Foodie Friday: Choo-Choo Birthday Cake

4 Mar

Also new to the Vaca Loca blog is Foodie Friday. I’m a foodie, what can I say? I love cooking, and as it turns out, so does z-baby. A while back he started standing in the kitchen asking for “cookie.” He doesn’t get cookies so I couldn’t understand this. And then one day it hit me: cooking! From that point on, we’ve shared the kitchen. I day-dream of starting a food blog, but let’s face it — that’s a lot of work! So I’ve decided to try my hand at a once-weekly post of dishes and treats from my family’s table. Begging forgiveness in advance for my poor photography skills. Hoping you’ll enjoy!

Choo-Choo Birthday Cake

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, z-baby turned 2 last week. Yikes! We didn’t have a party this year, but I still wanted to bake him a cake. He is really into trains lately, so there was no question as to what kind of cake it would be — choo-choo! Which when he says it comes out as “doo-doo.” But really, who wants a doo-doo cake?

Sig-o wanted the cake to be Mexican. When I asked for a bit more detail, he said he really didn’t know what he wanted, except that it had to be chocolate and not tres leches. Hmmmm… After talking with his mother (no help — she’s an amazing cook, but not a baker), some internet research (not much out there that’s not tres leches), and some soul-searching, I decided to just make a cake and if it wasn’t what he was looking for, well, there’s always next year.

Now I should admit that I’m not above looking for recipes and inspiration, well, just about anywhere. And this time it came from a King Arthur’s Flour bag. I suspected sig-o was looking for a drier, yet still moist (read: not fudgy) cake and this recipe seemed to achieve that. Then I figured, what the hay, I may as well try one of their frosting recipes, too. I’m not a big frosting fan to begin with and this one is s-w-e-e-t. But once it was on the cake it wasn’t quite so mouth-puckering. I’ve linked each recipe to the KAF website — they have lots of yummy-looking goodies on there.

King Arthur Flour Chocolate Cake

  • 2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup coffee or water (I used water)
  • 4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour your choice of pan(s): one 9″ x 13″ pan, two 9″ round pans, three 8″ round pans, or the wells of two muffin tins. You can also line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.

1. Place a strainer over a large mixing bowl. Measure in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and sugar. Sift/shake the dry ingredients through the strainer into a mixing bowl, to eliminate any lumps.

2. Add the butter and mix at low speed for 1 minutes. With the mixer running, add the oil and continue mixing until the mixture looks like sand. (Note to self — make sure the baby hasn’t turned the mixer on high before you plug it in. We had a bit of a set-back when the mixer blew all the flour up, out, and everywhere. And I mean everywhere. See for yourself, though the photo just doesn’t do it justice!).

The day the mixer blew up



3. Combine the vanilla with the milk and coffee or water, and add all at once. Mix for 1 minute at low speed, stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix for 30 seconds more.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well at medium-high speed between additions.

5. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl, and mix for 1 minute more. The batter will be thin.

6. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan of your choice. For layers, divide the batter among the pans. Smooth out the tops of the layers with an offset spatula or the back of a tablespoon. For cupcakes, scoop by the heaping 1/4 cup into the prepared muffin tins.

7. Bake for 34 minutes for a 9″ x 13″ pan; 28 to 30 minutes for 9″ layers; 24 to 26 minutes for 8″ layers, or 21 to 23 minutes for cupcakes.

8. The cake is done when the top springs back when very lightly touched in the center, and the edges just begin to pull away from the edge of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

9. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a rack to cool before removing it from the pan.

King Arthur’s Flour Easy Vanilla Frosting

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (I used closer to 4 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup milk or cream (I used 1/3 cup cream)

1) In a large bowl, beat together the butter, shortening, and salt till fluffy.

2) Add about half the confectioners’ sugar, and beat slowly until well blended.

3) Add the vanilla and half the milk or cream, and beat until fluffy.

4) Continue mixing in sugar and milk alternately until they’ve been completely incorporated.

5) Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.



The finished choo-choo

Sig-o even helped with all the decorating. I was happy with how it turned out despite the fact that I’m obviously not a cake decorator and was a bit delirious by the time we finished. In the end, however, z-baby loved looking at this cake, but only ate a few m&m’s off the top. And sig-o gave it two thumbs up for being the kind of cake he had envisioned. Success!


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