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How to make a fantastic, easy peasy chocolate pirate ship cake in just one morning!

Probably the easiest ever pirate ship cake tutorial. You can bake and decorate this cake in one morning – perfect for a little buccaneer’s party!

I find birthday cake making quite stressful – I pile pressure on myself (Will it taste good?  Will the birthday boy like it?  Will he even know what it’s supposed to be?)!  It’s not really possible to prepare and decorate a cake well in advance (because it would be stale and also because it’s best to decorate/construct in-situ, to reduce the chances of cake-toppling disasters) and that time pressure only adds to stress-levels…

So as you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised at just how easy making this chocolate pirate ship cake turned out to be.
Especially since I had to make it in one morning (date night Friday, baby shower Saturday, party Sunday)!

easy peasy pirate ship cake tutorial

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To make an easy peasy chocolate pirate ship cake, y
ou will need:

For the sponge base (2x large round chocolate sponge cakes):
– 300g self-raising flour
– 50g cocoa powder (we used Green & Blacks)
– 2 rounded teaspoons of baking powder
– 6 large eggs
– 350g caster sugar
– 350g very soft butter
– 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
– 2x large (approx 10″ wide, 2″ deep), round cake tins.

To Decorate:
– 900g Betty Crocker ready to use chocolate fudge frosting (or similar)
– a cake board
– 50g black ready-to-use fondant icing
– 80g Malteasters
– 4x chocolate swiss rolls
– 2-3x Curly Wurlys
– 2x packs of Rolos
Chocolate rolled wafers (we used Caprice)
– A thin plain chocolate bar (we used Lindt)
– Large bag of mini marshmallows
Blue food colouring (a few drops)
Pale coloured jam (or marmalade)
– a brandy basket
– 3-4 wooden skewers
– 1 metal skewer
rice or potato paper (if you want it to be edible, otherwise any black or white paper will do, especially if you draw some jolly rogers on it!)
pirate figures (paper, plastic toys, or candles)
– 4x mini sparklers

COST: a few quid
AGE: make for babies and toddlers / make with older kids
TIME: over an hour

How-to make an easy peasy chocolate pirate ship cake:

1. Make 2x large (10″ wide) round sponge cakes using Delia’s all-in-one sponge recipe method (I doubled her ingredients to make 2 deep sponge cakes, rather than 2 thinner sandwich sponges) and leave these to cool on a wire rack for at least an hour and a half.

Chocolate pirate ship cake tutorial pic 1

2. Cut one of the cakes in half across the centre and sandwich one semi-circle on top of the other with chocolate frosting (if they have risen a lot, you may have to cut a little from the top to make it flatter, allowing the two halves to adhere to each other).  Then cut a small slice from the bottom to make a flat base, place the cake halves on end on the cake board to form a basic boat or ship shape.

3. Cut the rounded edges off the other cake (but do not discard these), forming a strip of cake that is the same width as your ship base (I used a piece of scrap paper to measure this).  Cut this strip into 2 rectangles, one slightly larger than the other and place them one on top of the other at the back of your ship base, using chocolate frosting to stick them in place.

4. Take one of the rounded edges and use chocolate frosting to stick it, flat (cut) edge down, on the front of your ship base.  It will overlap the sides a little, so just trim the sticky-out bits with a bread knife.  Cover the whole basic ship shape with a thin layer of chocolate frosting and place it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes (this will fix any loose crumbs).  Don’t leave it for longer than this, or your sponge will dry out.

Chocolate pirate ship cake tutorial pic 2

5. Cover your ship base all over with a second layer of chocolate frosting and smooth with a pallet knife.  Use black ready-to-use fondant icing to make a few portholes and any other details (name, age etc).

6. Add mini chocolate rolls to form cannons, Rolos to represent barrels of rum/kegs, chocolate rolled wafers to form the prow and rear ‘roofing’, plus a chocolate bar gang plank (I used a hot butter knife to cut a large Lindt bar in half lengthways).

7. Mix the mini marshmallows with the blue food colouring in a bowl until they are take on colour.  Spread your jam (or marmalade) around the base of your ship, then pile the min marshmallows on top, squishing into the jam a little so that they stay in place.  This will form your ‘sea’.

Chocolate pirate ship cake tutorial pic 3

8. Add wooden skewer ‘masts’, with (rice) paper sails, brandy snap basket ‘crow’s nest’ (see below for tip) and Curly Wurly ‘rigging’ (I put these on at the last minute, simply balancing the rigging against the masts – it also served to prop up the ‘crow’s nest’!

TIP: How to make a hole in a brandy snap basket without it cracking:
Take a metal skewer and heat it in a mug of just-boiled water, then use the hot skewer to gently press and ‘twizzle’ in the centre of the brandy snap basket base, remove the skewer, reheat and repeat, little-by-little wearing a hole through the bottom of the basket, which you can then thread a wooden skewer ‘mast’ through (this took me about 5 minutes).
I used a Rolo to try and support the ‘crow’s nest’ from below, but in hindsight, I think something stickier, like a wine gum would work better and be more sturdy.

Chocolate pirate ship cake sparklers

9. Poke some mini sparklers into your cannons, ignite and wow your swashbucklers!

10. Check out all my other DIY pirate party craft ideas

That’s it!  Now you know how to make an easy peasy chocolate pirate ship cake.  Happy baking x

P.S. If you’re looking for a child’s birthday card, take a look at The Paperdashery’s selection…

kids birthday cards



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23 thoughts on “How to make a fantastic, easy peasy chocolate pirate ship cake in just one morning!

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  • What an AMAZING cake! 3d cakes are so impressive looking. Well done you.

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  • Thank you for this! I made a fab cake for my son’s 4th birthday using your instructions!

    • I’m so pleased to hear that Jo!
      Comments like yours make me really happy 🙂

      I would love to see a photo of your cake (and your birthday pirate) – do please post one to my Facebook page (or message me if you’d rather not share publicly) x

    • Attempted this cake for my son’s 4th birthday. The structural integrity wasn’t significant enough and the cake cracked down the middle while I was assembling it. The base of the cake was fine, but as soon as I started adding the pieces from the second round, it was too heavy. Needs a dense cake batter for the base. Didn’t make my batter from scratch, and it couldn’t stand up.

  • That’s so effective, and it’s great that you are concerned about the taste because so many places where you can have a cake made aren’t!

    • Thanks Jenny! I agree – the most important thing for me is the taste (of course the kids care about that too, but they also wanted cannons that really fire)… 😉

  • Hi there fantastic cake really looks awesome. I’m making this for my boys 1st birthday I was thinking of putting a layer of rasberry jam as well as the frosting when I piece the two halves together what do you think? Has anyone tried this or similar just thought it might break up the chocolate a little. Thanks for your feedback

    • Hi Emma – I think that’s a great idea – sounds delicious! 🙂

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  • Jenny Holman

    Thank you so much for this amazing recipe. The pirate ship cake made my son’s 3rd birthday. Everyone commented on how fantastic it looked (not nearly as good as yours after it had melted in the car and only had one mast!). I am going to take inspiration from you for all my cakes. Many thanks

    • What a lovely comment, thank you Jenny, you have made my day! 🙂

      Honestly I was so surprised that it turned out so well, as I am by no means a baker. Not sure how I am going to live up to the precedent this year… 😉

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  • I’m hoping to make this for my sons birthday in 2 weeks. Do you have any tips on cooking times for the doubled cake recipe?

    • Hi Emily,

      I just kept a close eye on the cake in the oven and checked on it frequently until a skewer came out clean. I don’t really trust timings in recipes, as all ovens are different! Sorry I can’t be more exact and good luck with your cake – let me know how it turns out x

      • Thanks for your response. Did you use the same oven temperature and just cook longer? The recipe you posted is for a vanilla cake, what did you change to make it a chocolate one?
        Sorry for all the questions!

        • Oh wait! You have included the recipe. Forgive me for being a bit dim, I will follow your stated recipe. Very helpful btw, yours is the only blog among the many with DIY pirate ship cakes that provides a recipe.

          • Glad you found it Emily – I hope it works well for you! x

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