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How To Make A Pirate Ship Birthday Cake

Cake Sculpting

(From the archives of 2015)

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.

DIY Cake

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! Offcuts taste great, especially when you are decorating a cake late at night!) The cake here is upside down to make the shaping easier.

Cake Design

Each cake was filled with butter cream and raspberry jam

Pirate Theme

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.

Birthday Cake Ideas

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.

Pirate Ship Cake

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!?!)

Homemade Cake

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.

Homemade pirate birthday Cake

Once nice and smooth, remove the excess fondant with a pizza wheel. Aim to leave a 2mm lip at the bottom.

Birthday Celebration

Use a side scraper to tuck the icing into the cake.

Birthday Celebration

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.

Sea cake board

The cake was positioned and secured to the board with a little Royal Icing underneath.

Birthday Celebration

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.

Cake Crafting

I positioned it on the cake by dampening the icing a little.

Cake Sculpture

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!Nautical Theme

I wanted to add a plank so I left a gap at the back Creative Baking

To create a wooden look I used a paring knife to score lines around the ship. Creative Baking

Add a few vertical lines every now and then and add screw marks next to each one.Edible Decorations

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.
Kid's CakeThe 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.

The Sails

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.

Cake Tutorial

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.

Pirate Flag

For the smaller sails I attached small sections of the painted skewers to the backCake Inspiration

This is what they looked like when they were ready to be added to the ship. Birthday Party Ideas

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.

The details

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.Cake Sculpting

So there you have it. One mammoth long blog post! and one very happy Asher. Last year I made him a Fireman cake so I think next year will be even more difficult! We’ll have to wait and see!


*P.S. If you’re thinking you have seen this post before you are probably right. I managed to accidentally delete the whole blog last night and as it’s a cake I love so much I thought I’d reinstate it again.

P.P.S. Asher- the other main man in my life is now 16, doesn’t like pirate ships as much as he likes coding and tech stuff, and is heading in the direction of 6ft!

More Birthday cakes you may love

Asher’s Spy Birthday cake

Asher’s rock climbing cake

Darcey’s Owl birthday cake

Darcey’s smiling emoji cake

Beau’s Lego Birthday cake

Mario Kart and Yoshie Birthday cake

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EmmaMT from

Follow me at for inspirational cake design, recipes and cake decorating tips.


  1. Brilliant:) I also love the spotty knife.

    1. EmmaMT from says:

      Thanks. That’s my cake knife. It’s by Kuhn Rikon and it has a cover so it stays sharp and kid friendly. Strange how you become attached to inanimate objects!

      Thanks for your comment

  2. I love how much detail you go into – the cake is stunning by the way – and have picked up some tips along the way 🙂

    Now I just need to commandeer (good pirate reference!) a child to make one for…

    1. EmmaMT from says:

      Ah thanks. I know what you mean. Asher is my boy fix through and through. I get to do all the boy stuff with him.

      Thanks so much for your comment.


      p.s. Love the ‘Commandeer’ comment!

  3. I love this! I’m going to attempt it for my son’s 4th birthday party. I’m just having trouble visualizing how you got from the buttercream and jam picture to the shaped picture!

    1. EmmaMT from says:


      Thanks for your comment.

      For the Pirate ship cake I cut out the basic cake shape then once I added buttercream and Jam to the middle I placed them together. The ship shape is pretty much ready to go. I just shaped the side of the ship so that they slope gently underneath. I didn’t want the sides to be bolt upright.

      I hope this helps. Good luck with your son’s cake.


    1. EmmaMT from says:

      Thanks so much for your comment. Asher is a super special boy in my life. He’s my boy fix (having two girls!)

      This cake was certainly a labour of love.

      Thanks for stopping by


  4. This looks absolutely fab! I’m trying to recreate this for my son’s 3rd birthday, do you have a guide/pattern for the outline of the ship?

    1. EmmaMT from says:

      Thanks. sorry I don’t have a pattern for the ship cake. This is how I made my one…

      First I cut out a piece of paper the size of my cake tin.
      Then fold it in half and draw the ship part of the cake so that you will get to use up as much of the cake as possible. I positioned my cake diagonally on the paper.
      Cut it out and with the off cuts see if you can make the cabin part. I adapted the shape so I could fit it all on one cake with a bit of sticking pieces together with buttercream.

      It might take a few attempts but this is in general how I work out all my shapes.

      Good luck and please let me know how you get on.


  5. Love this tutorial! I’m going to try it out for my son’s 4th birthday!

    1. EmmaMT from says:

      Have fun. My nephew loved it. He still has the characters from last January.

  6. Gemma Findlay says:

    Can I ask where you bought the chocolate fondant? I’m planning to do a Jake and the Neverland Pirates cake for my 3 year old birthday and your tutorial has come in very handy

    1. EmmaMT from says:

      I got the chocolate fondant from my local cake decorating shop but you can get it on Amazon too. It’s a little more pricy than regular fondant but well worth it.

      Have fun with your cake


      1. Gemma Findlay says:

        Thanks Emma, I’ll have a look. Might try lakeland too 🙂

  7. Absolutely amazing Emma! But my boy turns four in two days…feel like in leaving it late…May try it with choc version,as where I live it’s hard to get all the fondant stuff… Asher has stolen your heart!

  8. Hi Emma,
    How much brown icing did you need?

    1. EmmaMT from says:


      I used about 750g of chocolate flavoured sugarpaste. It tastes amazing.

      Hope that helps


  9. Hello Emma; thanks for your lovely blog. Please may I ask you what is the name / brand of the fondant you use for all your cakes as they all look so smooth and clean. Thank you 🙂

    1. EmmaMT from says:

      Hello there,

      I mainly use Renshaw’s Regalice© Professional Ready to Roll Icing 500g White” target=”_blank”>Renshaw’s Regalice as it’s really easy to use and doesn’t get too sticky or dry.
      I have used supermarkets own brands and they are a good back up but not quite as malleable as the renshaw.

      I hope that helps


      1. Thanks for your reply Emma. Do you buy them ready-coloured or always buy white and then colour for all your lovely cakes. I also use Renshaws regularly, but always find that it often gets quite ‘tacky’/sticky wet when you add colours (gel paste) to it and this then cause cracking and tearing when trying to cover cakes. Does this happen to you and can you suggest as a possible fix for this please. Or can you from your other experiences suggest an alternative brand fondant with better workability please? Thanks again Emma! 🙂

      2. EmmaMT from says:


        I tend to mainly buy pre- coloured sugarpaste as they come in so many perfect colours, but I also buy big 5kg packs of white as it works out a lot cheaper. When I colour the sugarpaste I use a small amount (added with a toothpick) until it’s the right colour. Use icing sugar to dust down your surface and try and colour the paste a day before you need it. It seems to ‘take’ better that way. I also use silicoln disposable gloves when I mix colours and knead. The gloves are a lot more stick resistant than my hands.
        Some colours are more sticky than others. Red and Black in particular.

        If the sugarpaste is cracking when it’s placed over the cake it means it’s a bit dry. You can try and add some Trex (vegetable fat) to the sugarpaste when you knead it – just a little. I place it on my hands to melt it then knead and that makes the sugarpaste more malleable and less likely to crack once it’s been handled.

        Hope that helps


      3. Thank you so much for your patience and replies Emma!

      4. EmmaMT from says:

        Any time. x

  10. What an amazing cake! My (almost) 2 year old daughter loves pirates and would love to be brave enough to attempt this cake for her.

    Thanks for the link to the cake recipe – however I see it’s for an 8 inch cake and this recipe calls for 1 x 10 inch and 1 x 12 inch. How much should I increase the original recipe by to split between the two tins? I don’t want my cakes to turn out too thin if I underestimate.


  11. This looks amazing – I am going to make this for my Son’s birthday in a couple of weeks. I also had the same question regarding the scaling up for a 12″ cake but unfortunately I can’t read the above link as it says I don’t have permission to view drafts. Do I need to be a member to see this? I’m not the best at Madeira and wouldn’t want to take a guess on the quantities 🙂

    Many thanks

    1. EmmaMT from says:


      I’m not quite sure what happened when you selected the link but have a look at my more recent post which has a chart for different size cake tin’s quantities. It’s much easier to follow and gives a deeper (3″) cake result.

      See this post

      I hope this helps


  12. Jess Baker says:

    Wow this cake looks amazing I have never attempted to make something so detailed as last year I made a dinosaur cake for my little boy but he’s 4 this year and he would LOVE a pirate cake! Not sure I could make it look this good. But I will try! Thanks you for the detailed step by step guide!!

    1. EmmaMT from says:

      Ahhh one year a dinosaur cake the next a ship! That’s how it all starts!

      I made a dinosaur cake when I was just starting out. I made if for one of my daughter’s friends. You could see it was a dinosaur but you couldn’t tell which kind! I kind of made it up as I went along. I was petrified before I started so I ended up with this massive cake that could feed an army for a party of 20 kids. I don’t think the grown ups minded much though!

      This pirate ship cake is a really straight forward cake to do – nowhere near as hard as it looks. Have fun and let me know how you get on!


  13. says:

    May I ask how many servings is the cake? And how exactly can I mix yellow color of fondant as in the picture? Thanks

    1. EmmaMT from says:


      If I remember correctly it was to serve 20 kids. I bought the yellow sugarpaste ready coloured.

      Hope that helps


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