Little boys like pirate ships. Fact!
The little man in my life (aka as Asher my gorgeous four year old nephew) is seriously into them. So when I asked him what he wanted for his cake this year I had a pretty good idea of what the answer would be – as he brandished his tin foil hook!
He had been given a pirate ship model by Grandma and had glued it together and painted it and that was what he wanted for his cake. ‘His pirate ship’ So I set to work.
How to make a Pirate ship birthday cake
The cake was a Madeira, (find the recipe here) I wanted to get the whole design from two cakes so I made two square cakes that were 12″ and 10″ (which are my two largest square tins). My plan was to get the larger top half of the boat out of the big cake with the base of the cake out of the smaller one. I knew I was going to shape the cake inwards where the boat touches the sea, so it worked out perfectly. I also used the off cuts from the large cake to create the cabin on the top deck.
(Apologies for the blurry photo here!)
This is how they looked when cut out. There was very little waste with this design (not that there is ever waste! Off cuts taste great, especially when you are decorating a cake late at night!) The cake here is upside down to make the shaping easier.
Each cake was filled with butter cream and raspberry jam
I tried not to make the front of the boat have too much of an angle inwards underneath as I know that can be a nightmare to cover with icing.
Once shaped, the whole cake is covered in a thin layer of buttercream.
Make sure you roll out plenty of fondant icing to cover the cake and tuck it in underneath. I used a chocolate fondant which tastes even better than just plain old fondant.
Gently lift the fondant over the cake then smooth lightly with your hands to get any air pockets out. (How much icing sugar is on my arms!?!)
Once the whole cake has been smoothed over with your hands, use a smoothing tool to get it absolutely perfect. I always smooth the top before I move on to the edges. The last bit I smooth are the corner edges which I do with my hands.
Once nice and smooth, remove the excess fondant with a pizza wheel. Aim to leave a 2mm lip at the bottom.
Use a side scraper to tuck the icing into the cake.
One pirate ship cake ready. Time for the fun part.
The Cake board
I love to make a big a deal of the cake boards on all my cakes. There’s always room to add extra details and with a pirate ship it was a shark. I thought a crocodile was a bit too Peter Pan!
The round cake board was covered with a thick (5mm) layer of blue fondant which was rolled and covered in the usual way. I then used my fingers to create the waves, gently pushing into the icing to create a rippled effect. I made the shark out of grey icing and both the board and shark were left to dry. I did this a week before I made the cake so they would set.
The cake was positioned and secured to the board with a little Royal Icing underneath.
To make the deck a perfect fit I cut a slither off the ship’s paper pattern and used it as a template to cut out the yellow wooden decking.
I positioned it on the cake by dampening the icing a little.
The cabin was covered in the yellow fondant icing and was positioned on the middle of the ship’s deck with a little Royal Icing. The edge of the deck is surrounded with two long pieces of chocolate fondant otherwise the pirates would have fallen overboard!
I wanted to add a plank so I left a gap at the back
To create a wooden look I used a paring knife to score lines around the ship.
Add a few vertical lines every now and then and add screw marks next to each one.
For the port holes I cut out black circles, then added red ones on top. I left these to dry overnight as I wanted them to be firm enough to handle, but soft enough to be able to stick to the side of the ship neatly.
The anchor and chain were made with a little bit of grey fondant.
The portholes were stuck on with royal icing. I had to hold them in place for a minute or two so that they didn’t fall off.
For the masts I used skewers which I painted with a brown food colouring. I then made a red flag with a Jolly Rodger on the front (from fondant) and placed it over one of my modelling tools so when it was dry and positioned in the cake it would look like it was blowing in the wind. I left it for a few days to dry. It needs to be pretty firm as it will be handled quite a bit when the sails are made. I wrapped the red flag around the top and back of the skewer and also made sure that the top was wet so it would really stick in place.
I cut the sails out of paper and did a drawing of the Jolly Rodger then added Ahser’s initials. You can download my template for the sails here Pirate ship Sails template I used a hot glue gun to stick the sails to the mast.
For the smaller sails I attached small sections of the painted skewers to the back
This is what they looked like when they were ready to be added to the ship.
The smaller sails need to look like they are billowing. To do this glue the top part in place first and when it is really stuck fast you can stick the second on. Then all you have to do is pop it in the centre of the cake.
I love to personalise cakes, especially when I know the birthday boy so well. Asher loves Captain Hook so I made one to stand on the cake complete with peg leg and shiny hook. But the peg leg wasn’t happy about being made to stand up so he was resting on a barrel of whisky.
I also made rope to wind around the mast. It looks like a dodgy snake in this picture but it looked good in real life. I had the first mate winding it up.
I couldn’t resist having a pirate hanging out of one of the port holes.
Tim had to show me how to make a pirates hat as all my attempts made him look like a cowboy! Where’s Jonny Depp when you need him? Do you like his stubble? I thought it would make the grown ups laugh!
The first mate with his rope and spiky hair
I made the plank by cutting a thin cake board to size then covering it with fondant and creating a wooden effect. I then forced it into the cake. The naughty pirate hanging off it was made a week before the cake was so he would be dry. I was actually planning to have him hanging off the ship but he was too long, but I think this works so much better.
The shark’s teeth were the very last thing to be created. I used a tiny cut in an icing bag of royal icing to make them look nice and sharp.
So there you have it. One mamoth long blog post! and one very happy Asher. Last year I made him a Fireman cake so I think next years will be even more diffucult! We’ll have to wait and see!