Friday, August 1, 2008

Step By Step Cake Decorating: Pirate Ship!

H-Bomb's birthday party is days away, and my plan to bake and decorate a Pirate Ship Prototype Cake a week or so ahead of time did not happen. Now I'm just going to have to bake and decorate on the fly (as usual) and hope for the best!

The plan, since we always have a lot of kids and adults here for our parties, is to bake two cakes. Two warring pirate ships, if you will. So this is going to be fun. I got a new cake pan, shaped like a pirate ship, and it looks pretty awesome. I've gathered all of H-Bomb and Sawed-Off's pirate toys, and cleaned them, just in case I want to stick a little pirate or a treasure chest somewhere.
The cake pan is very detailed, so much so that the company doesn't really frost it. But to me, it's not a birthday cake without frosting, so I will be embellishing these ships to no end: wooden boards, planks, sails, you name it. This is going to be fun!

*If for some reason I don't go into enough detail about frosting technique or something, you can just ask for clarification in a comment, or check here for more information.*

I plan to bake the cakes, then use my 16-inch square cake board as the ocean/scene of the battle. I'm going to need at least a double batch of buttercream frosting, possibly more. I'll keep you posted.

If only I could levitate a malted milk ball, I mean cannonball, in the air between the ships. Now that would be a sight!


I successfully baked two pirate ship cakes, flavors of H-Bomb's choosing: Confetti and Strawberry. The instructions with my pan were from Bundt, and were very helpful. They suggested brushing the shortening into the pan (perfect for all those little cannons and other details), then lightly flouring. For the first cake, I used a sieve to sprinkle the flour over the pan, then my usual slapping the pan, out in the yard, to move the flour around and get out the excess. For the second one, I forgot about my sieve technique and just dumped a bunch of flour in there. Both cakes came out great, so I believe the key is the brushing of the shortening.

The cakes are currently on the kitchen counter, covered with a towel. Number One and I decided a side-by-side configuration would work, especially since the ships will be fighting each other. That is also the only way both cakes will fit on the board!


I prepared the buttercream frosting this morning. (I was too tired to do it yesterday). I applied the crumb coat to the cakes, and there was no way I was going to crumb coat all those details on the tops! I just coated the sides of the cakes, and some of the larger features. I will be creating most of the features (cannons, barrels, etc.) out of frosting and/or candy anyway, so the teeny tiny cannons will get covered up. I'll just have to be careful to watch for stray crumbs on the top. I really don't think it will be a problem, we'll see.

The crumb coat is setting up; I'm going to clear a shelf in the refrigerator for the cakes. Today I'm not going to try to divide and color the frosting all at once. I'll just start with brown for the ships' wood plank siding, then go from there and see what I feel like doing.

Number One has been gathering plastic pirates and miscellaneous sea creatures to embellish the cake. I have a feeling these cakes will be spectacular, and I have no idea how we will top them next year!

For the brown frosting, I started with some brown gel coloring to make a base brown color for the wooden ships. Then I added more brown and a bit of black gel coloring, but didn't mix it in all the way. The plan is that this will give the wooden planks a bit of a grainy, wooden look. Right now it is in the fridge, setting up a bit because it is almost 100 degrees out today. I'll post a picture or two in a while, after I get some of the ship sides done, so you can see whether this technique was successful.

Too much black, so the ships are more on the gray side than brown, but it does look rather "grainy." I guess they are "old" ships...I'm using a Wilton #104 tip, with the wider part towards the bottom to make "wood" on the ships. Since it's so hot, I'm having to refrigerate more frequently, and cool frosting down too. It's quite a process. You can see some of the frosting boards sagging down from basically melting in the heat, which is unfortunate. Luckily, H-Bomb is 5 and not too particular (at least if he's not making something!)

Taking inventory of our candy embellishments, we decided to trim off the miniature cake cannons and use Crunch Stix instead, since Whoppers are our cannonballs. After I mixed up black frosting to frame the ship's porthole windows, I remembered I had some black licorice whips, so I'll use those instead. Funny, I'm so used to doing everything with frosting!

I decided on using a small paint brush for the frosting on the top of the ships, and it has worked very well. I painted brown frosting on the decks, and painted some of the other details, like stairs, black.

I made square windows on one ship and round porthole windows on the other. I burned the two ends of licorice whips with a candle, and they stick together with some effort. No guarantees on flavor, burned licorice kind of stinks! At least it looks pretty cool. I just pushed the licorice into the frosting on the sides; no problem with the hot temperature today! ( even with the burning, the round windows were easier than the square windows)

Number One has been working on flags for the ships--made of fruit roll-ups. He drew a skull and crossbones on one fruit roll-up with a toothpick, then stuck them onto another fruit roll-up. He trimmed the whole fruit roll-up so the top and bottom are straight across, but the sides are still rounded, which adds to the "billowing" effect. He left the whole fruit roll-up on its plastic backing for a bit more support. We will thread the sails on wooden skewers, and use black licorice nibs to hold them in place (we used four nibs per sail) The second sail just has some stripes on it (pirates are attacking an innocent ship, apparently).

The pirate ship cakes are finished! They look great! We filled a toy treasure chest with Skittles, used the Whoppers and Crunch Stix for cannonballs and cannons, and used black licorice whips for window frames and a rope on one pirate. We also used root beer barrel candies as barrels of rum. We borrowed a few toy pirates, and threw a toy squid in the water.

After the cakes were frosted and most of the embellishments on (except for the sails), I colored the rest of the frosting blue, added another glob of gel coloring and didn't mix it in, then I used a rubber spatula to spread frosting around for the ocean. I had thought about using one of my cake decorating tips, but man am I glad I didn't. The spatula worked great, gave the "water" just enough texture, and the dark blue streaks add interest and depth. I put some blue frosting on top of part of the squid too, so it looks like he's coming out of the water.

The sails were a bit tricky, but they worked. We used the nibs to hold the sails up, and also put another nib on the stick, which we then pushed down into the frosting to anchor the sails.

H-Bomb is going to be so excited about his cakes! I can't wait for him to see them.

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