Zander requested both cupcakes and cake for his birthday this year, chocolate of course. I debated making a small layer cake to decorate for him, and then having the cupcakes on the side, but then I saw an instance where someone had used fondant to cover a layer of cupcakes, and then decorated like a regular cake. I thought it was brilliant, but I've never worked with fondant myself, and I also don't care to eat it, so I thought I'd play with making my own "cupcake cake".
I baked and cooled the cupcakes, and then I placed them on a platter and snugged them up to each other as much as I possibly could. I decided to do two layers of frosting so the first one would be thicker and serve as a base for decorating the rest. So my first batch of frosting was a little thicker than normal. Usually, my frosting is butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, mixed together to a consistency I like. In this case, I used less milk so it was a really thick frosting, and I smeared that first layer on the cupcakes. There were spots where the cupcakes weren't quite touching that there just was a really thick gob of frosting- but it worked perfectly. After my first frosting had set up a bit, I mixed up a second batch, tinted it into green and blue, and then a tiny bit had cocoa added to it for the train track, and I went to town.
I simply used an offset spatula to spread the colored frosting around, and then grabbed a piping bag to do the train track. The horses, rocks, fence and train are not edible- they were just toys that I'd washed, but they served their purpose perfectly. The cupcake cake was a huge hit- and it was effortless to pull the cupcakes apart for eating. I did end up cutting off some of the thicker portions of frosting with a knife, but for the most part, I was thrilled with the cupcake cake.
I used this recipe for Devil's Food cake from King Arthur Flour. I did sub in some margarine for the butter, and rice milk for the liquid, as we were having company that has an allergy to dairy. It was my first time baking with the rice milk and it worked beautifully. I did the same for the frosting, and you'd never know- they were incredibly moist and delicious cupcakes.