Pirate Ship Cake




About: Originally from San Jose, CA, studying environmental science and geology at SFSU. Cooking and baking relaxes me and I don't mind failing from time to time on my kitchen experiments. Creating vegan and raw re...
I've made this cake twice now, and twice I've taken pictures of the final product but sadly not the pictures showing the process. This is just a demo of a larger scale cake I made last May for a birthday party. Since I didn't take pictures while making last years cakes, and since I don't have a reason to make another large scale pirate ship cake, I decided just to show the techniques using a store bought pound cake.

Of course you don't have to use the same cake recipes as I did. You don't even have to make the cake from scratch, a store bought cake mix brand will work just fine in making a totally awesome pirate ship cake.

The recipe I used for the first pirate ship cake was one I found from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style recipe book called Birthday Sheet Cake. I did alter her recipe slightly by adding orange zest instead of lemon zest which is what she adds to her birthday sheet cake. The cake tasted just as good as it looked believe it or not.

The second pirate ship cake I made is a vegan version with chocolate, raspberry, and cashew nut butter. The texture of this cake is super moist, which made it a little more difficult to build a pirate ship out of it. But it was the BEST tasting cake by far I've ever had. The recipe couldn't be any simpler and it's such a rich, super yummy cake you HAVE to try it!

For the cake:
18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting:
24 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon zest, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir just until smooth. Finish mixing by hand to be sure the batter is well mixed. Pour evenly into the pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan to room temperature.

For the frosting, place the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chips are completely melted. Off the heat, add the corn syrup and vanilla and allow the chocolate mixture to cool to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the chocolate mixture and softened butter on medium speed for a few minutes, until it's thickened.

Spread the frosting evenly on the cake.


The second pirate ship cake I made was using a tasty vegan recipe I found online from Moosewood Restaurant

Deep Chocolate Vegan Cake

For the cake
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (corn oil works well)
  • 1 cup cold water or chilled brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously oil an 8-inch square and dust with a little sifted cocoa, or line the bottom with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar. In another bowl, combine the oil, water or coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well- blended and smooth. Add the vinegar and stir briefly. The baking soda will begin to react with the vinegar right away, leaving pale swirls in the batter. Quickly pour the batter into the baking pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Transfer to a plate when cool and glaze.

Chocolate Cashew Nut Butter Raspberry Glaze:

In a double boiler or small, heavy saucepan over a medium flame, melt 1/3 cup raspberry jam with 1 1/2 cups carob chips or chocolate chips and mix thoroughly and add 2 tablespoons of cashew nut butter (feel free to add more cashew nut butter if you desire a nuttier flavor) to the chocolate as it is melting. In another small saucepan mix 4 tablespoons of jam with 1 tablespoon water and warm over a low flame until the spread liquefies. Brush the water-fruit mixture over the top of cooled cake. Spread the chocolate/cashew butter nut mixture on top of that. Allow the glaze to cool before cutting the cake. Serves 8.

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Step 1: What You'll Need

To make this pirate ship cake you'll need the following

-Toy pirates (I found mine at a local party store)
-Malt balls (these are you cannons)
-Pepperidge Farm Pirouette Chocolate Creme Filled Rolled Wafer Cookies (any brand or flavor is fine)
-drinking straws
-wood skewers
-ice cream cone
-12x18 1 1/2 inches deep or an 8 inch square baking pan depending on what size cake you want
-colored construction paper to make the sails
-sword shaped cocktail stir sticks (I found these also at my local party store)

You want to make sure you have a sturdy surface to work on. For the first pirate ship cake I used a cake board to place my cake on which I coved in a cool pirate themed bandanna. You can purchase a cake board at Sur La Table or Williams and Sonoma. Basically it's a piece of cardboard, which you don't necessarily have to buy.

The second pirate ship cake I made I just used a baking sheet that I covered in foil.

Step 2: Shaping the Cake Part 1

Don't even try shaping the cake until it has had a significant amount of time to cool.

Cut the cake long ways, completely down the middle.

Step 3: Shaping the Cake Part 2

Now you have two halves of cake. Put the two halves back together and cut off the bottom portion as shown in the photos. This adds height to the pirate ship when making it out of the sheet cake.

Step 4: Frosting

Frost the insides of the large pieces of cake and place them on top of each other.

Step 5: Adding the Two Other Pieces

The remaining pieces of cake are secured at the edges using a wooden skewer.

Step 6: Slant the Top Edges and Then Frost the Rest of the Ship

The two pieces you just secured using the wooden skewers need to have a slight slant to them to add to the ship like appearance. This demo cake doesn't have much of a slant because there wasn't much cake to work with. But when you make your pirate ship cake using a sheet cake that is much bigger, you will be able to create a noticeable slant. Use a sharp knife to get this effect.

I forgot to include a picture of shaping the front of the ship. The end you choose to make the front portion of your ship should have it's edges slightly shaved.

You can now frost the rest of the cake.

Step 7: Building the Bottom Portion of the Crows Nest.

Place a regular drinking straw inside the pirouette cookie leaving about three inches of the straw exposed. Now place the straw end into the middle of the ship making sure it goes in a few inches. You want to make sure the bottom portion of the crows nest is in securely so it doesn't bend.

Step 8: Building the Top Portion of the Crows Nest.

First get your ice cream cone and gently using a knife cut the top portion off. You may go through one or two cones if you're not gentle enough.

Now make a small hole inside the bottom of the cone. Place the cone on top of the bottom portion of the crows nest.

Next, push another straw entirely through another cookie. This is so you can push out some of the chocolate filling that's inside of the cookie

You can now place the second cookie inside the crows nest.

Step 9: Decorating Your Totally Awesome Pirate Ship Cake!!

Decorate your cake using toy pirates, malt balls, cocktail stir stick swords, and pirouette cookies.

I gave my cake a wood grain appearance by using a fork.

I made the sails out of regular construction paper. I poked the wooden skewer at both ends of the sail and then pushed it into the cake.

You will learn that you'll have to keep re-frosting due to smudges and also to use as a glue.

I stuck a toy pirate inside the crows nest and used the frosting as a glue. The frosting also helped me glue together my malt ball cannon clusters.


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    44 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I love the ice cream cone for the crows nest!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I used your cake and icing recipe - delicious. Then followed the instructions. Will try to post picture. Party guests wanted to order cakes from me and my 3 yr grandson was mesmerized


    9 years ago on Introduction

     Your cake looks great.  I made a pirate ship cake for my daughter's birthday last year, with a vegan chocolate cake as the base - but made the icing pink and had a jolly roger on on sail and a fairy on the other - she was turning 5 and wanted a 'pirate and fairy' party - this was perfect - a pink pirate ship was perfect and the kids loved it!

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Ohhhhh cool! Aren't these types of cakes so much fun to make??? I would love your vegan cake recipe if you care to share :) I'm no where close to being a vegan but I sure do love the way vegan cakes taste and the one I've been making is super easy.

    Take care,



    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    The one I use is from this site - but I tried a recipe from the instructables website last night that gave the advice of replacing the oil with apple puree - and i liked that much more than cooking with oil.  The recipe I linked to makes enough for the pirate ship (it took me by surprise the first time I made it as the metric link I was using hid the fact that it was over 5 cups of flour - which would have been the hint that it was going to be a LOT of cake!)

    I am not vegan either but have a number of friends or friends of my children who have allergies to dairy, egg, etc, so this cake, made with a dairy free margarine (in australia it is called nuttelex, although it contains no nuts either) means that everyone can eat the cake and be part of the fun without worrying about allergic reactions and trips to the hospital.


    9 years ago on Step 9

     my son loves pirates and he would love this cake.  He'd probably not let anyone eat so that it can last forever. 


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I was very impressed with the instructions that you had for the pirate ship cake. I had my wife help me and we used your ideas and added some of our own to make a pirate ship cake for a friends son on his three year birthday party. The cake was a big hit and I would like you to see what it turned out like. We were very pleased since it is only the third carved cake we have made.

    8 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the compliment on the pirate ship cake erigeeka. I have pictures of the rust bucket from Ben ten along with a bingo card I made for my wife on her birthday if you would care to see them. I realky do appreciate the comments from you!!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I have a step by step set of instructions for the Rust Bucket cake if you would like me to post them after you see if it looks good enough to post. I made this cake for my grandchildren who happen to be 5 years old and one is a boy and the other is a girl. The cake was a big hit at the party and it served about 35 people. It was three layers of cake and except for the satelite dishes on the roof top and the small rail around them the rest of the cake was edible.

    rust bucket (2).jpg

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Canida; Thanks for the comment on the cake. Which one would like the step by step instructions for? Drop me a note and I will give you tye step by step instructions for any of my cakes. Thanks Dave


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    The bingo card was just a quick simple surprise for my wife's birthday . I made the two 9x13 cakes the day before and kept it in the basement until she went to bingo in her birthday. I just put the two cakes together and frosted them as one large card. I used significant date numbers such as our childrens ages, birthdates,etc. to fill the squares. I used her birthdate and age to give her a bingo on the card. It was a real surprise to her and it was fun to make.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Oh wow! This came out great, you did a wonderful job!! I love the gummy sharks swimming at the bottom too :) Thanks for sharing and I'm glad you found my instructables easy to follow.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I just made this cake for my sons 3rd bday party! I surrounded it with cupcakes cut in 1/2 and topped wiht blue and white frosting so the ship was in the ocean. Plus there were tons of people so i just needed more than the cake to feed! I took photos. My cake didn't turn out as great as the ones here, I don't know what i did different or wrong, but either way it was well worth the effort,thanks again!

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I like your cake. It is a little less busy, so it is easier to see everything. The cupcake idea was cool!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I'm almost thinking i should make a practice cake! I want to use the bar pan because i like the look of the larger cake, I'm trying to picture,though, cutting a bar pan cake through the middle. I don't see it rising that high to cut in half lenthwise, do you have any tips on handling such a large, thin piece of cake? ..I guess I could make 2 bar pans...anyway, thought i'd check. I have 2 weeks till party still, part of me wants to make a practice one, the other part just wants your phone number and pick your brain! haha. I did the 3d dinosaur cake on this site and itcame out great, no practice run, but for some reason i'm freakin out a little more on thsi cake, and it seems so much easier!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    question: i notice that you specified 2 different options for cake pans. Having read thru the instructions and picturing it all in my head, can you think of any reason why making this in a 9x13 would NOT work? Or does the shape of the 2 options you've provided work differently in a way i'm not thinking of. Thanks!