The Racetrack Cake: A Brief Tutorial

September 1, 2014 by Brandy Vencel

I mentioned that Son O. turned six. This time around, he wanted a racetrack cake. To be clear, this is basically the same cake that I made for E-Age-Twelve’s birthday years ago. I can’t remember how old he was turning except to say that this is the second time I have made a cake shaped like an eight for a non-eighth birthday.

This bothers me to no end, but what’s a mother to do?

If the cake is really for them and not me, then I must ignore that it looks like a number and imagine it’s just a racetrack, am I right?

So.

I made a racetrack cake.

As most of you know, cake making is my handicraft. I can’t knit. I don’t sew. But I do make cakes.

And then, naturally, I sometimes make cake tutorials.

I’m going to break it down into steps because it’s a super easy one, but everyone always oohs and aahs over it, which is the best kind of cake to make.

How to Make a Racetrack Cake: a Tutorial

Step 1: Bake

Bake two 8- or 9-inch round cakes. They can be from scratch or from a box mix. I don’t care. We’re talking decorating here, not cake recipes. I happened to use the vanilla cake mix by Betty Crocker. I did this because I was in a hurry and it was on sale.

I usually bake my cakes the day before I intend to decorate them. This is because they need to be fully cooled before I decorate, or the residual heat can melt the frosting.

Also, I like to freeze them. Frozen cakes are easier to decorate than fresh cakes. Freezing is optional, but you will find they are easier to work with.

Step 2: Trim

this is a cake leveler

I did two types of trimming on these cakes. The first was to level the tops so that they were flat and not round. This is less messy if the cakes are frozen, like I suggested.

Wilton even has a video on how to level a cake, if you have never done it before.

The leveling must be done before you do the other type of trimming, which is to slightly cut the edges off the circles so that they fit together flush. Like this:

How to Trim Round Cakes to Make an "8" Shape

Step 3: Make Frosting

I made a triple batch of the Wilton buttercream recipe using these ingredients:

I know frosting recipes usually call for clear vanilla extract but I can taste the difference, and I like the real thing. So my white isn’t quite as bright, but no one has ever said anything and I’ve even made all white cakes.
I make my frosting in my giant industrial mixer. I have had it for years, and we are still best buds. ♥

Step 4: Gather Decorating Supplies

Here’s what you’ll need to complete the rest of this project:
I have collected these supplies over the years, and they make cake decorating so much easier for me! I used to use ziplock baggies and such and it was just a mess and took forever, even though the cakes looked okay. I really love my cake decorating supplies.

Step 5: Prepare Plastic Frosting Bags

Follow the directions on the package if you’ve never done this before. You want the standard round tip {I suggest around a size 6} with the standard coupler, the 1M with the large coupler, and the frosting tip on its own.

Step 6: Crumb Coat

Put your cake on the cake base. Use your spatula and put a crumb coat over the whole thing. This will keep you from getting crumbs all over everything when you’re trying to frost it. I usually refrigerate the cake for 10-15 minutes after I do this to get the crumb coat to firm up for the rest of the process.
Speaking of crumbs, now is also a good time to crush up your graham crackers so that you can use them as asphalt.

Step 7: Separate and Tint Icing

The very first thing you want to do it fill up the first bag {the one with the standard tip} with white frosting. This will be used for the white street lines, the age number, and the name of the child if it’ll fit {I did pipe in the name in the top circle — I just took it out for this post.}

Second, you want to get a bunch out {2-3 frosting bags worth} for your road. Put it in the bowl so you can stir it up. You want to add a couple tablespoons {up to a quarter cup} of cocoa powder. You can use far less icing coloring if you do this first. Add a bit of the brown icing coloring to get it to a nice dark color because the cocoa powder makes it more of a khaki tint. Stir in more milk if it gets too thick.
Third, in the mixer, add the green coloring. I tend to use a toothpick to get some out. A little goes a very long ways with gel colors, but you might need to do it a few times to get it saturated enough. Remember to scrape the sides so that the color mixes in evenly.

Step 8: Actually Decorate the Cake

What we’ve been waiting for! Hooray!
I started with the road. I used the large frosting tip and slowly piped on the road. My next step was to add in the grass by putting green frosting through the 1M tip. I tried to do it loosely and unevenly so it looked more like grass and less like stars. I filled in the circles and also went all around the sides.
After this, I carefully sprinkled the chocolate graham cracker crumbs onto the “road.” I keep debating over whether or not I should have done this before I did the grass because it was hard to keep it off the grass. You are free to switch up the order; I’m just saying how I actually did it.
Finally, pipe the lines down the middle of the roads. Add an age and possibly also a name.
My daughter was actually giving my son some toy cars: Tubbs Pacer and Raoule CaRoule, so I put those on the cake with a sign next to it that said “cars from Q-Age-Seven.” The cones I found in the playroom. I highly suggest shopping the play room for this sort of cake. The cars need not be new to work…only clean.

And That’s It!

I know I wrote a lot, but that’s just because I was trying to be thorough. This is a simple, easy cake that looks great and…well, little boys love it.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Karen October 19, 2015 at 1:43 am

    Thanks for the details and your fun style of writing. I’m making this for my 8 year old grandson tomorrow. He’s super excited. Great idea about using cocoa powder to enhance the brown color.

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