I Tried To Bake The Women’s Weekly Train Cake & Its Face Will Forever Haunt Me
For anyone who’s grown up in Australia, there’s one cake book that will forever stay in our hearts: The Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book.
It’s a book that invokes nostalgic memories, whether it be the reminder that your mum slaved away making the swimming pool cake for your fifth birthday or the fact that something about the duck cake kinda terrified you back in the day.
There’s one cake, however, that everyone remembers. Mainly because it’s on the front cover of the damn book and also because it looks a bit bloody complicated.
I am, of course, talking about the Choo Choo Train cake.
The popcorn carriages! The tracks! The smoke stack! The smiley face! Who could forget?!
A while ago I did some important research to see which cake people remembered the most, with the aim to then create that cake myself.
Twitter fam, need some help. When you think of the Women's Weekly cake book, which cake would you think is the most recognisable?
— Tahlia Pritchard (@Tahls) May 27, 2019
Unfortunately for me, the train cake won out.
So armed with fear, trepidation and the knowledge I am not really known for my baking skills, I set forward on what may be the most important journey of my life to date.
Here’s what happened when I tried to recreate the Women’s Weekly train cake.
Things first started to go awry when I went shopping for the ingredients.
Has anyone even heard of Jubes since the ’00s? Because I sure as hell haven’t.
It wasn’t just the Jubes I couldn’t find in (numerous) local supermarkets. A packet of wooden ice block sticks? I don’t know her. A pipe cleaner? Haven’t seen one since my days in kindergarten.
So it was time to strap my creative hat on and search the supermarket for bad replacements. For Jubes I bought lolly snakes and figured I’d just knot them. To make the tracks without a huge packet of wooden sticks, I substituted with… well, straws. It seemed like an OK idea at the time.
Now do I wish I just ate 20 Paddle Pops, rinsed the sticks and was done with it? Absolutely.
Another thing to mention is I baked the cakes (yes, plural!) the night before but decided to halve the recipe.
I have no children in my life. This is not a sad excerpt from my diary, it’s just a fact that’s important to know because I had no gleeful little soul to hand over the cake to as if I specially made it for their sticky little hands. And I sure as hell did not feel like indulging in a weirdly iced $2 packet cake recipe for my cheat day.
(Important to note: the instructions do say you can use a cake mix for this bad boy recipe because, well, you need to make four fucking cakes. Or in my case, two.)
As it turns out, halving the recipe makes the instructions even more difficult to follow.
With the idea being you have four cake bars to play with, the instructions tell you to, “cut bar cakes in half vertically to give eight equal pieces. Reserve five of these to make tops of the four carriages and back of engine. Then cut remaining three pieces in half horizontally to give six equal pieces, five of which form the bases of the engine and four carriages.”
I had two bar cakes to use and, well, my brain could not compute this maths.
So, with the help of my sisters, we tried to draw it out before cutting into the two cakes and ruining them forever.
Plot-twist: we still couldn’t figure it out. At all.
So, I made a tough call. I decided from here on out to ignore all written instructions and I cut the cake in a way that would just simply resemble a train. Watch out MasterChef, I’m on my way.
I know, thank you, it looks so good.
As you can see I added the massacred leftover sponge cake (used for the engine) to add to the “carriages” to give them a little more height.
I can feel the death glare of whoever created this book burning into my soul as we speak.
With no wooden iceblock sticks for the tracks, I decided to attempt to make my straw tracks.
Ever accomplish something and feel really, ridiculously proud of it? No, me neither.
Separately I had started icing the portions of my cake three different colours: red, green and blue. (And by I, I mean my sister because I desperately needed to swig some wine by this point and take a few deep breaths.)
Here I will leave you with a very important note: if you make this cake, buy a vanilla sponge. Trust me. Your shitty icing will look marginally better on it.
As I tried to gently place the most important part of my train on the tracks, we had a little accident.
The most heartbreaking split since the Titanic.
Thankfully with a bit more cheap icing slathered on we managed to put the train back together again. Humpty Dumpty, eat your fkin heart out.
With all pieces adequately iced and sitting on the pitiful straw tracks, it was time for the last (and most fun) part of cake-making:
With no Jubes to link my carriages together, the old “tie a snake in a knot” and stick it into the icing method worked surprisingly well. The other decorations involved making a smoke stack by threading popcorn onto a pipe cleaner.
Turns out “threading” popcorn onto a straw doesn’t quite have the same effect so once again creative license took over and I blu-tacked some M&Ms onto the straw.
The base of the smoke stack that I incorrectly chose to label as “the nose” was made with leftover sponge, iced and covered with chocolate sprinkles. Was my train’s nose a little too big? Yes, but also shut up, don’t be rude. We’re just stuck with the genetics we get after all.
The next part involved using “thin” liquorice to line the carriages and the “cow catcher”. I am not convinced thin liquorice is actually something one can buy, so I just shredded whatever liquorice strips I had bought even though it seemed like a better option to chuck them in the bin where they belong.
And then! It was time to give the train liquorice eyes, a smile, and fill his carriages with whatever treats I hadn’t shoved in my mouth, as well as stick some delicious Mint Slices on him for his wheels.
Here it is in full: My attempt to make the infamous Women’s Weekly cake.
This face will forever haunt me.
TFW your waiter says “enjoy your meal” and you say “you too”.
So what did I learn from making a Women’s Weekly cake?
1. Don’t follow the instructions. They make no sense.
2. Eating half a packet of jumbo M&Ms in one sitting will absolutely make you feel ill.
Things I’m still unsure of:
1. Do Jubes even exist or not?
2. Why I did this in the first place.