A Lightning McQueen birthday cake

I thought long and hard about a theme for David’s third birthday. For his first and second birthdays I chose based on the decoration potential. This year I thought long and hard about David’s interests and finally, reluctantly, chose to throw him a Lightning McQueen party. He likes Lightning McQueen a heck of a lot more than he likes gingham puppy dogs.

Ok, so it wasn’t really a Lightning McQueen party. It was a pool party with an awesome Lightning McQueen cake.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake

Pinterest is full of these things, but I picked this cake as inspiration. There weren’t any instructions, so here’s what I did.

First, I used a box of chocolate cake mix. Usually I like to make a fancy homemade cake, but this cake was all about the decorations, so I wanted to keep everything else simple.

I used my 9″ springform cake pans, which made two cakes that were about two inches high.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake

To fit them together, I cut about two inches off the end of each cake.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake

I didn’t take a photo of this, but the top of one of the cakes was more rounded than the other, so I used a bread knife and cut off the top to even them out. I didn’t worry about making them perfectly flat, though.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake

Also — for a cake this large, I used a big piece of cardboard as a base and placed the cake on a sheet of aluminum foil. Before we served it, I trimmed the aluminum foil just to make it look nicer.

Since the cake was going to have a lot of decorations, I started out with a thin layer of chocolate icing. I love icing, but since this was for a crowd — mostly of kids — I wanted to keep the icing as light as I could.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake

Next, I used a butter knife and traced a 3 along the cake to use as a guide for the rest of the icing. Also — I want to say — I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve never really decorated a cake. This is the point that I gave myself a pep talk, and you can give yourself the same pep talk if you’re intimidated by this sort of thing. When icing a cake, at any point, you can just start over. If I didn’t like the parameters of my 3, I could just ice over it with more chocolate. If I messed up the grass, I could just scrape it off and start over. And if the whole thing was a mess, they sell cupcakes at the grocery store.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake -- step-by-step instructions and photo tutorial

The grass was the most intimidating part for me. I’m not sure I’ve ever even used an icing tip before. So, using a napkin as my test run, I tried a few different things. I decided the best look was the star tip all over — the more disorganized and imperfect the better it looked.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake -- step-by-step instructions and photo tutorial

Here’s a closer shot of the grass.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake -- step-by-step instructions and photo tutorial

Next, I just piped white lines to make my chocolate 3 into a road. I actually used the wrong icing here. Instead of cake icing, I accidentally bought cookie icing which was weird and melty, but fine in the end.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake -- step-by-step instructions and photo tutorial

Lightning McQueen birthday cake -- step-by-step instructions and photo tutorial

Right before the party I added the little cars. We actually already had the cars, they came with this book I got a while ago for David, back when his Cars obsession was brand new.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake -- step-by-step instructions and photo tutorial

While we sang Happy Birthday, David decided to rearrange the cars.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake -- step-by-step instructions and photo tutorial

I was really, really pleased with how well it turned out. And David liked it, too.

Lightning McQueen birthday cake -- step-by-step instructions and photo tutorial

Ahem, understatement.

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  1. It looks great! Well done!

  2. Amanda, it looks so good!!!! David is so cute. The grass looked really good 🙂 Bryce and I are sitting here looking at this post and Bryce says “Yep, that’s a Tom face. And there’s little Steve, too.” Haha

  3. LOVE that cake AMANDA!!

  4. Cute cake… the green color is so vibrant and pretty….

  5. This is AWESOME!! I love the step-by-step instructions, and love how amazing it looks without a crazy ton of steps. My boys would love this!
    Thanks so much for sharing with us at Delicious Dish Tuesday! We’d love for you to share a link back to the hop via one of the hosts so your readers know where to find and share more amazing recipes like this one! Thanks so much, we look forward to seeing more yummy recipes from you next week!!! <3

  6. Oh my goodness, you did a beyond fantastic job. AND you make it look do-able. I love cake decorating, and would love to try to make a cake like this. Thanks for sharing at DDT! I’ll be pinning this.

  7. What precious children and a precious cake! Hope you have a great week and thanks so much for sharing your awesome recipe with Full Plate Thursday. Your post has been pinned with the party!
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  8. A super cute cake for a super cute kiddo! What fun. Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty – we hope to see you again next week. 🙂

    Life With Lorelai

  9. A birthday cake he will always remember!

  10. You did a great job and made it look so easy that I might just try to make it myself as I know my son would love it. Only he is more of a Tomater. fan. Your little boy is so cute and looked adorable with the cake on his face you can tell he loved it.

  11. Awww that’s so cute! I just did a Lightning McQueen cake too with the same one as inspiration, it’s so great! The 3 is just perfect. Yours turned out awesome, I’m sure it was a hit!

  12. So cute you did a great job ! Thank you for sharing and joining our Oh My Heartsie Girl Wordless Wednesday Link Party. Have a great day, co-host Evija @Fromevijawithlove

  13. This is amazing!! My son is turning 3 in December and is absolutely obsessed with Lightning McQueen! Thanks so much for giving me some inspiration for his birthday – love this. Stopping by from Turn it Up Tuesday.

  14. It sure looks like he enjoyed it! Lately I’ve been wanting to learn how to decorate cakes. I think it would be so fun to take a class!

  15. Oh my! This looks so fabulous! Pinned and tweeted. Please join us tonight at 7 pm, and party with us. I can’t wait to see your new masterpieces or amazing classics! Lou Lou Girls

  16. Well done and the little boy’s face in that first picture says it all “let me at it!”. fantastic cake. Great job and thanks so much for sharing on The Painted Drawer’s Link party!

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