bake for a further 5–10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, peel off the baking paper and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Trim the edges with a serrated bread knife.
For the buttercream:
- Beat the butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and milk in a large bowl with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.
- Dust the work surface with icing sugar and roll out the green fondant icing to 5mm (¼in) thick.
- Brush a square 35 x 35cm (14 x 14in) cake board with a little buttercream to help the fondant icing stick, then cover with the fondant icing.
- Trim the edges with a sharp knife and cover with a line of chocolate fingers in a curve to make a train track.
- Cut the cake into four 8 x 9cm (3¼ x 3½in) blocks for the carriages and the back of the engine. Cut them in half horizontally, spread with buttercream, then sandwich back together.
- Cut a 9cm (3½in) piece of Swiss roll and attach it. with buttercream, to one of the rectangles, stood on its end, to make the engine. Spread with an even layer of buttercream.
- Roll out the red fondant icing on a clean surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and cover the engine with it.
- Roll out two 10cm (4in) thin sausage shapes of blue icing, brush with water (to help them stick) and press onto the front and back sides of the engine.
- Spread a dab of buttercream on four of the mini chocolate cookies and place a coloured sugar-coated chocolate button in the middle of each.
- Brush with buttercream and press onto the sides of the engine for wheels.
- Repeat with the larger chocolate cookies and place these on either side of the back of the engine.
- Add the large marshmallow to the front of the engine.
- To make the first carriage, roll out the yellow fondant icing to 5mm (¼in) thick.
- Spread the outside of the carriage with buttercream and cover with the fondant icing.
- Roll out a 10cm (4in) thin sausage of red icing and use it to decorate the top of the rectangle. Attach it with a dab of water.
- Brush four small chocolate cookies with buttercream, press a coloured sugar-coated chocolate button into the middle of each and attach to the side of the carriage with buttercream.
- Fill the top with coloured sugar-coated sweets.
- Repeat with the remaining two carriages, using orange and blue fondant icing.
- Decorate the tops with a thin sausage of a different-coloured fondant icing secured with water.
- Fill the carriages with mini marshmallows and jelly beans, or whichever sweets you prefer.
- Place the engine at the front of the train track, then position the carriages behind it.
- Decorate around the train with sugared flowers and serve.
Cath Kidston: Mug Cakes, Cupcakes & More by Cath Kidston (Quadrille, £15) Photography © Dan Jones