Every year I let my kids choose a “theme” for their birthday. In the past, they have really chosen some tough ones, but this year my soon-to-be five year old choose pirate. Yes! Something there is an abundance of supplies for that I don’t have to Macgyver engineer. One of the biggest components of a birthday party is, of course, the cake.
In this case, I wanted to do a totally awesome pirate ship cake. First, I decided I didn’t want to mess with trying to cut and shape cake. You can do it that way, but honestly, it’s kind of a pain, and you can buy 3D cake pans fairly inexpensively. I choose the Nordic Ware 3D pirate ship cake pan. I shopped on Amazon, because first, they had the lowest price. Second, they had reviews which helped me know how to bake that bad chicken once, rather than 3 or 4 times before getting it right. 3D cakes can be awesome, but they also can be tricky because bake times and cake consistency can really count.
Anyway, my cake did turn out awesome (see pictures), and I’m going to share just how I went about making it for you.
What you’ll need: (Ingredients)
-3 boxes cake mix flavor of your choice
-Milk, eggs and a pudding pack for each cake mix and 1 for each whip cream tub
-Pam Flour baking spray
-8 oz dark chocolate chips
-1 cup heavy cream
-Blue food coloring
-Whip cream as needed
-Decorations (kebab sticks, printed sails, Hershey Snackers, black frosting pen, candles)
How you are gonna do this, aka instructions:
First, you want to bake the pirate ship cake. You actually need it second, but I discovered if this sucker does not have a lot of time to cool, it’ll break in half when you go to move it. Mine was cool on the outside, but apparently still pretty dang hot on the inside after about 45 minutes. I had to glue it together with ganache. You can’t tell, but still, avoidable mistake. To bake the 3D cake you’ll use just under 2 boxes of cake. Mine made the cake plus 3 large cupcakes on the side. I ended up using some of those to prop the ship straight, so that’s helpful actually. I also cheat, a lot, if you have time to make cake from scratch and whip cream yourself, etc. go for it, I’m sure it tastes better than way, but this mom at least “aint got time for that.”
I followed reviewer’s recommendations to use flour Pam baking spray (light coat only, too heavy and you’ll lose detail) and a cook temp of 310 of 70 minutes. I used boxed chocolate cake mix, added a box of chocolate pudding mix for firmness, and replaced the water in the cake with milk for flavor.
Once the pirate ship cake was cooling, I made a base for it. Pictured is a 13 X 9, but if you want more space you may consider a sheet pan. For my 13 X 9, I used one box white cake, replaced the water with milk again, added a vanilla pudding and 1 tsp almond extract for flavor. Once your cake is in the pan drip blue food coloring in and swirl. Bake as directed. Now I caution here, my “ocean” was semi green once cut because apparently, vanilla pudding had yellow coloring to it. If you want a true-blue cake color, skip the pudding or make sure it does not have a yellow tint, if you care more for flavor and like the pudding additive, keep it.
While that cools, you can make ganache for the pirate ship. A ganache glaze seemed to be the easiest way to maintain the detail and frost the cake. Ganache is actually super easy to make too. Just take 1 cup heavy cream and place it in a double boiler until just bubbling—be careful not to let it scorch. Dump that hot mess onto 8 oz dark chocolate chips in a bowl and stir until creamy. My ganache came out a bit thicker than a glaze because I used an entire bag of dark chocolate chips (10 oz) to 1 cup cream, so if you want a thinner true glaze than pictured, keep that in mind.
Allow your ganache to cool a bit, but not so much it isn’t pourable. Set your pirate cake up on a cooling rack above a pan to catch drippings and just pour the ganache over it and leave it to set. Meanwhile, your base should be cool. For the whipcream frosting for those awesome waves, it is one 8 oz tub plus 1 tsp vanilla extract, plus 1 pack instant pudding (I used cheesecake flavor), and between ½ and 1 cup milk. Generally, I find 1 cup too much but ½ cup not enough so I just start at ½ cup and add milk until it looks frosting consistency—I know, very precise I am. Once mixed pull about 1/3 and separate it, then drip blue food coloring in the remaining 2/3 and swirl, you don’t even need to full mix you want a watery look.
Frost a spot on your base and carefully place your pirate ship cake on top. Frost the rest of the base heaping some around the ship to look like wake and leaving some wave like bumps here and there. Next, use the 1/3 of plain white whipcream frosting you have remaining to add foamy wave tops and more detail to the wake. I did them by just touching a frosting spatula with white to the surface and pull it up again, sort of frosting the frosting.
And there you have a plain 3d pirate ship cake slate to work with. I added kebab stick masts with simple printed sails that I singed with a lighter. The prow and little window dot decoration things are graham cracker sticks from one of these Hershey’s Snackers things. The pirates are from a Pirates TOOB also found on Amazon. Here is the jolly roger I printed. the other sails are just white squares. I did take an extra kebab stick and trace the wood lines on the ship and used left over black frosting from writing happy birthday to draw some of the ship details back on because my ganache glaze was so thick.