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Let Them Eat Cake?  With Red Die #3

by bkhoury on November 17, 2011

Recently for my two year old’s birthday, I decided, with the strong prodding from my mother in law, to be an overachieving mom and indulge my son in a homemade Thomas the Train cake.  I always feel like my younger boy is getting the short end of the stick on stuff like homemade cakes, new clothes and birthday parties. Like many of you with boys, we are all about trains all the time in our house.  I decided to really splash out and make him a James cake (Thomas is so last year).  For those of you who aren’t familiar with James, he is a gallant bright red train engine. 

I baked a relatively wholesome cake from scratch with delicious dark chocolate and no preservatives – yes it had butter and sugar.  I didn’t attempt one of the fangled recipes with applesauce or sugar substitutes. 

Then, on to the daunting job of decorating. I was of course doing this the last minute late at night. So to the grocery store I ran (twice).  Vegetable shortening, confectioner’s sugar and red food coloring for the frosting, Oreos for the tires, a black licorice smokestack. 

Why not just use real butter for the frosting you ask?  The decorating task that lies ahead was overwhelming and everything I read suggested using confectioners frosting made of vegetable shortening was the way to go (not a cake decorating expert). 

First of all, I don’t think I have EVER made anything with vegetable shortening.  And, I now know why. To steal a line from my three year old: “Yucky yuck”.  But, in fairness, the frosting looked beautiful, like the kind you see on the cakes sitting behind the glass in the grocery store where it’s a little too perfect. You ask yourself, “What is edible on those cakes?” Oh wait, maybe I’m on to something here! 

Then there is the food coloring. I had to use an entire container to achieve anything near the beautiful “James” red.  There have been numerous studies, though none definitive, linking red food coloring to ADHD, allergic reactions and even cancer. The FDA however has stated that more studies need to be done (thank goodness).  And straight from the horse’s mouth, the FDA says too much black licorice HAS been linked to heart problems! 

Anyway, it was just one celebration and then the cake accidentally got re-cooked in the oven. That is where I hid it from the kids (and husband) so they wouldn’t sneak down in the morning to eat it. The next day I forgot about it when I heated up the oven to make pizza. James cake’s second round. Oddly enough the frosting literally did not change even at 400 degrees.  How yummy. 

Hunter absolutely loved his cake and was talking about it days later.  So was it worth it? Maybe dear Marie was on to something:  Let them eat cake!

  • Glad you posted a picture of the cake on Facebook, so cute!  Although it’s scary the frosting can endure a second baking at 400 degrees, I still think you gotta go ahead and let a kid enjoy his birthday cake.  PS when he hits the Hot Wheels stage, I have a good race car cake for you!

    By Jennifer Davis on November 18, 2011 at 03:21 PM
  • My hat is off to your auttse command over this topic-bravo!

    By Ethanael on January 4, 2012 at 12:41 AM
  • Its a great idea to let them eat cake with red dye. I think that your kids really like it as to how he boost it along with his friends. I think that he also like the taste of Liquorice Sweets on his birthday cake.

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