Helm the creation of a pirate ship cake
Twas the night before Mr E’s 5th birthday party, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for a mum who was having a mini-conniption as she embarked on the task of creating a pirate ship cake for 25 small children, their parents and assorted relatives and friends.
Now I should preface this by saying I cheated a little bit (ok, a lot), by buying three unfilled sponge cakes from Coles.
Don’t judge me, I went ALL OUT for this party and if I’d had to cope with the stress of having to bake three cakes on top of it all I would have completely lost the plot. As it was, I still had to make chocolate buttercream icing, and remodel my sponges into a majestic nautical vessel of the pirate persuasion. The sweat was trickling regardless, be in no doubt.
First port of call: the icing. Beat softened butter until pale and fluffy, said the recipe. You’ll be so proud of me, I actually pre-softened my butter this time! See? Learning. Pale, check. Fluffy, check.
Then add sifted icing sugar and cocoa and beat until incorporated, said the recipe. I was incorporating away when I read something in the ‘Notes’ section that disturbed me. ‘This makes a pale coloured chocolate buttercream icing,’ it said. ‘You can add more cocoa if you want it to look darker.’
Nooo! Pirate ships aren’t pale-coloured! I needed a nice, dark, woody hue! ‘Add more cocoa’… how vague is that? How much more? And won’t that make it too dry? I sprinkled a bit more cocoa in, and sure enough, the icing became so thick that it ended up almost entirely wound around the beaters. Shiver me timbers!
Feeling increasingly mutinous (I hope you’re noticing all my brilliant ship metaphors), I battled on, adding the milk that was supposed to transform my icing into a fluffy delight, then tossing in a bit extra to hopefully compensate for the cocoa. Well, blow me down if a flufftastic buttercream icing didn’t soon magically present itself!
Now, to the cakes. Theoretically, I probably only needed two, but I got an extra one as insurance policy (at only $5 a pop, why risk an 11th hour crisis?). After laying down some blue cellophane paper to resemble water (I told you, I went ALL OUT!), I scanned some pirate cakes on Pinterest for a bit of pinspiration and started carving, shaping, layering and smearing my icing like a woman possessed.
Look, it was all a bit of a jigsaw puzzle and I probably could have done it using far fewer pieces, but we got there. Some licorice straps and M&Ms were added for decoration, along with some rather impressive (if I do say so myself) sails I’d made with some skewers and card, on which I’d printed a happy birthday message in an Olde English font I downloaded especially. (ALL OUT!)
When it was time for the cake’s great unveiling on the big day (I’ll share some more of the party joy another time), I tried not to notice that my buttercream icing seemed to have dried out a bit after being kept overnight in the fridge and hastily stuck five little pirate themed candles on top, as well as a couple of silver candles on either side to represent cannons. They looked pretty cool when lit, although they did drip wax onto my cellophane ‘water’, making me slightly terrified that the whole thing was all going to go up in flames as I carefully carried it out to a satisfying chorus of oohs and ahhhs. All 25 of them then hovered eagerly around my knife-wielding self as I wondered how on earth I was supposed to cut it up. The answer: hack at it indiscriminately, bung bits on plates and siphon them out to the hungry hordes, who couldn’t have cared less how it looked or even particularly how it tasted. It was CAKE, y’all. (Except for one young madam who insisted on a piece with a pink M&M on. There’s always one. It’s usually my son.)
After everyone had departed and the mass clean up dispensed with, I did finally get a chance to sample some myself (along with all the licorice that nobody else seemed to want) and it wasn’t too bad at all. Not exactly Adriano Zumbo, but not bad. Cake stress over until the next party!
Lessons Learnt: Kids love cake.