Pirate Ship Cake Help - Wood Effect And Other Questions

Decorating By vgereis Updated 20 Nov 2011 , 9:27pm by vgereis

vgereis Posted 27 Oct 2011 , 9:38pm
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Hi all!

So I have my next challenge coming up in a few weeks... A pirate ship cake.. I've been looking at endless pics for inspiration and even came upon karensue's tutorial on here after seeing her incredible cake!! Wow! Am almost scared to attempt it! Lol!

Anyway... Just wondered if you can help me with a few things... Am sure I'll have more questions in the coming days but mainly want to ask now about the wood effect for the fondant planks covering it... Karensue's tutorial said she coloured her fondant... But I also saw a cake boss episode where buddy was making a treasure chest... He basically scraped the white fondant and then painted it brown. However afterward it looked like there were lighter browns as well so not sure how exactly he painted it.. Anyone seen it and/or have ideas to achieve a nice natural wood grain effect?

Second, i noticed karensue didn't dowel her layers... But am so worried about the cake collapsing or going lopsided...can anyone help me with how to dowel it.

Oh... Was thinking of doing an ocean effect (as well as a little desert island) around the ship... Do you think it'd be better to just do it (the water)with fondant? Buttercream? How best to get the effect of blue water and white waves if you know what I mean? Have also seen it done (I think?) with some sort of gel... Is it piping gel? Any tips on how to do that??

Masts and sails... What should I use for the mast? Just wood dowels? Any other suggestions? Sails... If I make them with fondant/tylo mix , how far in advance do I need to make them in order for them to dry? And do I poke holes while still soft and then thread the masts through when dry? So scared of making them and it all breaks on assembly! icon_surprised.gif is there a secret to getting the sail to stay at the height you need it at? Tiny bit of glue or something?

Last question, I promise! Lol... What size do you think I should make the original cakes to make it big enough for about 25 people? (with proper big pieces of cake... Not little 2x2 portions! Lol)

Thanks for any help anyone is able to give me!



54 replies
wildflowercakes Posted 27 Oct 2011 , 10:22pm
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Okay I'm not exactly sure what the cake your making is going to look like so I can't suggest a size. As far as painting the fondant to get a wood plank finish I would paint the fondant with a yellow gel color mixed with vodka or lemon juice and while it is still wet lightly stripe in some brown gel color and vodka or lemon juice. (It won't take much liquid and the vodka evaporates) This will give you a two tone effect. I would definitely dowel the cake if it is going to be more than two layers. What about pretzel sticks for the mast? I would make the sails at least 3 days in advance and poke the holes while it is fresh then drape it over something to give you the shape you want ( a two liter bottle perhaps) I'd do the water with buttercream paint blue swirls like you did the wood plank effect but leave some white . It won't matter if its not smooth water should have motion then I would cover the ocean with a light coat of piping gel.

vgereis Posted 27 Oct 2011 , 10:37pm
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Hi wildflowercakes!

Thanks so much for your input! I did wonder if perhaps putting two "layers of paint" would perhaps be better! As for the water... Let me see if I understand this right.... Cover the are that I want to be water in white buttercream, and then paint blue over bits of it and then cover it all with piping gel? Would that be just clear piping gel? Or coloured? Am also thinking if putting something like a sharksfin sticking out of the water... Do you think that'd work with the bc and gel combo?

Thanks again for your help!



vgereis Posted 27 Oct 2011 , 10:39pm
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Ps in case anyone wants to see the cake that I am talking about above... Here it is:

Thanks again!


dawnybird Posted 27 Oct 2011 , 11:02pm
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Hi! I made a pirate ship cake for my grandson. I can't figure out how to upload the pics to this site but if you pm me, I'll e-mail you the pictures. I made an island with a treasure chest with gold coins and I used light blue buttercream for the ocean and went back with white b/c to make waves. I have a shark in the water. This cake is not entirely edible because when I did it I had no experience with fondant. I made my sales out of typing paper, cut to shape, then soaked them in coffee and baked them in the oven until they were dry and had an aged look. I think they look pretty neat. I used modeling chocolate for the treasure chest, the anchor, the ship's wheel, and several other pieces. Anyway, I'll be happy to share the pictures with you.
Oh, and on another cake I just did, I made an old plank sign to tack on an oak tree and I cut a rectangle out of fondant, scored it with a pizza cutter, drug a stiff brush over it for wood grain, then painted it with brown gel color, no vodka or anything else, then I wiped a lot of it off with a napkin, so it was dark in the wood grain and lighter on the flatter parts. It looked just like wood.
Good luck! I had a blast making mine.

vgereis Posted 27 Oct 2011 , 11:19pm
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Thanks so much dawnybird! Just pm'd you!



poohsmomma Posted 27 Oct 2011 , 11:34pm
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I'm so glad I stumbled across this thread because I have to make a pirate ship for my grandson for next weekend. I don't mean to hijack, but I had many of the same questions as vgereis. I also want to try to do this in buttercream, since no one in my family likes fondant. Is that even possible?

The little island was also on my plan. I found a candle at Party City that is a small treasure chest with a Jolly Roger flag flying behind it. Since there needs to be a candle,anyway, I'm thinking that would work. I had also thought about buttercream for the sea and waves.

My main concern is stability. Mine has to travel about an hour to the party. I'm thinking about drilling a hole in the cake board and inserting a dowel. That dowel would then go all the way up through the cake and out the top to make a mast. Does this sound like it would work? I would also have to cut a cake board and work that down over the dowel, too, if the cake runs over two layers.

So, I'll be watching this thread, and vgereis, I'll be waiting to see your pirate ship!

Helen Jo

wildflowercakes Posted 27 Oct 2011 , 11:45pm
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Hi vgeries I would use clear piping gel. I think the shark thing is a really cool idea. I have uploaded a picture of a cake I did for a birthday using the buttercream frosting covered in clear piping gel. Hope this helps. I think I would also scratch light lines in the wood planks to give it texture. Isn't it amazing how are imaginations can run away with us?

JackieDryden Posted 27 Oct 2011 , 11:57pm
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here's the link to my pirate ship, my daughter made an octopus for the water, and to go up the side of the ship. When I uploaded this, CC was having issues with uploads-so you can't see all the good pics. I used a mix of modeling chocolate and fondant to cover the ship. My friend doesn't like fondant, but I wsn't attempting this in buttercream. I just took the sharp end of a skewer to mark the lines in the wood ship. I did not put any supports in this cake, even though it was well over 6 inches tall. With the way it was trimmed down and I used a WASC recipe it was sturdy. As for the ocean, i smeared buttercream where ever I wanted, even up the side of the ship, the overtop I spread blue tinted piping gel. Tinting it blue made the water look blue, but when close to the ship-on top the buttercream, it gave it that nice depth and "foam" look for the waves. I loved how the water turned out. My sails were paper and bamboo skewers-my gumpste sails wouldn't stay

vgereis Posted 28 Oct 2011 , 12:13am
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Hiya Helen Jo and Jackie!

Thanks for both your responses and Helen Jo... Tag along cuz I have a feeling it's going to be a rough ride.... At least for me! Hahha! So could do with the company! icon_smile.gif

Jackie... I really like the way your water turned out!!! Thanks so much for that! Can I ask what you meant about using mix of modelling choc and fondant? Did you actually mix them together or just use certain bits in certain places?

Also interesting that you didn't dowel... Am tempted not to as I've never done it before but scared not to in case it all collapses! Lol! Would have loved to have tried to use the wasc for it but the "order" is for chocolate.... Do you know of any good recipes for choc that would stand up to all of this? Ie stacking, carving, fondant etc? Oh and when you do carved/stacked stuff... Do you tend to fill with simple bc or can you use other stuff like cookies n cream filling etc? Dying to try something different to the average bc but worry about stability of the cake! Lol!

Thanks again! And Helen Jo... Your pics have to go up first. Your cake is due first! Loll! I still have a couple weeks to go! Hehe!



vgereis Posted 28 Oct 2011 , 12:16am
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Wildflower cakes... Thanks for uploading that pic! That pool looks so inviting! Hehhe! And love that you did the girl's hair all floating like that! Great job! Now I have to figure out how to get piping gel in paris! Lol! Think I saw somewhere here someone talk about how it is made... Do you make yours or buy it?



JackieDryden Posted 28 Oct 2011 , 12:51am
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There's a veersion of chocolate WASC on here that I use alot too. It's good, it's sturdy! I mixed 1/2 fondant-marshmallow, and 1/2 homemade modeling chocolate. It is wonderful to work with, and very tasty! I have used a cookies and cream filling in some carved cakes, but I've either made the recipe with regular buttercream and oreos crused fine, or the bettercreme and oreos. I haven't done any "runnier" fillings because of carving. I would wind up carving the dam away, so I need the filling to be thick, and not break down fondant.

wildflowercakes Posted 28 Oct 2011 , 2:27am
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Vicky, I buy my piping gel but there is a recipe here on cc for piping gel. It might be worth a try.

dawnybird Posted 28 Oct 2011 , 3:12am
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I e-mailed you the pictures of my cake. Let me know if you didn't get them.

poohsmomma Posted 28 Oct 2011 , 11:07pm
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I typed in a big long response last night complete with the link to the piping gel recipe....I'm not sure what happened, but it's not here!

Jackie, I liked the look of your water.
Vicky, I'm not sure if you are looking for scratch or enhanced mix recipes, but when I make chocolate cake, I use a Duncan Hines mix, a box of instant pudding, 4 eggs, 1/2 cup oil and 1 1/4 cup coffee. It's pretty sturdy and pretty yummy.

I don't even remember what my questions were...
I'm still looking for some encouragement on my attempt at making this from buttercream. It shouldn't be much different than just a two-layer sheet or round cake....with another tier on top. I could even make the wood planks with a table knife if the impression mat doesn't do the trick.

It will work, won't it???


jules5000 Posted 29 Oct 2011 , 12:19am
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Vgereis: It seems as though quite a few have answered some of your questions about different effects, but I thought that I would try to help you come up with a size to start with. I would suggest making 3 12"x18" cakes. I saw the picture that you are trying to copy and here is what I would do. just layer 2 of the 12x18's as you normally would after of course freezing them so it is easier to carve on. thaw out and put layers together. . Carve out your basic boat shape. WHich I would draw a pattern on a paper wide enough and long enough. I suggest this size so that when you are done carving the boat shape then you will still have plenty left for your portions for everyone. Then with the 3rd layer also having been frozen and thawed use this piece to cut a piece for the pointed end of the boat and the back of the boat. There is a section in the middle that could be just 2 layers high. Now to put the extra pieces on once they are carved ( would have also drawn a pattern out for those too) put them on a piece of board and of course crumb coat. Before you put these pieces on the cake lay your pattern piece over the part of cake they are going to go over and draw a faint line. I would suggest about 4-5 pieces of dowel to go in each section that is being added. When you get those pieces added then take a couple of dowel rods that have been sharpened on one end and put those through the middle of the extra pieces.and they will need to go through all three layers so make sure that you measure just what they are to go through to get the exact heighth. I am hoping that is is clear enough. Now for the little post that support the railing I would say that you could cut a bunch of dowel rods to the same height and use those, but another idea would be to use sucker sticks. What ever you use you want to make sure that they are going to be covered and I would suggest fondant for that. Since no one would be eating those it wouldn't matter. I know that dowel rods would probably be the better of the two choices to use. for your railingYou are going to need to figure out how much you are giong to need and make them up a day or two ahead of time to make sure that they are so dried that there
won't be any sagging between the posts. You could apply the railing to the post by different methods. One would be to put a drop of piping gel to the top of each posts, or buttercream icing or a little drop of melted chocolate. and to me that would totally depend on the temperature in your house. The chocolate might set up before you could get them all done. The piping gel or buttercream might be a better way to go. Best wishes and please let us know how it turned out. Thanks.

vgereis Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 9:28pm
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Hi Helen-Jo!

Sorry your post got gobbled by the cc post-monster! hehe! I can't wait to see your cake! Not sure if you've made it already? Would think either the impression mat or the knife could work well! Thanks for the tip on the choc cake recipe! Is that the one that is on here.. .called Sturdy 3D chocolate cake? Or something along those lines?

Anyway.. if you haven't made the cake... good luck... if you have... PICTURESSSS!!! and any tips! hehe!



vgereis Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 9:47pm
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Hiya jules5000!

Thanks so much for your detailed answer! One thing I'm a little bit confused on.. is with the doweling... did you mean I need to put 4-5 dowels in just those top parts and then dowel a long one all the way through to the bottom? Also... do I keep a separator card between the bottom 2 layers and the extra bits on top?

As for the railings/posts... I think I will use cut-down dowels... but just wondered... how does one estimate how much, and what shape the railings should be in order for them to be done several days in advance? I guess I'm still so new to this that I'm definitely not good at the whole "ahead of time planning" thing! hehe! Just wondered.. if I mix tylose into the fondant... how fast do you think it would dry? Would that be a better option perhaps? Or maybe even using bits of doweling within the railings themselves and using them to attach to each piece? hmmm... (sorry I don't know if that makes sense.. it does in my mind.. but not sure I explained it right! lol)

Anyway.. thanks again so much for your help!


poohsmomma Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 10:05pm
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I have already cut out a pattern for the ship shape, but like you, I'm not sure how to go about making the rail beforehand and making it fit. Trial and error, I guess.

I did make some sails out of fondant today so they could be drying. I painted the Jolly Roger on one and the number 4 on another. I also made a set out of card stock....just in case! Mine has a long way to travel!

I've been looking for ideas for palm trees, too. I want one on my island with my treasure chest candle. I think I'll wrap fondant around a straw for the trunk. I'll use fondant for the leaves, probably on a base of some type, maybe a rose nail. I plan to stick a skewer in the cake board and slip the straw/trunk over the skewer. Hopefully the top of the tree can just slip down into the straw.

As for the cake recipe, it's from a Duncan Hines cookbook; don't know anything about the Sturdy choc. recipe on CC.

Good luck!

cakeyouverymuch Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 10:28pm
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Originally Posted by poohsmomma

I've been looking for ideas for palm trees, too. I want one on my island with my treasure chest candle. I think I'll wrap fondant around a straw for the trunk. I'll use fondant for the leaves, probably on a base of some type, maybe a rose nail. I plan to stick a skewer in the cake board and slip the straw/trunk over the skewer. Hopefully the top of the tree can just slip down into the straw.

Good luck!

If you wire the palm fronds then tape them together with florist tape, you can slpi the wires into the top of straw that you are using for your trunk.

vgereis Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 11:06pm
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Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ... I just wrote a whole long reply to you H-J... and then something screwed up with the internet! Grrrr... but one of my "eureka" moments was the same idea as deborahanne above... with wiring the leaves and then putting the wires into the straw!!

Hmmm.. what else did I write? Oh yeah.. was congratulating you on making a great start on the cake! Which style of sails did you end up making (way to go on making paper ones too, just in case! hehe!).. did you do the ones that just go through the vertical masts? I saw a pic recently, where the masts had vertical and horizontal bits... so thought perhaps it would be easier (read safer? lol) to stick/roll around the horizontal one, instead of having to worry whether it will stick or not to the vertical one! Make sense?

How are you thinking of making the island? Was debating using leftover cuttings of the cake... frosted and then covered with something like.. demerara sugar... or crushed biscuit/wafer of some sort? And then need to figure out how to do the "map track" leading to the X... could always do it with fondant, but not sure if it would then be too loosely placed? Any bright ideas? Or will you make the whole island covered in fondant perhaps? hmmmm...

Anyway... best of luck and can't wait to see your cake! Am sure it'll turn out great!!

All the best,


vgereis Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 11:10pm
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Ok so just thought of another quick question... if I use fondant to make the wood effect... what do you guys think... better to do the imprint/bark effect first.. and then cut into strips and apply to the cake? Or cover the whole cake and then do the imprint with the imprint mat or with a texturising brush type thing and then just make plank marks? Or last way... to do the imprinting... cover whole cake.. and then do the marks? Or maybe anything else? lol!

Thanks in advance!


poohsmomma Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 11:15pm
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My plan for the sails is just to have a vertical mast. I have already made the holes on the sails to slip over the mast. I was planning to put a fondant ring around the mast where the bottom of the sail will be and also one under where the top of the sail will rest. I realize I will have to put that top one one on after I slip the sail over the mast.
I really hadn't thought about a horizontal support for the sail, but that might not be a bad idea. I'll ponder on that one for a while. If I could put a pin through it and pin it to the top of the vertical mast, that would be really sturdy...or a wire cage to fit around the vertical mast...
I have finished my palm tree trunk. I really didn't want to bother with wiring the leaves, but that would probably work the best, so I guess I'll get on that now.
My husband has gone camping and trail riding with some friends for a few days, so I don't have to cook for anyone. My kitchen is in a glorious mess, and will probably stay that way for a while.
Back to work now.

Thanks for all of your responses and help.

poohsmomma Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 11:20pm
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I'm not sure about imprinting on fondant. Several years ago, I made the stable for the cake below by cutting individual fondant planks and covering a RKT barn shape.


I marbled the fondant, but didn't give the planks any texture. It took a very long time to do it plank by plank.
I don't usually work in fondant (I'm a buttercream gal) so I just don't have any suggestions for you.


poohsmomma Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 11:23pm
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Boy I just can't seem to answer all the questions at once tonight...

I am planning a very small island of some cake scraps covered with a little buttercream and dusted with graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar for sand. It will not be eaten. I will just have the treasure chest, tree, and a small treasure map on the island.

I am basically making this cake up as I go. I usually have everything very well thought out ahead of time, and this time I am really kind of struggling.

Evan will love it anyway...as long as it's chocolate.

vgereis Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 11:27pm
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Oh my goodness! How ultra-cute is that barn and those horses too!!! Great job! So can't wait to see your cake! And wow... must be nice to not have to cook/tend to a hubby when you have a project like that! heeh! I can usually only do caking at night after my son goes to sleep.. otherwise he likes to "help"... which usually means I can't get much done... or what I DO get done... gets messed up one way or another! hehe!



ps - I love your signature! hehe!

cakeyouverymuch Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 11:42pm
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Originally Posted by vgereis

How are you thinking of making the island? Was debating using leftover cuttings of the cake... frosted and then covered with something like.. demerara sugar... or crushed biscuit/wafer of some sort?


You could also use cake crumbs like I did here:


I dried the cake out a bit and ran it through the food processor like I do for bread crumbs. If you wanted a more uniform sandy color you could toast the cake, if you wanted it lighter you could use only the inner portion for the crumbs. I used buttercream to hold the crumbs in place.

vgereis Posted 31 Oct 2011 , 11:51pm
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What a fantastic cake deborahanne!! I can't believe nobody commented on it till now!! I had never htought of using the cake crumbs... but then... will be using chocolate cake.. so unless I have some other leftover... might not work! But thanks for that idea!! Will keep it in mind!

As for your water... did you do that with white bc... covered with blue piping gel? And if so... did you color it blue? or was it already blue? Is it easy to color piping gel? Just add paste and thats it? Or is there a technique?

Thanks again!


poohsmomma Posted 1 Nov 2011 , 12:27am
post #29 of 55

I really like the look of your sand. I have lots of frozen cake scraps in the freezer (keep them for cake pops) so I could thaw some white cake.Like Vicky, my pirate ship is going to be chocolate.

Got two cakes baked today. Two more tomorrow. Ran out of ingredients today and didn't want to drive in to town.

I love to hike. Some friends and I are making our way through our national parks. I found the quote in my signature on a tee shirt at Glacier National Park. It's my new philosophy of life.
However, I still tend to procrastinate when it comes to getting a cake started. Go figure.


jules5000 Posted 1 Nov 2011 , 2:31am
post #30 of 55

Vicky, sorry I didn't get specific enough. Ok, the basic shape of the boat needs a board under it(cardboard, 1 reg. thickness) the whole piece under the bottom layer. You do not need to put carboard between those two layers that are the whole ship. Then the two pieces that fit on either end need a piece under them, again just one layer. before you put those pieces on top of the other cake you need to put your measured and cut dowel rods into the 2 layers of cake that are going to be right underneath those pieces. You do not need dowel rods on the other part of the cake unless you are going to set something heavy on it.

Now for figuring how much railing you are going to need. I would take a tape measure(one that is like a sewing tape measure, very flexible) and measure your pattern piece around the outside edge on the top. if your pattern piece is still the same size as your cake. The part of the railing that is going to be on the upper parts you want to measure separately and then measure the part that is lower. Then decide how wide you want your railiing board to be and cut yourself a piece that will fit your ship's shape on the front and back and he sides that are lower. I would imagine that you would want it no thinner then 1/8" and no thicker then a 1/4". depends on how humid your climate is on how long it will take to dry. I live in a very humid climate so I would allow 4-5 days. If you live somewhere like Colorado it might only take 2-3 days. If you wanted to mAKE ROPE TO HANG BETWEEN THE DOWELS i WOULD STILL LET THEM DRY FOR A FEW DAYS BECAUSE THE WEIGHT OF THEM MIGHT CAUSE THEM TO BREAK OFF COMPLETELY IF PUT ON BEFORE THEY WERE DRIED SOMEWHAT. i HOPE THIS IS SOMEWHAT CLEARER AND EASIER TO FOLLOW. SORRY ABOUT THE CAPS . i AM TYPING HANDICAPPED RIGHT NOW. bROKE MY FINGER THIS WEEKEND. .

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