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Birthday Retrospective Part 3: Choo Choo!!


posted: 12/02/11

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy

Year three was trains. Trains. Trains. Trains. And truth be told, Gavin really wanted trains again this year. But let’s be honest about who these birthday parties are really about. Me. And I wanted to do something different . . . but that’s a whole other post. Back to the train obsession.

This was actually a super fun party to put together. When I started planning, it had only been about two months since we had lost Elliot. And we were all just hanging on by a thread. Once again, Gavin’s birthday, Gavin’s life, Gavin to the rescue. It was a huge distraction, and I welcomed it with open arms.

The first thing I knew I had to do was make a kick ass amazing train cake. I looked at a lot of different train cake tutorials online, and I eventually came up with this one by piecing the others together. The real key is to find the right bread pan. Not a mini, and not the regular size. It needs to be a middle sized one. The other things you need are doughnuts, gel food coloring (it makes more vibrant colors), cookies, candy, frosting, cake mix, and a long piece of cardboard to build the train on. Oh! And a marshmallow. You need a marshmallow. (Cute side story. Gavin asked me what I was doing when I made the mock up cake, and I told him making a train cake. His eyes got huge and he said, “Ooooo!!! I’m going to eat the smoke stack!!” And I realized that we had reached a new level of thinking. It was awesome.)  Okay, back to the cake. Here is the unfrosted mock up engine.

This took two loaf cakes. I cut part of one out and added four doughnuts that I had given a flat bottom to. I also stuffed the first one with cake scraps (mmmm . . . cake scraps) to make it easier to frost. I also cut part of the second loaf cake and flipped it upside down to make the back part of the engine. But it wasn’t really tall enough like this, so I ended up adding more cake there before frosting. One thing you should know about making loaf cakes, they do take longer to cook. I think it ended up taking 55 minutes. Okay, here it is frosted just plain white since it was only the mock up.

For the rest of the cars, I knew that I wanted a box car, an oil car, a flat car, and a little red caboose. If your kid is a fan of trains, you know that those are all the types of cars mentioned in the great book Little Red Caboose. So, they were all a must. I put each cake car in the freezer before frosting, and this made it so I only needed one coat of frosting and no crumbs got mixed in. Then after frosting each car I put it back in the freezer for a while. It made it a lot easier to get it from the plate where I frosted it to the platter with the tracks.

The oil car was made with more doughnuts and the “logs” on the flat car were long pretzels dipped in melted yellow chocolate. Ta dah!! Seriously, I am so proud of this cake. It took me like four hours to make. And, in the end, Gavin loved this part of his party ten million times more, which took his dad and I about 15 minutes.


Train tracks made from painters tape that ran through our house. (It works best to have two people doing this, one to handle the tape, and one to cut. It goes super fast.)  Gavin freaked when he saw these! He ran around on them over and over yelling, “Choo Choo!!” It was perfect. Even though the cake got a simple, “It’s a train cake.”

We also had train sugar cookies

I made these railroad crossing sign cake pops

I had this great idea to make train cut outs to put pictures of Gavin on and hang on the walls. But for the life of me I couldn’t find the right template!! Auntie Erin to the rescue!! She is awesome. She made these for me and then I just printed them out on colored paper and cut away. And now you can too!! You can get the template for the engine, box car, and smoke.

It involved a lot of cutting, but it turned out really cool. We had five Gavin trains hanging on our walls, and all the cabooses were red.

And finally, I made gift bags with trains on them using a cookie cutter dipped in paint. Each bag had a train whistle in it (bought one at a time with coupons from Michael’s . . . thrifty or insane??), Thomas the Train Pez dispensers, and some other goodies that I can’t remember.

Okay, it was a pretty cool party. (And did you notice the coordinating outfits . . . ) I get why Gavin wants to do it again. Maybe when he turns five. Because this year it is all about

Hi! I'm Lisa Longley, and I am committed to giving you simple dinner ideas and recipes that are easy to make; recipes that will fill your home with joy. I am the owner and author of SimpleJoy.com and I'm so glad that you are here.

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  1. Melissa says

    I’m so pumped for this year… both the party and the blog post :D

  2. Karah says

    HI, i also have a train obsessed child and he wants a train birthday party. Love all your ideas! Would you mind sharing the information about the cake pops? They are so cute! Thank you so much!!!


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