A few weeks ago, when we were planning Tommy’s birthday party, I opened my big mouth and stupidly asked him what sort of birthday cake he would like.
“A pirate ship cake. Mummy, yes, a pirate ship cake! With sails and pirates and treasure and treasure chests and cannons and everything!”
My mind went utterly blank as brain cells and synapses struggled to imagine how on earth to bake and make such a cake, resulting in an electrical spark going awol and burning a fuse in my head. Some smoke came out of my ears. I am not a great cake baker. I am quite good at drawing, so I can draw a pirate ship, but I had no idea how to conceptualise the drawing as a three-dimensional chocolate sponge thing.
So off I went to visit Granny Google and lo, she had ideas a-plenty as to how to make a pirate cake. I printed out what seemed to be the easiest yet still looked pretty impressive as edible pirate ships go, and of course, left it until the morning of the party to actually start making the thing. Which created a problem: how to make the boat-cake without Tommy seeing? It wouldn’t be a surprise. And there lies the beauty of this whole baking project… it doesn’t need to be a surprise. In fact, it’s far better for it NOT to be a surprise, as then your little boy can thoroughly enjoy seeing it made and spend time gazing at it, rather than glimpsing it for 20 seconds while everyone yells Happy Birthday TO YOU, blowing out the candles and watching it being hacked into pieces and eaten before having really taken it in. Another advantage of getting your little boy roped into the creation of the cake is that little boys are top whizz experts in pirate boats and therefore can advise you regarding essential features, where they should be, what colour and how many. Tommy directed me with great authority on the number of masts, sails, oars and cannons, and patiently explained that there needed to be a treasure chest overflowing with gold and jewels, at least 3 pirates, one of whom whould be climbing into the boat having just fought off a shark, plus a shark in the sea by the boat, a desert island nearby, some rope and various cutlasses and knives.
Together we baked two round chocolate sponge cakes and once they had cooled off a bit I cut them in half and sandwiched them together with some chocolate icing to make the hull of the boat. I poked two straws through them to hold them together, wrapped the whole lot in foil and put it in the freezer for half an hour to make it more solid.
When I took it out of the freezer I cut the curved bottom off to make the boat sit properly on my “ocean” (more foil) and Tommy and I smothered the boat in chocolate icing. We then made barriers with pretzels and a flake, coils of rope with liquorice spirals, a mini Mars bar became a treasure chest and little red and yellow jelly sweeties cut into bits became the overflowing pirate booty.
We put the boat back into the fridge and cut out sails from gold and orange chinese paper which we threaded onto three mikado sticks. I found a little Union Jack ‘flag’ from a Jubilee skirt my sister had sent Léonie and we prepared three Playmobil soldiers for their birthday mission. The kids arrived (all 12 of them. I know, I know… we clearly didn’t learn our lesson from last year’s party) and we soon threw them all into the pool, which is tiny and meant the kids were so squished in that no-one had enough space to drown. Good safety technique. After the ice-cream boutique episode (me cramped into the little kiddy playhouse in the garden somehow serving ice-creams through the window), Tommy and I slipped away to finish the cake. We hoisted the sails and the flag, lit the cannons (candles), taught the pirates a last sea shanty before they left for sea… and we set sail. HA HAAAAAARRRRGGGHHH ME HEARTIES!
The kids were gobsmacked. I loved their faces. We sang happy birthday and joyeux anniversaire over and over again, relighting the cannons each time. And then came the moment to cut the cake. “Non!” shouted one of the boys. And another one asked “can we eat it without cutting it?” Which of course posed a slight problem. So I suggested we cut into the ship as if it was being attacked by a giant sea monster (me), then we could all eat some of it, and the rest we could leave as a shipwreck. “Yay! Oui!” So I donned an evil sea creature persona and hacked into the gateau-bateau with a huge
knife fang, serving portions of boat to 13 wide-eyed mini-pirates. At the end there was just a chunk of boat left, keel reeling, sails toppling. One kid even ate the rocky island and tried eating the candle in the shape of a 5. And they adored munching on the salty pretzel-barriers along with the sweet chocolate cake.
So to any parents wondering what kind of cake creation they dare to tackle for a looming birthday party, I thoroughly recommend this one. It was easy peasy and so much fun to decorate. If I can do it, anyone can.