Colors (Please read the notes about coloring red frosting.)
Wilton No-Taste Red
Wilton Royal Blue
or whatever colors you choose
Preparation - Day 1
CAKES: Preheat the oven according to the cake (or pan) directions. Prepare the pans by greasing with butter, laying parchment in the bottom, and greasing the parchment. Flour the insides of the pan and tap out the extra. (Note: Always prepare a cake pan, even if it's nonstick.)
Mix 3 batches of chocolate cake or yellow butter cake. You can bake two 9x13 cakes together and then the third by itself. If you use the 11x15 pan, bake it separately because it requires a longer baking time. Allow to cool completely, overnight is best. (Note: If you use the 11x15 pan, you will pour 2 batches of the batter in it. I recommend mixing the wet ingredients for both first in separate bowls, then adding the dry ingredients per the recipes, then immediately pouring both batches into the pan and bake. If you mix each batch fully and allow one to sit while making the other, you will lose some rise and have a dense cake.)
BUTTERCREAM: Mix 3 batches of either pure buttercream or the buttercream with shortening (helpful if the weather is really hot and humid). Color as desired and store in the refrigerator. You will need about 1 cup of white frosting for the cockpit window, 2 to 3 cups of red, and 3 to 4 cups of blue.
Assembly - Day 2
Arrange pattern shapes on the cakes and cut them out using a sharp serrated knife. Set aside the extra cake and enjoy later with whipped cream and berries, like a trifle. (Sorry, no photo for that, the extras didn't last long enough.)
Arrange bottom cowling, wings, bottom of fuselage, and rear elevators on a large pan according to the photo below.
Add a layer of blue frosting where the fuselage will go.
Place the fuselage on top of the cake with the rear point sticking off slightly.
Add a layer of blue or red frosting on top of the bottom cowling and add the next bottom cowling. Add another layer of blue frosting to the cowling and place the third layer on top. Add a frosting on top of the fuselage just in the area where the cockpit pieces will go. Put the cockpit pieces in place.
Use a serrated knife to shape the cowling and cockpit, making them slightly rounded per the photo above.
Cut a vertical slit in the fuselage above the elevators, but don't go all the way through to the pan, then place the vertical tail in the slit.
Cover the wings, fuselage, elevators, vertical tail, and part of the cockpit with a crumb layer of the blue frosting.
Cover the window part of the cockpit with a crumb layer of white frosting.
Cover the cowling with a crumb layer of red frosting.
Allow the frosting to sit for a few minutes, then add the outer frosting layer, reserving 1 to 1-½ cups of the red frosting for piping. (Note: We put the cake in the refrigerator for 10 minutes before adding the outer frosting layer because it was very warm and humid. Chilling the crumb layer helped seal in the pesky chocolate crumbs.)
Pipe decorations on the wings, elevators, vertical tail, and anywhere else you like. We put the name on the left wing, the age on the vertical tail, and HB-4 on the right wing, which looks like the airplane number and stands for "Happy Birthday-4.