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Lightning McQueen Birthday Cake

How to make a Lightning McQueen Cake.

This birthday cake was made for a friends son’s 3rd birthday. When she asked for Lightning McQueen from the movie The Cars I thought it might be quite hard to make but it turned out to be fairly easy although the decorating does take time so put aside a few hours if you ar going to make one. 












I have added step by step instructions and photographs to help you create the cake and also a recipe for a firm chocolate cake which is ideal for novelty cakes which require shaping.


  1. Cut the chocolate cake as in picture 1.
  2. Spread chocolate butter icing on the base of the large piece of cake.
  3. Place the piece of cake cut from the side on top of the butter icing.
  4. The piece from the bottom of the cake will need trimming in half long ways so that it one piece will fit next to the other piece on top of the butter icing. 
  5. The piece that is left cut in half and put in the middle of the cake, sticking it down with butter icing (see photo 2).
  6. You will now need to shape the cake, by cutting away the bonnet so that it slopes away, cutting some out of each side to give the wheel arches shape and trimming all the edges to make them round (see photo 3).
  7. Cover cake with a thin layer of butter icing which will help the fondant icing to stick to the cake.
  8. Roll out the red fondant out into a large square about a centimeter thick, big enough to cover the whole of the cake. 
  9. Cover the cake with red fondant and smooth into place.
  10. The fondant will pleat at the sides of the car so make these gathers where the wheels will go and they wont be seen. this will leave the front back and sides in between arches smooth.
  11. Cut out the fondant where the wheels will be, using a round biscuit as the stencil. I used Griffins Toffee Pops (see picture).
  12. Cover wheels with grey fondant and put a round circle of red fondant in the middle. Finish the wheels off with silver balls.
  13. Shape a long triangle to fit along the back of the car to look like a fin. Hold this in place with some spaghetti! 
  14. Cut the windows and mouth out of white fondant and put into place by wetting the back of the fondant with a little water.
  15. Cut out the lightning and circle for the roof and bonnet from the yellow fondant and put into place as before.
  16. Mark the red fondant with a butter knife where the doors, windows and bonnet are to define these areas (see final photo).
  17. Paint the eyes and mouth with black food colouring.
  18. Use red colouring to paint the circles.  



Ingredients for Cake

  •  250g butter
  • 2 1/2 cups of SR four
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 250g sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 800g fondant icing (if buying in NZ I find Pettinice the best to use). Colour 80% red and then small amounts, yellow, white and grey.


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  2. Cream butter & sugar together till light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time and beat mixture in between each one.
  4. Beat in the sour cream.
  5. Add dry ingredients and fold into the mixture.
  6. Put into a greased & lined (with greaseproof paper) oblong cake tin measuring approximately 35 x 25cm.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Check before removing the cake from the oven.
  8. Allow to cool over night before shaping cake. 
28 Comments Post a comment
  1. kaori #

    That! It’s amazing!!! vroom!!!

    February 2, 2009
  2. KJ #

    Looks great. Will give it a go this weekend for my sons 3rd birthday. Easy to follow instructions too. Thanks

    February 26, 2009
    • peasepudding #

      Hi, Good luck making the cake this weekend. At the beginning it feels like it is never going to look like a car but each step starts to take shape. Let me know how you go.

      February 27, 2009
  3. oneordinaryday #

    You did a great job. The cake looks amazing!

    February 27, 2009
    • peasepudding #

      Thanks Michelle, I always get frustrated half way through making novelty cakes because before they are complete they often look like nothing at all and you think it will never be what you expect. I have quite a lot more I have done in the past which I will post but unfortunately never thought to take photos of each stage (before my blogging days!).

      February 28, 2009
  4. Rebecca #

    Hi followed these instructions took me 2.5 hours and looked really impressed my sons friends. A great 6th birthday cake.

    April 2, 2009
    • peasepudding #

      Fantastic, I am so please the instructions worked for you and your son was happy with it. I’m hoping to do a few more character cakes in the future with step by step instructions so other people can have a go too. Thanks

      April 3, 2009
    • peasepudding #

      Fantastic, I am so please the instructions worked for you and your son was happy with it. I’m hoping to do a few more character cakes in the future with step by step instructions so other people can have a go too. Thanks

      April 3, 2009
  5. Amber #

    THANK YOU 😉 My sons birthday is coming up in august and I was looking around because I want to make him a lightening mcqueen cake! your the best.

    April 16, 2009
    • peasepudding #

      Thanks, if you would like any other tips whne you are close to making it just let me know.

      April 19, 2009
  6. jenissa #

    I’m new to cake making and I was just wondering how you made the back fin. How did you stick it there with spaghetti? huh?

    And also how do you “paint” with food coloring the lightning bolt and the rusteze thingy-ma-bobby?


    April 16, 2009
    • peasepudding #

      Hi, the fin is made from the fondant icing by making a triangle shape to fit the length on the back of the car. If you roll a sausage shape first and then get a ruler or something similar to flatten two of the sides to form the triangle. To attach the fin to the car, break off 3 or 4 pieces of spaghetti about two inches long, insert them the fin evenly spaced on the side which will sit on the cake. Then push the other side of the spaghetti into the cake where the fin is going to sit. I use spaghetti because it is edible but I know other people use cocktail sticks. Don’t forget to remove them before the children get a piece of cake though!

      The painting of the name is harder, it takes a steady hand and a very fine paint brush or even an eye liner brush. Use the liguid food colouring and don’t dilute it and paint direct onto the fondant. For the disc on the front you could practise a few times and but it onto the cake once it has dried. Or you could buy some mini letter cookie cutters and cut the name you wish out of fondant. Good luck and if you would like any more tips let me know.

      April 19, 2009
      • jenissa #

        wow, that was really helpful. duh spaghetti. I was thinking of cooked spaghetti and really had no idea where you were coming from. good idea.

        my only other question before I tackle this is what size is the original cake? is it a 13×9? I’m a little confused on how to cut it. I looked at the picture, and it seems like the two bigger pieces are equal in size, if that is the case, why do you have to cut it lengthwise to make it fit on top? I’m just not quite sure how it is cut, that’s all.

        thanks so much!!!

        May 7, 2009
      • peasepudding #

        Hi, although I have emailed you direct I thought I would post the info also to help others who might want to make this cake.
        Another suggestion would be to use two square tins (24cm x 24cm) and the same quantities of cake mixture. Put one on top of the other, secured with butter cream, and then slice through both layers, cutting off one third ( 8cm). This will leave you with a 24cm x 16cm double layer cake.

        The piece you cut off would form the very top (windows). You will have to play around with this piece to get the right size probably by getting the right length first and the bit you cut use to widen and or heighten the window. Hope that makes sense?

        Thinking about it, it will be much easier to use two tins if you have them I just didn’t have them?

        If you have any more questions, please ask and good luck!

        May 8, 2009
  7. Kylie Christie #

    Thank you so much for the instructions. I made the cake for my son’s 4th birthday and he loved it. It was my first attempt at a 3D cake and also at using fondant and whilst my cake didn’t have the more polished look yours does, I was pretty happy with it. And my family, who doubted I could do it, couldn’t believe their eyes – my Dad has even asked for one for his birthday – he’ll be 74! And everyone commented on how yummy the cake tasted.

    So, once again, THANK YOU!


    May 24, 2009
  8. Terri #

    Thanks so much for this. I just made it – shaping & icing only took me about 2 hours – think it took almost as llong trying to get my icing red not pink!!

    Fantastic instructions & it really works – this is the most successful cake I’ve ever made & I’m really proud of it!

    June 4, 2009
    • peasepudding #

      I’m so pleased it turned out for you and the instructions are easy to follow and yes I know what you mean about trying to get the icing red! I’ve heard you can get pre coloured icing in the UK though? I’m going to have a snoop around when I am back home next week :o)

      June 5, 2009
  9. Marijana #

    what colour red did you use – I’ve got chefmaster gel base colour – tulip red but no matter how much i add I always end up with pink.

    October 30, 2009
    • peasepudding #

      I also used a gel based Christmas red, it may look red in the Photo but actually it is a deep pink also. I find it impossible to colour fondant red and i have used gels, powders and liquid. I knew that the UK sells ready made coloured fondant and recently someone has started to import it to NZ…hurrah! Try googling Renshaw Regalice and see if they have it in your country also.

      October 30, 2009
      • Marijana #

        Hi, yes I am in NZ. I hope the shop is in Auckland!?

        November 15, 2009
  10. becca #

    hi the cake looks amazing, im planning to do a lightning McQueen cake for my sons 1st birthday. I was wondering how many people would this size cake feed?

    June 15, 2010
    • peasepudding #

      Hi Becca, I think it would feed about 20 people, all depends on how big a slice you want to offer!

      June 15, 2010
  11. kristi #

    Attempting this cake next weekend.. Wish I would have seen the comments for the 2 cake pans. I bought one oblong pan..

    When making the cuts.. i see the largest piece is for the bottom, the next 2 largest pieces fit together for a second layer same size as the bottom.. the very top piece slightly confuses me, it looks like its made out of 2 pieces but there is only one left in the picture.. maybe I just dont see it..

    also do you have a recipe for any particular icing?

    March 22, 2012
  12. kristi #

    Do you have a suggestion for the butter cream icing?

    What are the wheels made of?

    I notice there are 4 pieces after cuting, the largest the bottom, the next 2 largest pieces together for the next layer, the very top piece looks like its made from 2 pieces as well?

    Thanks for input

    March 24, 2012
    • peasepudding #

      Gosh it has been so long since I made it I had to go back and look at the pic. The wheels are made from black fondant icing. maybe you can find liquorice wheels or use round chocolate biscuits instead.

      The two largest pieces,bottom and side of pic go on top of each other the right side piece issued to make the final top bit and round the front bumper.

      Hope this helps, Alli

      March 27, 2012
  13. I’m planning on making this cake for a party on Sunday. Do you think that if I make the cake Friday and cover with fondant on Saturday that it will still be fresh on Sunday? Thanks!

    April 30, 2012
    • peasepudding #

      Yes. If you cover it completely with fondant Sat it will be like a a seal over the cake and keep it fresh.

      April 30, 2012
  14. Magnificent web site. Plenty of useful information here. I am sending it to some friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And obviously, thank you for your time!

    November 17, 2012

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