Monday, November 1, 2010

Lightning McQueen Cake How-to... Part 1: Race Track Base

Here's a step-by step guide to how to make the race track base I made for my Lightning McQueen cake.  You could use this idea to make a race track base for another kind of cake (truck, motorcyle, go-cart etc).  It's relatively simple to make, and is a good way to ease yourself into working with fondant.

To make the race-track base you will need:

* One layer cake measuring around 35 x 26cm and about 4cm thick.  Click here to go to the recipe I used.
* 2 cups buttercream frosting (I used an all-butter buttercream, the recipe is at the bottom of this post)
* 500g white fondant (though you won't use all of it and can use the rest for details on the car)
* 250g black fondant
* Cornflour/ Cornstarch, or powdered sugar, or crisco/ vegetable shortening (for rolling out the fondant and preventing sticking to the bench)
* Small square cutter around 2cm square
* Rolling pin
* Palette knife
* Sharp, non-serrated knife and clean ruler
* Tall glass filled with hot water
* Parchment/ baking paper
* Candles
* A cake decorating turntable, if you have one

Let your cake cool down to room temperature.  Place your cake on the serving board you are going to serve it on.  (I couldn't as I was going to have to freeze this cake and my serving board wouldn't fit in my freezer so I decorated it on a cutting board covered in parchment paper, and later transferred it to the serving board once defrosted.)

Frost the cake with your buttercream.  If your cake has exposed, cut edges, crumb-coat these first.  Make the frosting reasonably thick - it tastes better that way.

Smooth off the frosting using your palette knife dipped in the hot water.  Try to get it as smooth and even as you can.  If possible, refrigerate the cake for 10 -15 minutes while you do the next step.

Break off just under half of your white fondant (about 250g) and mix in with some of the black (you don't need much), until you get a grey colour you are happy with.  I left the grey a little bit swirly as I liked that mottled effect for the road.

On a large flat surface lightly dusted with cornflour/starch, powdered sugar or vegetable shortening, roll out your fondant to about 2mm thick.

Decide on a width for your road and use a ruler and sharp, non-serrated knife to cut it out.  I use a steel ruler that I sterilize in the dishwasher and only use for cake decorating projects.

Transfer the road to your cake top by wrapping it around your rolling pin.

Trim the edges.

I recently bought this nifty little set of shape cutters which have proven to be invaluable for fondant decorating.

Roll out a small piece of both your black and white fondant on a dusted surface.  (Working in small amounts at a time will help prevent the fondant drying out).

Begin cutting the squares out and placing them side by side on the cake.  Don't worry about dust left by cornstarch or powdered sugar, this will be absorbed by the fondant and will be gone by morning.

Keep working until you have filled in all the space.  You will have to cut special shapes to fill in the corners.  Repeat on the other side.

To create some rocks for the candles to go in, make three (or however many you need) natural-looking rock shapes from left-over grey fondant and poke the candles in.  Don't place them on the cake yet though as they will meld to the fondant beneath.

To store:  Drape reasonably loosely with clingfilm/ gladwrap and leave on the benchtop.  Never refrigerate a fondant covered cake or store in an airtight container as it will sweat badly.

Notes:  I used cornflour to roll out my fondant (hence the dusty-ness).  Next time I will try vegetable shortening as the air in my apartment is horribly dry and the fondant began to crack a little in places.  This can also happen if you use too much cornflour or powdered sugar.

If you have any questions about this how-to, please don't hesitate to ask me... just leave a comment below and I will answer any questions you have.

LM xx


All-butter Buttercream
When a pure white colour is not needed, an all-butter buttercream, made without any shortening, is always delicious...

* 215g butter
* 5ml vanilla extract
* 480g icing/ confectioners' sugar
* 30ml milk

Cream butter and vanilla extract together.

Blend in sugar, a third at a time.

Beat in milk and keep beating until light and fluffy.


  1. Very impressive cake! I was wondering how long it took you to make this cake? I have never worked with fondant before. I just want to make sure I have enough time. Also, How far in advance can I make this?

  2. Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    The building and decoration of the cake probably took me about 9 hours in total.

    For the decorating of this cake I would allow two evenings. I would do the race track base on one night and then the car the following evening. The layer cakes can be baked in advance, frozen and bought out to thaw about an hour before you begin your cutting and decorating.

    Fondant cannot be refrigerated or frozen so the cake has to be stored at room temperature. I wouldn't make it too far in advance :). I stored mine beneath an up-turned plastic container with a tablecloth over it to keep bugs out etc.

    Good luck, and if you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask. My son wants a Lightning McQueen cake for his next birthday (this one was for a friend's son), so watch this space for version 2.0!

    LM x

  3. Oh and PS - if you've never worked with fondant before, you can find heaps of really useful tutorials on Youtube - everything from how to roll it out and transfer it to the cake, to cutting decorations etc. Fondant dries out really quick so it is really important to keep the fondant you aren't using completely covered with clingwrap. :)

  4. I'm wondering where you found that tin with all the different shapes in it?

  5. Hi Wona,

    I bought the set from my local supermarket (Migros). I see that you are in the states. I found a place you can purchase them from in Australia.

    And in the UK:

    You'll have to scroll down this page to see them, but they are there.

    You can buy the individual shapes too, like these ones:



    I also found these similar sets of various shapes in an online shop in the US:'s

    Hope that helps.

    LM x

  6. How many cups of buttercream does your recipe make?

  7. Hi Ashley - I'd say 2 - 2 & 1/2 cups. :)

  8. Hi, can you use the same cake recipe and make it into either a chocolate mud cake or a rainbow coloured cake by using different food colouring?

    1. Hi - this recipe would be ideal for changing colours as it is quite a white cake and would take colouring nicely. For chocolate though, I would use a proper chocolate cake recipe as you would need to incorporate cocoa into the batter and I don't know exactly how this would work out.

      I have a great chocolate cake recipe in the comments section of this post (at the end of the post):

      Hope that helps!

  9. is the car made from just 1 cake? ie one set of the reciepe?

    thanks sam

    1. Hi Sam,

      The car on it's own is one lot of the recipe and the racetrack base is one set of the recipe.

      Hope that helps,

      LM :)

  10. Hi LM, was just wondering how you cleaned off the cornflour? and did you do that at the end?

    1. Hi Rosie,

      That's a good question. If you live in a fairly humid place often the powdered sugar or cornflour (cornstarch) you use to prevent the fondant from sticking will just magically disappear into the fondant overnight. If it doesn't you can do one of two things: Get a soft, clean, dry paint brush and gently dust it off. Or you can use a spray shellac (available at all good cake decorating supply stores). This spray gives a nice sheen to the cake and also instantly eliminates any traces of dust on the surface.

      My apartment is extremely dry so I always use a bit of shellac if I have a residue problem as it just doesn't sink in to the fondant.

      Don't be tempted to brush water on to fondant. I did that when I was really new to cake decorating and it was a disaster! Fondant and water don't mix :).

      Thanks for your question, and for visiting my site.

      LM x

  11. Where can I find part 2

  12. Hi do u have d recipe to make fondant? Or r they store-bought?

  13. Hi! Love the cake! I'm just wondering, did you need to make the checkerboard detailing ahead of time to allow them to dry slightly? The cake I'm wanting to make has the checkerboard detailing on the vertical side of the cake... Do you think these would slip if the fondant was 'fresh'? Thankyou!



Thanks so much for your comments - I really appreciate them!

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