Train Cake

Ashley Phillips is an assistant editor at Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House. Originally from Mississippi, she’s lived in New York City since 2008 and loves exploring the city’s restaurants, cooking and baking for friends, and running the loop around Central Park.

I can’t believe I made this cake!!

No, for real. I’m still stunned. As much as I love cooking and baking, and feel decently proficient at both, cake decorating is an entirely different world. It’s so precise! You have to use scary pastry bags! It may take the entire month of July to complete a single cake!


It turns out that not all cake decorating is hard or ridiculously time consuming. A book called Extreme Cakeovers: Make Showstopping Desserts from Store-Bought Ingredients (Clarkson Potter, July 2013) went on-sale last month, and it has lots of cake projects that are really more about assembly—and that are flexible enough to handle the slip-ups and improvisations that only a true novice can make (woops).

Making Train Cake

What you do is you take store-bought cakes and use them as the foundation on which you build a cool cake using more store-bought stuff, like frosting, candies, cookies, and so on. You can also bake the cake and make the frosting—there are recipes for those things—but you don’t have to.

Making Train Cake

I’m not the genius behind all of this. The book is the handiwork of Rick and Sasha Reichart, who own a fancy cake shop in Hawaii featuring Rick’s incredible designs. I’m their editor, but I got to make this cake for a project related to their book. Actually, for an ebook. Our ebook team wanted to put some nifty step-by-step photography in the ebook you can find at Apple, so we did a photo shoot here in NYC. The photos here are a peek behind-the-scenes. Do love my job? Yes, I do.

Colored Icing