I started with sculpting Thomas' face from tinting some leftover white marshmallow fondant the proper shade of gray taking about an hour, then making another full batch and tinting half Thomas blue and the other half black. It was at least another hour of mixing & kneading color before Sunday was over...and my hands hurt from all the finger kneading for 2 days!
Wednesday evening was 3 hours sculpting fondant coal, covering the smokestack, rolling, cutting, scoring & painting woodgrain railroad ties, making royal icing and decorating the spokes on the cookie wheels. The royal icing was the inaugural use of my new aqua "ice" KitchenAid stand mixer I bought myself as an early birthday present! :) My house wasn't overly warm that day but at 8pm it was still difficult to work with the fondant, so I had to keep throwing the RoulPat, silicone rolling pin and fondant scraps back in the fridge to cool down enough to continue.
Thursday I baked the cakes & cupcakes so they and the kitchen would be cool when assembling, then finally I worked 8 solid hours the night before the party. I couldn't start until after 10pm when it was finally cooling down in my kitchen, carving & icing first, then starting fondant work around midnight. Marshmallow fondant does not cooperate with my house in the summer! :(
Fondant was done around 3am, then piping all the decoration was another good hour, another whole batch of buttercream for the green grass on the board, decorating the base, then lastly frosting the cupcakes and adding the chocolate rocks to the chocolate buttercream.
The sun was coming up by then, and I could tell from Thomas' height there was no way I could get the board out of the trunk with him on the base, so I packed him separately in a box, cupcakes covered on a sheet tray with non-slip rug liner, all the accessories & repair kit, and put the base with the flatbed car & railroad track on foil in the trunk on more non-slip rug liner. That rug liner made everything stay in place even through turns & stoplights...whew! With the boxes safely on the patio away from kitties, I took a quick shower & got a couple hours sleep.
I got up 9am, got ready, packed up everything & got to the party just before the 11am start time, then started assembly onsite. I had added chocolate rocks to the flatbed car in case all the cupcakes were gone before the main cake cutting, so I took photos of that state before adding the cupcakes for the final completion photos. Everyone at the party loved it, but I was ticked at my lumpy fondant work, and was very glad it was less noticeable after the royal icing decoration went on. This is only the 3rd fondant covering cake project I've done, so it's obvious I need more practice before I'll get better, but at this point I prefer sculpting accessories from fondant and modeling chocolate, then adding them to a simpler shaped cake or base...like the pirate cake last November that had no actual cake at all. ;)
Voila...the finished Thomas the Tank Engine cake...Happy Birthday Benjamin!
Not surprisingly this was a copiously photographed cake, and I did "face" paint a few party guests too, so all the photos are in gallery here. I'm very glad the birthday boy, his family & all the party guests loved the cake...however, with summer always being so warm inside my house, I think I'll have to design less fondant-heavy birthday cakes for future Benjamin birthdays!