Nana Glen Mum

Thomas the Tank Engine Cake Tutorial – Part 1- How I did it. April 20, 2009

Thomas the Tank Engine (2)

Well, here I go.  Miss M turned 4 at the start of the month, and like any unconventional little girl, opted out of fairies and princesses for her birthday cake and insisted on Thomas the Tank Engine.   No great surprise since she lives, eats and breathes Thomas.  I have to buy her underwear in the boys’ section because sh

e insists on Thomas undies like her friends (boys) at preschool.  She wears Thomas pyjamas to bed and Thomas t-shirts to preschool.  Everyday she plays with her Thomas train track (talk about value for money mind you!!) and so on it goes, I’m sure you are getting the picture!  The surprise for me though came when she SAID NO TO CHOCOLATE CAKE!!!! and insisted on CARROT CAKE! I kid you not!  You could have knocked me down with a feather!  Anyway, here is how I went about it…

I had read that it is easier to carve your cake if you freeze it first.  I’m guessing it depends on the type of cake.  The carrot cake turned out hard as a rock (and I have very sharp knives) and was very difficult to cut.  My suggestion would be to cut the cake and then freeze it before icing to stop crumbs getting into the cake.  I’ll try that one myself next cake and let you know how it goes.  I have to make a Lightning McQueen this week for Miss M’s friend.

I baked the cake in a square slab pan and cut it into two equal rectangles.  I contemplated baking it in 2 loaf tins but decided against it as loaf tins tend to have sloping sides.  I then put one half to the side for later.Step 1 Top

Step 1

With the half I was working with, I cut it in half laterally to make it lower ie cut

the top half off the bottom half so it looked like this:

After that, I just pretty much broke Thomas down into a series of squares and a circle at the front at stuck them all together with buttercream.  Here comes a photo series of what I did.  I tried to get a couple of pictures of each stage from various angles.  Hope it’s not too boring or repetitive.

Step 2

From the half I had put to the side, I cut it in half lengthways ie front to back and placed on half on top, aligned at the back.

Step 2 Top Step 2 Side

Step 3

Using a circle cutter, I cut a round and placed it in front of the piece from Step 2.

Step 3 Top Step 3 Front Step 3 Side

Step 4

Using a circle cutter, I cut a second round and placed it in front of the piece from Step 3.

Step 4 Top Step 4 Angle Step 4 Front Step 4 Side

Step 5

From lower cake half, I cut a strip and placed it on top of the large block, again aligned at the back.

Step 5 Top Step 5 Angle Step 5 Front Step 5 Side

Step 6

From the higher remains, I cut another block, but lowered it slightly and placed it in front of the piece from Step 5.

Step 6 Top Step 6 Angle Step 6 Front Step 6 Side

Step 7

I put small squares beside the first round.

Step 7 Top Step 7 Angle Step 7 Front Step 7 Side

Step 8

I cut 2 1/4 circles and placed them in front of the squares from Step 7.

Guess what…all done!  Not to hard at all eh?  Now it’s your turn – be sure to send me photos!

Step 8 Top Step 8 Angle Step 8 Front Step 8 Side

I didn’t take photos of how I iced the cake.  As we live out in the country, I can’t buy fondant so I have had to make my Thomas the Tank Engine own.  I found an excellent recipe at Gingerbread House Heaven.  I used their Professional fondant recipe and had great results even though our relative humidity was excessive – we were actually flooded in for 3 days while I made the cake!  Luckily the water dropped and the roads opened in time for the party!  I did the blue first and worked my way forwards.  I made the wheels a few days earlier and dried them out completely so they were nice and hard, and then just stuck them on with a bit of left over buttercream.  I sat the entire cake on a foil lined biscuit tin lid to raise it slightly off thecake board so that the wheels looked about the right level.  As for the face, I had read another great tutorial over at Thomas the Tank Engine Tutorial

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and was going Thomas the Tank Engine (3) to try and sculpt the face myself, but wimped out because my sculpting skills are very very ordinary!  I got some oven bake polymer clay and made an imprint with one of Miss M’s toys.  She has a puzzle that has plastic pieces that make a front on view of Thomas.  I took the face piece, pushed it into the clay and baked the clay to make it hard.  When I was ready to make the face, I coloured it grey, then pushed Thomas the Tank Engine (4) a big piece over the mould and rolled it slightly with a rolling pin for even pressure.  When I pulled the fondant off the clay, I had a wonderful 3 dimensional face!  I used a round cutter (the same one I used for the circle pieces of cake so they were a perfect fit) to cut the face out, and then just added in the coloured details.  It actually turned out to be quite a simple exercise once I broke it all down.

So now you know how to cut up the cake and put it back together again, you’ll be ready to ice it.  Here is how I covered the cake in Part 2 of the tutorial.

Anyway, I hope you have found this helpful, and if you actually know what you are doing, I would love to hear about how I can improve my cake decorating – especially getting my fondant nice and even – it always has lots of lumps and bumps.


36 Responses to “Thomas the Tank Engine Cake Tutorial – Part 1- How I did it.”

  1. Elaine Marco-Vermond Says:

    This is excellent and so helpful! The BEST Thomas 3D cake I have seen on the internet so far. My son loves Thomas (as does my three and a half year old daughter) and my son’s birthday is coming up in less than a month. I already planned to make a 3D Thomas cake but wasn’t sure how to tackle it. I will use banana bread batter for the cake, which I think will hold shape quite well. I also plan to use a butter cream I have made many times before instead of fondant. I’m intimidated by fondant! Thank you so much!

  2. nanaglenmum Says:

    Thanks Elaine.
    I hope your cake turns out well and you have as much fun making it as I did. Don’t be scared of fondant, it is actually very forgiving. It is just like playing with playdough!
    Let me know how your cake goes, I’d love to see one made with buttercream, and banana bread sounds delicious!

  3. Sophie Says:

    This is a fantastic cake, I am totally inspired and forever grateful that you’ve taken the time to share with us how you went about creating it. Thank you so much!

    Now all I have to do is replicate your masterpiece in my own kitchen… eek! Wish me luck :o)

    thank you again,

  4. Sophie Says:

    Sorry to be a pain in the neck, but could you spare another five minutes to explain how you made such lovely wheels? thank you x

    • nanaglenmum Says:

      Sure. they were really easy. I rolled out some fondant/sugarpaste and cut it with a circle cutter, then I cut out the spaces with a small aspic cutter in a tear drop shape. You could also cut out the centre with a smaller circle and lay thin strips across as spokes.
      Hope this helps and best of luck.

  5. Steph Says:

    Thank you so much for the great step by step, could I ask you one question? My butterscotch never works out it either turns hard or one big lump, how do make yours?

    Also when you over lay the fondant do you hold it on with anything, jam, butterscotch?
    my son’s birthday is a week away, how long will the cake stay fresh?

    sorry thats more than one question!! very excited about making it for my sons 2nd birthday
    look forward to hearing from you

    • nanaglenmum Says:

      Hi Steph,
      Thanks for stopping by.
      How long your cake will stay fresh depends on what type of cake it is and what your climate is like. My recommendation would be to bake the cake, carve it, put it together (using buttercream to stick it all together), then freeze it all put together but WITHOUT THE FONDANT ON IT (most cakes can be frozen for up to 3 months without any problems) It is important to freeze it uniced as fondant can go gooey when it defrosts. The day before the party, take it out of the freezer, cover it in a layer of buttercream (it is actually easier to do this while the cake is frozen – it stops all the crumbs), then cover it with your fondant.
      As I said in the post, used carrot cake, but a good chocolate or butter cake would work fine too…just don’t use a delicate sponge as it will be too soft to support the weight of the fondant.
      As for how I make butterscotch, do you mean thick but runny caramel sauce or hard, crunchy toffee like butterscotch?
      Hope this helps.

      • Svea Says:

        Hiya, I think she meant butter icing or butter cream rather than butterscotch? Thanks for this great tutorial by the way, I am an enthusiastic cake-creator for my kids and I always appreciate coming across the ideas and tips of people similar to me 🙂 Cheers.

      • nanaglenmum Says:

        Thanks so much Svea!

  6. michelle Says:

    thank you very much this is very helpful. i am definatly a novice at this sort of thing but will show pics when its all done:) thanks again!

  7. Nikki Lewis Says:

    I’m so excited to make a cake like yours for my sons second birthday which is just a few days away. He’s just in love with trains right now. I’ve pre-made the cakes I’ll need and frozen them, I’m told it is easier to carve them if they are frozen. I also read your blog about how the carrot cake was so dreadfully hard to cut. I’m hoping since I used chocolate cake that it will not be so hard to cut. I did pre-cut some of the larger pieces. My question to you is this:
    Can I frost my cake frozen? OR
    Would it be better to let it thaw before decorating?
    I know you are supposed to do the crumb layer frozen but I also intend to do the whole thing in butter cream frosting. I’m just worried about the effects the thawing cake will have on the frosting. But I’m also thinking it will be easier to frost while it is hard rather than soft. What do you think? I know you used fondant, which I’m horribly scared of using and not quite sure I have the time to experiment with, but I’m hoping you have made other cakes and maybe can give me some advice. Thank you so much for your time. Your blog has been absolutely wonderful. I love all the pictures. They really helped simplify things.
    Thanks again,

    • nanaglenmum Says:

      Hi Nikki. Thanks so much for your lovely comments. Buttercream will work fine. You can still ice the cake while it is frozen, which is actually much easier when you are using buttercream as you get a lot less crumbs in the finish. The thawing cake won’t pose any problems on the icing. I wouldn’t freeze it with the icing on it though as it can weep on defrosting. As for the fondant, don’t be scared, it is actually not that hard – it is just like playing with playdoh!
      Take care, and good luck and I’d love to see a photo when you are finished!

      • Christine Twist Says:

        I am making this cake for my son who is 4 next tuesday. Found this blog so helpful. I will post pics when finished

  8. Sophie Warner Says:


    I made my cake back in June and have seen the comments posted since and was wondering how I would go about posting a photo of my creation? Sadly it’s not quite as good as yours :o) but I was pleased with the result!!


  9. Kaith Ladios Says:

    You’re too cool and talented! I will try this for my son’s first birthday, I hope I do it well but I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it as well as you did it! Wow! Thanks for sharing!

  10. […] You can check out the previous post for how I carved the cake here. […]

  11. JO ANN Says:

    Thank you for the photos, i really wished you would have showed how much fondant and how to get the creases out.
    This was my first time everrrrrrr making a cake like this and your website really helped me so Thanks once again.

  12. Angie Says:

    Thanks for this tutorial! Love how your cake looks. I will be trying this out next week since my son wants a Thomas cake for his third birthday. I was just wondering on the blue color you used. How do you get the Thomas color? Thanks!

    • nanaglenmum Says:

      Hi Angie.
      Thanks for checking out my blog. I used the Wilton gel paste for the blue, but mix it the day before you want to roll it out as the colour darkens and deepens overnight. Have fun making your son’s cake – send us some pics when you are done!

  13. rama Says:

    Fantastic!! I’m not a supermum (never decorated, frosted or iced a cake) but I’m going to do this for my son no matter what! My question: how long can this saty in the fridge? I’d like to finish it in advance to give myself time for a plan B. Thanks!

  14. Angie Says:

    One more question… About how big was your cake? Lenghth, height, size of face? Trying to get a feel on how big I’m going to make my son’s cake. Thanks!!

  15. catherine Says:

    Thanks for the tutorial!! Your masterpiece looks awesome! What cake tin size did you use to make it? Would you mind to share with me the recipe of the carrot cake?

    Thanks a lot.

  16. catherine Says:

    Thanks for the tutorial!! Your masterpiece was awesome!! What cake tin size did you use to make it? Do you mind to share the carrot cake recipe with me?

    Thanks a lot!

    • nanaglenmum Says:

      The size cake tin I used doesn’t matter – it depends on how big you want your cake to be. I’ll try and get the carrot cake recipe up in the next day or two.

  17. Tina Says:


    Thanks for the wonderful tutorial.It really seems like a exciting and a manageable project.I would love to try this from my son’s birthday.I have a question about fondant.Have u tried the basic fondant recipe ?Will it work equally good as the professional one ,because I would love to control the quality of ingredients.

    • nanaglenmum Says:

      I have tried them both, and really think the professional one gives a much better finish. I prefer it to the store bought ones too!

  18. Thomas cake Says:

    I hope your little girl dose like this link it all about thomas and friends.

  19. Dana Says:

    Hi I want to say as well tell you thank you for creating this blog on how to create a Thomas the Train Cake!!!! My son is going to be 5 Oct. 21st and he absolutely is in love with Thomas that is his favorite Buddy!!!! I have been trying to come up with something that I can reference when trying to create a cake for him, my husband wanted me to just do a flat sheet cake but I want it to actually look like the Thomas Train, and by using your layout I think it will really be a breeze!!!! One question I do have is do I need to have any special kind of cake pan? In all of the other sites I have been to and when creating a 3D cake you needed a special cake pan. Other than that I think this will be a great cake and I am sure that I am going to have fun making this as for I have never before made a cake as detailed as this one, hopefully it turns out. I will post pictures next month. Thanks again!!! Dana

    • nanaglenmum Says:

      Hi Dana,
      Thank you so much for your lovely compliment! I made this cake just from a rectangular pan, and then cut the pieces from it. You could use a specialty 3d pan, but I try to steer away from them whenever possible as you can only bake one type and one size cake in them. I can’t see the point in buying a cake pan that you would use only once or twice when something already in the cupboard would do just as well. I’ve tried to cover how I cut and arranged the pieces in the write-up. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask and I will endeavour to help you out. Good luck, and most of all, HAVE FUN!!!!. I hope your son has a lovely birthday too!

  20. anna Says:


    thanks so much for a detailed tutorial.It really makes the process look much easier.I was wondering if i could use marzipan instead of fondant?I haven’t worked with fondant much.I was wondering in what way marzipan make it any different than the fondant.


    • nanaglenmum Says:

      I can’t see any reason why you couldn’t use marzipan. Personally, I think you get better colours from fondant (and I think it tastes better), but again, that is only my opinion. I’d love to see photos of it done with marzipan though! I hope you have fun putting it all together, and as you can see, once you break it down into basic squares, circles etc, it really isn’t that difficult at all. Good luck, and have fun!

  21. […] You can check out the previous post for how I carved the cake here. […]

  22. stephanie Says:

    I could kiss you right now! My son turns 3 in June and I wanted to make him a 3D Thomas cake since he too loves Thomas. And I had no idea how until I came across this. I’l going to have to try a few trials but this is amazing!!! Thank you

    • nanaglenmum Says:

      Hi Stephanie.
      I’m so glad I’ve been able to help. I would love to see a photo of your cake when you make it!

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