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Colorful Critter Train

 Colorful Critter Train
WHEN Crafting Traditions kitchen staffers saw Tannye Johnson’s fun birthday outfits on the previous pages, they got busy engineering a critter train cake you can couple with those costumes! You won’t need to track down exotic ingredients to make it either—all it calls for are store-bought cookies, candies and cake mix. You even use purchased pre-made frosting to put the train together. So
0 ServingsPrep: 1-1/2 hours Bake: 35 min. + cooling


  • Materials needed:
  • Pattern
  • Cutting board
  • Ruler
  • Finely serrated thin-blade knife
  • Pastry bag
  • Decorator tips—ribbon, round, small and large stars (Wilton ribbon tip #5 and star tips #18 and 23)
  • 10- x 5-inch jelly roll pan
  • Dish towels
  • Waxed paper
  • 14- x 19-inch board or heavy cardboard, covered with freezer paper or plastic table covering
  • Groceries needed:
  • One 1-pound box of graham crackers
  • 10 pretzel sticks (3 inches long)
  • 6 sugar wafers
  • 5 chocolate/vanilla sandwich cookies (one 2-1/8 inches across and the rest 1-5/8 inches across)
  • 4 shortbread cookies (1-3/4 inches)
  • 2 chocolate-covered mint cookies (1-3/4 inches)
  • 1 animal cracker
  • 2 rolls of Wild Cherry Life Savers
  • 1 roll of Assorted Life Savers

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Colorful Critter Train (continued)

Ingredients (continued)

  • Red Hots or Wilton Cinnamon Sprinkle Decorations
  • Small package of M&M Candies
  • Red shoestring licorice or Twizzlers Pull-N-Peel Licorice
  • Red gumdrop
  • 3 candy clown or clown head icing decorations (optional)
  • 3 tablepoons Wilton Meringue Powder
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 6 tablespoons warm water
  • CAKE::
  • 1 package cake mix of your choice (regular size)
  • Canned white and chocolate frosting
  • Green food coloring


  • Directions: Read all directions before beginning work. A clear day
  • with low humidity will give you the best results with Royal Icing.
  • Assemble and decorate the critter train. This can
  • be done a week in advance and stored in an airtight container. Do
  • make sure to have extra icing on hand the day of the party for any
  • necessary last-minute repairs.
  • CUTTING CRACKERS/COOKIES: Use a clean ruler and knife to score
  • straight cutting lines onto graham crackers and cookies. Cut
  • along straight lines with the knife, working with one cookie or
  • cracker at a time. Place cookie or cracker always on crumb-free
  • cutting board, cleaning the board often. Draw the knife toward you
  • on the scored line without applying pressure. Continue to make
  • similar strokes toward you until the cut is completed (five or more
  • strokes).
  • To cut curved lines, guide the knife along the lines to make the
  • first stroke. Then cut in the established groove until cut is
  • complete. Or gently carve away the cracker to the marked line.
  • ICING: Make icing with recipe that follows, using it to “glue” the
  • train pieces together and decorate them. Making sure that bowl and
  • utensils are grease-free, beat all ingredients until icing forms
  • peaks (7-10 minutes with heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes with hand
  • mixer). Keep in an airtight covered bowl. Cover bowl and
  • pastry bags with damp dish towels. *For stiffer icing, use 1
  • tablespoon less water.
  • ASSEMBLY: For each car, refer to appropriate diagrams and individual
  • directions. To “glue” pieces together, fill a round-tipped pastry

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Colorful Critter Train (continued)

Directions (continued)

  • tube with icing and add lines of icing to edges of pieces being
  • added or as directed.
  • Cut graham cracker base piece(s) and sugar wafer axles for each car
  • as directed, then glue sugar wafer axles on edge about 1/2 inch from
  • each short edge.
  • Decorating:. As assembly of each car is completed, decorate cars with
  • icing stars (using smaller star tip to make stars), or cover areas
  • with dots, stars or rows of icing, then press in rows of Red Hots,
  • Cinnamon Sprinkle Decorations or M&M’s as shown. If desired, add
  • candy clowns or clown heads to back of engine cab and front and back
  • of caboose.
  • ENGINE (Fig. 1): Base: Cut two 2- x 4-inch graham crackers. Glue
  • these together for a two-layered base. Glue on a 1-1/2-inch wafer
  • axle (front) and a 2-inch wafer axle (back).
  • Cab: Glue four shortbread cookies on edge for sides and add a
  • 2-1/2-inch-square graham cracker roof.
  • Wheels: Glue a LifeSaver wheel to each end of the front axle. Glue
  • chocolate-covered cookies to the back axle, making sure that the
  • engine sits evenly. Add a LifeSaver to the center of each cookie
  • wheel. For each side, cut a 3-inch piece of licorice and glue from
  • center of front wheel to center of back wheel.
  • Front: Glue four 1-5/8-inch sandwich cookies on edge in front of cab.
  • For “cow-catcher”, cut and use one half of one 2-1/8-inch sandwich
  • cookie, gluing at an angle to front of graham
  • cracker base. Form a smokestack by gluing together four LifeSavers,
  • alternating colors. Glue to top front of engine front. Decorate as
  • directed above.
  • CAGE CAR (Figs. 2 a-c): Base/top: Cut two 2- x 2-1/2-inch graham
  • crackers. Glue two 1-1/2-inch wafer axles onto one 2- x 2-1/2-inch
  • piece. Add LifeSaver wheels to ends of both
  • axles.
  • Cage: Cut four 1/2- x 2-1/2-inch graham cracker sides and four 1/2- x
  • 1-3/4-inch graham cracker ends. Glue ends of two pretzel
  • sticks (centered 1/2 inch apart) between each set of sides (Fig.),
  • and glue ends of one pretzel stick centered between each set of ends
  • (Fig. 2b). Let icing set thoroughly, about 20 minutes. Add glue to
  • lower and side edges of a cage side and an end and press in place to
  • base with pretzel “bars” to inside. (Side will be along 2-1/2-inch
  • edge of base and end along 2-inch edge.) Quickly press a pretzel
  • into the corner of the cage just formed. Glue an animal

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Colorful Critter Train (continued)

Directions (continued)

  • cracker to base inside cage. Glue in remaining side and end of the
  • cage, adding a pretzel to all four corners.
  • Top: Use template to cut two cage car top sides and two cage car top
  • ends as follows: Trace the templates for the pieces onto
  • freezer paper and cut templates out. Place templates on end of
  • crackers and score with knife. Cut out pieces. Add glue along top
  • edge of side and end cage pieces and press remaining 2- x 2-1/2-
  • inch graham cracker top piece into place. Let
  • icing set.
  • Add glue along bottom and side edges of cage car top sides and ends.
  • Set ends in place between sides on edges of top piece.
  • Decorate as directed above.
  • CABOOSE (Fig. 3): Base/top: Repeat as directed for Cage Car. Let
  • icing set.
  • Lower box: Add two 1-1/4- x 2-inch graham cracker pieces for sides
  • and two 1-1/4- graham cracker pieces for lower
  • ends. Add remaining 2- x 2-1/2-inch graham cracker for top.
  • Upper box: Glue edges of two 3/4- x 1-3/4-inch graham cracker pieces
  • for upper sides to edges of two 3/4- x 1-1/8-inch graham cracker
  • pieces for upper ends. On top, glue a 1-1/4- x 2-inch graham cracker
  • piece. Glue assembled upper box centered on top of lower box.
  • Decorate as directed above.
  • b>CAKE: Prepare cake mix as directed on package. Grease and flour
  • bottom and sides of jelly roll pan and line the bottom neatly with
  • waxed paper to aid in removal from pan. Bake according to package
  • directions. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto
  • cooling rack. Let cool completely. Place cake in the middle of
  • covered board or cardboard.
  • FROSTING: Cut a piece of freezer paper the same size as the jelly
  • roll pan bottom. Draw a train track onto the shiny side of the
  • freezer paper as shown in Fig. 4a. Cut out the freezer-paper track
  • as a template and position
  • on cooled cake.
  • Reserving 1/2 cup of canned vanilla frosting, tint the remaining
  • vanilla frosting with green food coloring. Frost cake up to the
  • edges of the template. (Don’t worry if you frost the edges of the
  • template, this will be removed when the template is lifted.)
  • Mix 1/2 cup of vanilla frosting with 1/4 cup of chocolate frosting.

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Colorful Critter Train (continued)

Directions (continued)

  • Lift the template; and frost train track with mixture.
  • Use ribbon tip and chocolate frosting to form railroad ties (Fig.
  • 4b), spacing them about 1-1/4 inches apart on train track. Use round
  • tip to add the rails (spaced about 1-3/4 inches apart) and “Happy
  • Birthday”.
  • Decorate edges of cake if desired with green-tinted frosting and
  • larger star tip. Yield: 1 Train Cake.
Note: You may substitute different types and sizes of cookies and candies if you wish. Shopping information: Wilton decorator tips and meringue powder are available from Wilton Enterprises, 2240 W. 75th St., Woodridge IL 60517; 1708/963-7100. Finished size: Cake is 10 x 15 inches.