Category: modelling

How to make a pirate ship birthday cake

Pirate ship birthday cake

Little boys like pirate ships. Fact!

The little man in my life (aka as Asher my gorgeous four year old nephew) is seriously into them. So when I asked him what he wanted for his cake this year I had a pretty good idea of what the answer would be – as he brandished his tin foil hook!

He had been given a pirate ship model by Grandma and had glued it together and painted it and that was what he wanted for his cake. ‘His pirate ship’ So I set to work.

Asher's model pirate ship
Asher’s little model pirate ship

How to make a Pirate ship birthday cake

The cake was a Madeira, (find the recipe here) I wanted to get the whole design from two cakes so I made two square cakes that were 12″ and 10″ (which are my two largest square tins). My plan was to get the larger top half of the boat out of the big cake with the base of the cake out of the smaller one. I knew I was going to shape the cake inwards where the boat touches the sea, so it worked out perfectly. I also used the off cuts from the large cake to create the cabin on the top deck.

(Apologies for the blurry photo here!)

boat pattern- Pirate ship

This is how they looked when cut out. There was very little waste with this design (not that there is ever waste! Off cuts taste great, especially when you are decorating a cake late at night!) The cake here is upside down  to make the shaping easier.

Pirate ship cake

Each cake was filled with butter cream and raspberry jam

Pirate ship cake

I tried not to make the front of the boat have too much of an angle inwards underneath as I know that can be a nightmare to cover with icing.

Pirate ship cake

Once shaped, the whole cake is covered in a thin layer of buttercream.

Pirate ship cake

Make sure you roll out plenty of fondant icing to cover the cake and tuck it in underneath. I used a chocolate fondant which tastes even better than just plain old fondant.

Pirate ship cake

Gently lift the fondant over the cake then smooth lightly with your hands to get any air pockets out. (How much icing sugar is on my arms!?!)

Pirate ship cake

Once the whole cake has been smoothed over with your hands, use a smoothing tool to get it absolutely perfect. I always smooth the top before I move on to the edges. The last bit I smooth are the corner edges which I do with my hands.

Pirate ship cake

Once nice and smooth, remove the excess fondant with a pizza wheel. Aim to leave a 2mm lip at the bottom.

Pirate ship cake

Use a side scraper to tuck the icing into the cake.

Pirate ship cake

One pirate ship cake ready. Time for the fun part.

Pirate ship cake

The Cake board

I love to make a big a deal of the cake boards on all my cakes. There’s always room to add extra details and with a pirate ship it was a shark. I thought a crocodile was a bit too Peter Pan!

The round cake board was covered with a thick (5mm) layer of blue fondant which was rolled and covered in the usual way. I then used my fingers to create the waves, gently pushing into the icing to create a rippled effect. I made the shark out of grey icing and both the board and shark were left to dry. I did this a week before I made the cake so they would set.

Pirate ship cake

The cake was positioned and secured to the board with a little Royal Icing underneath.

Pirate ship cake

To make the deck a perfect fit I cut a slither off the ship’s paper pattern and used it as a template to cut out the yellow wooden decking.

Pirate ship cake

I positioned it on the cake by dampening the icing a little.

Pirate ship cake

The cabin was covered in the yellow fondant icing and was positioned on the middle of the ship’s deck with a little Royal Icing.  The edge of the deck is surrounded with two long pieces of chocolate fondant otherwise the pirates would have fallen overboard!Pirate ship cake

I wanted to add a plank so I left a gap at the back Pirate ship cake

To create a wooden look I used a paring knife to score lines around the ship. Pirate ship cake

Add a few vertical lines every now and then and add screw marks next to each one.Pirate ship cake

For the port holes I cut out black circles, then added red ones on top. I left these to dry overnight as I wanted them to be firm enough to handle, but soft enough to be able to stick to the side of the ship neatly.

The anchor and chain were made with a little bit of grey fondant.
Pirate ship cakeThe portholes were stuck on with royal icing. I had to hold them in place for a minute or two so that they didn’t fall off.
Pirate ship cake

The Sails

For the masts I used skewers which I painted with a brown food colouring. I then made a red flag with a Jolly Rodger on the front (from fondant) and  placed it over one of my modelling tools so when it was dry and positioned in the cake it would look like it was blowing in the wind. I left it for a few days to dry. It needs to be pretty firm as it will be handled quite a bit when the sails are made. I wrapped the red flag around the top and back of the skewer and also made sure that the top was wet so it would really stick in place.

Pirate ship cake

I cut the sails out of paper and did a drawing of the Jolly Rodger then added Ahser’s initials. You can download my template for the sails here Pirate ship Sails template I used a hot glue gun to stick the sails to the mast.

Pirate ship cake

For the smaller sails I attached small sections of the painted skewers to the backPirate ship cake

This is what they looked like when they were ready to be added to the ship. Pirate ship cake

The smaller sails need to look like they are billowing. To do this glue the top part in place first and when it is really stuck fast you can stick the second on. Then all you have to do is pop it in the centre of the cake.

Pirate ship cake

The details

I love to personalise cakes, especially when I know the birthday boy so well. Asher loves Captain Hook so I made one to stand on the cake complete with peg leg and shiny hook. But the peg leg wasn’t happy about being made to stand up so he was resting on a barrel of whisky.

I also made rope to wind around the mast. It looks like a dodgy snake in this picture but it looked good in real life. I had the first mate winding it up.

Pirate ship cake

I couldn’t resist having a pirate hanging out of one of the port holes. Pirate ship cake

Tim had to show me how to make a pirates hat as all my attempts made him look like a cowboy! Where’s Jonny Depp when you need him? Do you like his stubble? I thought it would make the grown ups laugh!Pirate ship cake

The first mate with his rope and spiky hairPirate ship cake

I made the plank by cutting a thin cake board to size then covering it with fondant and creating a wooden effect. I then forced it into the cake. The naughty pirate hanging off it was made a week before the cake was so he would be dry. I was actually planning to have him hanging off the ship but he was too long, but I think this works so much better.

The shark’s teeth were the very last thing to be created. I used a tiny cut in an icing bag of royal icing to make them look nice and sharp.Pirate ship cake

So there you have it. One mamoth long blog post! and one very happy Asher. Last year I made him a Fireman cake so I think next years will be even more diffucult! We’ll have to wait and see!


Noah’s Arc Birthday cake

Cakes gone by…

Noah's arc birthday cake

I love this cake design. It was so much fun to do. My friend Simi asked me to make it for her third son Hugo’s first birthday party. I saw Hugo in the playground just this morning. He’s nearly three already and a proper cutie.

When I start a cake I always try to cover the cake board at least a week ahead of delivery. This means it has time to set hard (I am prone to leaving finger prints in them otherwise!) I covered this one in blue icing then used a darker blue food colour to paint on waves.

I also do all the modeling I can ahead of time. When you use icing to create animals and people they take at least a week to 10 days to dry hard enough to be handled or position so that they stand up on their own. It took me a long time to learn this habit. I’ve had legs fall off on delivery and all sorts of mishaps! But more about that in another post!

Noah's arc cake, elephants

I made these animals in one weekend and Beau sat with me and made the exact same animals too. It was her idea to have butterflies and parrots on the boathouse, also Hugo’s big brother Calum was in her class at school and he said that spiders would be good, so we included them too!

Both the arc and boathouse are made from chocolate cake, everything else is made from pre-coloured sugarpaste, except the ramp that the sheep are walking up. That is actually a thin cake board cut to size and covered with sugarpaste. I needed to know that there was strength there. One bump in the road and an icing ramp would have cracked before I even got off the drive!

Noah's Arc cake -lions

I shaped the arc part of the cake so that it was only slightly smaller at the bottom than it was at the top. I wasn’t experienced enough to get the icing to stick inwards without causing creases, so I made it a simple design. I used a sharp knife to score ‘plank’ lines horizontally around the ship then every now and again made a vertical line for an end of plank -with two dots for nail marks.Noah's arc cake, snakes

The house was a rectangle of cake with a pitched roof shape on top. I made one square cake large enough to cut up and do all the separate pieces in one go. The house was covered in chocolate sugarpaste and the tiles were made with an oval cutter. Each red ovals was cut in half and then placed from the bottom edge of the roof upwards and were attached with royal icing.

Noah's arc cake, Monkeys

All the Animals were positioned with royal icing except the bees which were made on food standard wire (which is available from cake decorating shops) I made them so they could be placed in the arc after the cake was delivered. they move around like they are buzzing.

When it comes to a Noah’s Arc cake you really can go on and on. Beau and I made way too many animals that just weren’t ever going to fit onto the cake, but the modeling is the fun part and you just can’t stop yourself from playing once you get your hands on the sugarpaste. Well, we had fun anyway!


The Stacey Solomon Cake

Stacey Solomon's cake

Stacey Solomon is one of  my many cousins – that is her dad and my mum are first cousins. When she came home from winning ‘I’m a celebrity, Get me out of here’ her sister Jemma organised a surprise welcome home party for her for just her family and closest friends (all 200 of them!)

The cake

I offered to make a cake for the occasion and Jemma jumped at the chance  after seeing my cakes on flickr. We decided that the cake should be a model of Stacey  in the jungle sitting on a log with a table covered in snakes and bugs. That was the plan anyway.

In the past my models have always been a bit more flat chested than I intended, but with Stacey I needed to make sure that was not the case (without going too far the other way! I mean I didn’t want to offend her) I also needed to make the hair really long and flowing so I needed to make her well in advance of the cake -so she could dry. I concentrated on the snakes, hat, food dome, fire and model a week before delivery. Two days later it started to snow!

Mmmm bugs for dinner

Snow joke!

The cake was a madeira with a raspberry jam and butter-cream filling. The table was a mini cake on top. I had the cake practically finished but I was now worried about delivering the cake. The snow from the few weeks earlier had practically brought the country to a standstill! How on earth was I going to get the cake to the party which was being held in a marquee at a golf club in Dagenham when I lived in Bromley in Kent!

Check out these mice!

The plan was to  drive  to the party with my sister Shelley. We were leaving our kids with our husbands and meeting our brother Robert there. As it was a surprise we didn’t  have to be there till 9pm. Great to have more time, but it meant that more snow could settle. Luckily it didn’t and once I had picked Shell up the roads were clear of both snow and other drivers. But it was the kind of evening that if you didn’t have to go out you wouldn’t.

The big surprise

Once in the marquee we were frozen. I mean really frozen. It must have been -3 outside and being inside a tent didn’t make much of a difference!

Jemma’s plan was perfect. She invited everyone via private message on facebook so Stacey wouldn’t have a clue what was going on. Then at about 9pm she phoned her asking if she could come and pick Jemma up from work at the golf club as she had missed her ride! Stacey who had just done a personal appearance and was with her manager was not impressed! Apparently there was a lot of swearing and Jemma had to persuade Stacey she really was stuck! It worked and at around 11am Stacey was directed to the marquee and walked straight in to see some of her closest friends waiting for her, all cheering and clapping.

The cake was set up on its own table next to the chocolate fountain (that we couldn’t leave alone) but as Stacey was so swamped by everyone I didn’t get a chance to show it to her. Everyone was trying to get her attention and she couldn’t move.

The games

Jemma had set up a real bush tucker trial. Six people had to sit at a table and eat some pretty disgusting stuff – to which Stacey was very encouraging – I mean she would be really wouldn’t she? She’s been there done that – and  got the crown to prove it!

By now it had gone 12.30pm and we really had to get going before the roads got too icy and our feet got frost bite! It was a brilliant surprise party though. We don’t get to see my mum’s side of the family as much as we would like to so it was great to catch up with everyone.

Stacey’s Story so far and the final  big surprise

A few weeks ago Stacey released her first book. The whole family is so proud of her and her achievements. When I picked up the book in Waterstones for the first time  I was amazed to see I’m in one of the photos, along with Tim my husband and all of my family. It’s the picture from her Dad’s wedding to Karen. That was a surprise but not as big a surprise as when I saw the picture of my cake for her surprise party in he book too! What a hoot! I was totally made up. I wasn’t even sure she got to see the cake at the party.

Needless to say I am so excited to be included in her book. All that’s left to say is thanks Stace!

Mabel’s cute froggie cake.

A baby’s first birthday cake is so special.

I was asked by the lovely Julia at Woman & Home (Fashion Editor and all round style guru) to make a cake for her beautiful niece Mabel.

I’d heard alot about Mabel. We were a close knit group at W&H and when there is a baby on the way in someone’s family we all get to live the experience. So I knew all about Mabel and had seen all the baby blue eyed pictures, but I’d never actually met her. And I love a baby!

She was coming up to her 1st birthday and Julia and Mabel’s mum Faye wanted something really personal. Mabel has one of those wooden frog toys on a wire spring that bounces around and it is one of her favourite toys. So they decided that the cake should be based around the froggie.

Mabel's toy frog
My sugar paste frog

After emailing back and forth about the cake with Faye, she came up with the brilliant idea to have the frog sitting on a lily pad in a pond. I thought that was genius as it was a really easy way to make the cake super pretty. Nothing beats a pale blue pond with pretty pink lily pads to make a cake gorgeous!

I delivered the cake on Sunday morning in time for the family party and I think the cake went down pretty well. Julia texted me the next day to say that her brother said that it was the best lemon cake he had ever tasted! What a huge compliment!

When I was making the frog model my daughter Beau who is seven, wanted to play with the sugar paste and make her own  frog for her own cake. She did it all by herself. She made all the frog and I made all the cake! Beau’s frog and her cake didn’t actually get together as the cake was eaten up before they had a chance to meet! And Julia’s brother was right. It was a pretty delicious cake if I do say so my self. But Beau’s frog is pretty cute too!

Beau's Frog

Let’s get started ….or finished!


Woman & Home magazine is an amazing place to work. The people are great, hardworking and super supportive. It’s a ‘full on’ place to work so when it comes to celebrating we always do it round the pillar in the office and in style. It always involves wine (or Champagne if your ABC’s have gone up again!) and it ALWAYS involves cheesy puffs. When it was a big birthday, a wedding or a leaving drinks I would make a celebration cake that was personal to the person leaving, so when it was my time to go I had to do something, but what!

The last Woman & Home cake

Three of us were leaving at the same time so I decided to make a cake that was one for all. Hayley, who was the deputy chief sub, was leaving to go back to her native South Africa where she was marrying the lovely Mark and was building her new life out there, so I made a model of her sitting on a suitcase with a little ‘SA’ sticker on the side. Cate, who worked in the features department was leaving to work on other projects so I made a model of her sitting on a pile of giant books and  I left to go freelance and work on other bigger, craftier more cakey projects and as I was the Home editor and am usually surrounded by boxes I thought that’s what my model should be sitting on.

The actual cake was a madeira made with vanilla paste (given to my by Jane the Food Editor to test) and it was covered in the W&H blue colour icing. The models were stuck on top and that was it.

I’ve been planning this blog for what seems like forever! I’ve had great ideas, I’ve written lists and I’ve baked and baked and baked, but it took leaving my job as Home Editor at Woman & Home Magazine here in London to give me the time to actually do it! For that reason I think the best place to start is at the end.

Cake gathering!

When the time came for drinks around the pillar the cake was brought out and as you can see from the reaction and crowding, everyone loved it!

I’ll miss the team at W&H but they gave me a great send off. As I was leaving, Vicky from art made a little sign from a post-it note that read “bye, bye!” and stuck it to the model of Hayley that was now on her desk.

Bye,bye W&H, Hello new start!

Mini Hayley at her desk!
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