Wilton 3-D Express Train Cake Tutorial

I wanted to create something special for my son’s 4th birthday. He is attracted to anything that moves and lately the obsession has been focused mainly on trains. He told me he’d love a train cake without a face, or his way of saying, “Mommy, please don’t get me a Thomas cake. I want a train that really looks like a train and not a toy!” So for the very first time I made Lucian’s birthday cake instead of a *gasp* bakery cake. And I have to say, while it wasn’t difficult, it was time consuming and it was worth it!

To begin I applied Wilton Cake Release to the insides of both of the Choo Choo Train Pan pieces with a pastry brush. This works great and makes it easier to get into all those little crevices! You want to be sure and have it well coated to avoid any issues getting it out of the pan.

I started off making a Paula Deen pound cake. While I had never made this particular pound cake recipe, it was my experience that that rise more than other types of cakes (see my mishap with a Wilton dimensions pan where the pound cake batter overflowed).  While the pan instructions say to fill it to the top, almost overflowing with 6 cups of batter, did I listen? Nope. I most certainly did not.

And that is why you see a second picture below. This is the *cough* second cake I made, this time utilizing two vanilla cake mixes and exactly 6 cups of batter which did slightly overflow. The first cake did not rise as much as expected and I ended up with shall we say a 2 1/2- D cake versus a 3-D.

Tie string around the pan in two places to keep it from shifting during baking. Or you can be like my husband who tried to help me and instead figured he needed to tie the poor train up so even the notion of moving wasn’t a possibility. And be sure to place jelly roll pan underneath your train. Trust me.

Because you could end up with this. Obviously I wasn’t about to take any chances with not having enough batter and made sure the full amount got included but with that I had excess batter overflowing. Not to worry though because I had my handy dandy jelly roll pan down there which has sides (very important for catching the drips) and it didn’t make much of a mess at all. No worries if this happens to you. It does not affect the cake in the slightest so better to have too much batter than too little.

Bake on middle rack of oven for 45-60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in vent hole on top of pan comes out clean. When cake is done, remove from oven and place on cake rack to cool for 5 minutes.

Then remove top half of pan and cool 5 minutes more. Replace top pan, turn cake over and remove bottom pan. I barely had to tap mine to loosen it. Thanks to my liberal and careful application of Cake Release it came out so easily!

Let it cool completely, at least four hours! Remove cake from pan by placing one hand gently on cake surface and setting cake and pan upright on Fanci-Foil covered cake board or serving platter. Then carefully slip front pan away from cake. If cake does not stand level, trim bottom or prop underneath with icing. Mine was very level and this step was much easier than I anticipated.

I utilized my Wilton Decorating Bag Holder and it was so helpful to hold the four different colors.  I cheated and used a large Wilton ready to use decorating icing instead of making mine from scratch and tinted them with gel colors. Everyone in my family loves the the taste and it just meant one less step for me, which I appreciated.

For this cake you really only HAVE to have one tip 16 and 18 tip but you will want at least two of each to avoid having to wash them often. I simply followed the diagram in conjunction with the online instructions to know what to color what with which tip and in what order.

Once you get going it is very easy, just takes a little bit of time to complete. I was thinking it wasn’t really that much star tipping, especially with the zig zags but then I realized I had to do both sides and the back! It took me a good 1 1/2 hours to do the whole train.

As you are working, don’t forget to twist your hand a quarter turn, back and forth, as you make your stars in order to interlock them. Be sure to stop the pressure before you release to avoid peaks on your stars.

If the thought of transporting your cake scare the bajesus out of you, as it did me, don’t fret. I took mine to my parent’s house over an hour away with no mishap. In fact, I couldn’t find a single thing wrong when we arrived. I simply placed the cake (already on a cake board) in a box, sealed it and placed it in the back of my van with shelf liner on the bottom. For added safety I rolled an huge beach towel around it. And viola, no ruined cake to make you cry!

I was too scared to walk around with this cake but not because the cake was unsteady.  I was so afraid of something beyond my control ruining my hard work before the birthday boy got the chance to see it.  So I got shots on the floor of the deck. (You can’t fall down if you are already on the floor!)

The Express Train Cake was easy to cut and fed exactly the 12 people it claims. It made my son so happy and for that, all this preparation and eventual devouring of the cake was all worth it!

If you would like to try out a 3-D pan out yourself head on over to my other blog Baby Loving Mama and enter to win a prize bundle from Wilton worth over $75 which include this fun train pan!

Wilton 3-D Choo Choo Pan Giveaway

Related Posts with Thumbnails


  1. Angie B. says

    You did a great job. This cake turned out beautifully. It would also look good during Christmas time to look like the Polar Express!

  2. says

    I just wanted to come back and let you know that I bought this mold for my son’s first birthday! Thank you for the inspiration! I’m going to do a regular pan cake and make train tracks on it and put the train on the train tracks. Super excited to get started. Thank you!

    • says

      That is so awesome! Good luck. I know you can do it! I thought about putting it on a base too but we didn’t need that much cake. :) Feel free to email or share your pics on facebook. I’d love to see it.

  3. says

    WIll do! I’ll def take pictures. I just need to get some black gel for the train tracks. I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I was surprised of how little the train is.

    • says

      Yes, it is a smaller train but since more than full cake mix is used there is really more there than you might think. The 3-D is deceiving. We got exactly 12, nice sized pieces which was perfect for us since we had 11 people at the party. I had plenty of cupcakes from the leftover batter so we weren’t wanting for cake leftovers.

      • says

        I may be making too much cake than haha. I think I’m going to have about 15 people there maybe more for the party. I was also thinking of incorporating a smash cake into the whole piece. I have the Wilton Ball mold. If I do half and make it into a hill or something onto the pan cake do you think that would look okay? Than I can take it off and give it to the little guy. LOL I think I’m making myself too much work now, but thought it may look cute.

  4. Rebekah says

    Hi do you think the Betty crocker scratch yellow cake recipe or the southern living yellow cake recipe would work for the choo choo train cake ? Made a test cake today, utter disaster ! Trying to do this for my son’s first birthday. Thanks for your tips, they have motivated me to try again.

    • says

      I actually did not use a pound cake ultimately because I ended up having to make two since I didn’t fill it up enough. My advice is to NOT choose a cake mix which is super moist/soft. This pan is asking cake to sit up without a lot of support on the bottom so a stronger, thick cake is necessary.If you did use frosting to hold the two pieces together, you would need a very strong, thick frosting as well. My advice is to stick with the recipe instructions and have them bake as one piece rather than two halves or do a test run well before you need the train, just in case. Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *