Monday, 12 August 2013

Ahoy There Matey's! Treasure Chest Cake

Last weekend, the cutest kid I know turned four. This special occasion was celebrated with a pirate themed birthday party. Now, every party needs cake and this pirate themed party needed a treasure chest cake. When I was first asked to do this, I thought "you must be out of your mind! I can't do that!". As it turns out I was wrong.

After a brief period of panic and some Googling, I had a bit of an idea where I wanted to go.
However, I have worked VERY little with fondant in the past and artistic things (like making a pirate - the birthday boy's request) were never my strong suit. For the pirate, I used this tutorial; I don't have any of the tools mentioned, I only used paintbrushes and toothpicks. Although the proportionality isn't quite right, I think he turned out relatively well. 

My boyfriend's talents with fondant really came out in this project. He volunteered his help on the hat and parrot (he generally stays as far away from the kitchen as possible when I'm baking) and I think he did an amazing job! He also helped with getting the pirate to stay together and some of the structural elements of the cake. So nice to have an extra pair of hands to help!

The treasure I used chocolate coins and Quality Street chocolates, minus any containing coffee or liqueur and edible necklaces. I didn't realise how popular those were: they were the first to go and there were tears from the kids who didn't get.

When we got to the party the birthday boy (Captain Ben) wouldn't leave the cake for more than a few minutes, despite friends begging him to go play with them. Made all the hard work really worthwhile :) 
The kids made fast work of the cake and there wasn't much left at all by the end of the day.

The remains of the cake
Now for the details. For the cake I used Martha Stewart's golden sheet cake (two batches) and ultimate chocolate frosting (three batches); they were both delicious! I have included the recipe's here with some small changes as well as metric measurements. To keep the lid open I used four pieces of dowel to support the bottom cake where the lid rests and two longer pieces about midway in the cake, cut at a slight angle for the lid to rest on. There is also extra icing over the back dowels to stop the lid from sliding. The lid is sitting on a thin cake board. The cake must be kept in the fridge for as long as possible to help the icing firm up and the cake keep it's shape.

Golden Sheet Cake
(makes two sheet cakes)
340g unsalted butter
500g flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
603g sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
6 large eggs
355ml milk
  1. Preheat oven to 160⁰C. Line two 33 x 23 cm baking tins with baking paper, then butter and flour the baking paper. Make sure to tap out excess flour.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl for about five minutes, or until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla and then beat in the eggs one at a time until just combined.
  5. Add in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk. Begin and end with the flour mixture.
  6. Divide the batter between the pans, using a scale to ensure the cakes are even. I had roughly 500g of batter in each pan.
  7. Bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.
  8. Leave the cake to cool in the pan and lift out using the parchment paper.

Ultimate Chocolate Frosting
438g icing sugar
118g cocoa powder
170g unsalted butter
250ml cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Beat the butter until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add in the icing sugar, cocoa powder, cream and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy.

To Assemble the Cake
Treasure of your choice
Marie biscuits (about 2 packets)
Gold powder
Vodka or lemon essence 
  1. Use the small cake board as a template to cut rectangles out of each of the cakes. Be sure to keep all your offcuts and try keep these in as big chunks as possible.
  2. Place one rectangle on the large cake board and use a smear of the icing to keep it in place. Cover the layer of cake with a layer of icing. I topped this off with sprinkles, but these can be left out.
  3. Place a second a third layer of cake, layering with icing and sprinkles. As you go along, do your best to make sure the layers are nicely lined up. Leave the three stacked layers in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  4. While this is setting n the fridge, you can start on the lid. Place one rectangle of cake on the thin cake board, securing with some icing. Top this with icing and sprinkles.
  5. Use all your offcuts to create a second layer on the lid. Leave the lid to set in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  6. Take out the bottom part of the cake and cover with icing.
  7. Use a bread knife to carve down the lid to have the shape shown above. Cover this with icing.
  8. Put your cake back in the fridge for about half an hour.
  9. Cut four pieces of dowel the height of the cake and insert these in a row about 1-2 cm from the back of the cake. Cover the tops with a generous amount of icing.
  10. Cut two longer pieces of dowel to hold the lid open. Mine stuck out from the cake about 4 cm. You will be hiding these with treasure so don't worry too much about how they look.
  11. Arrange your treasure on the lower half, making sure you hide the dowels as much as possible.
  12. You can now put the lid onto the bottom part of the chest. If it seems like its going to slip off, put a this layer of icing between the lid and the bottom.
  13. Chop Marie biscuits into a fine powder with a stick blender to create the sand. A layer of icing kept this in place.
  14. Roll out fondant and cut it into strips. Use alcohol and gold powder to paint these. The alcohol will evaporate off; this is why you use liquids with a very high alcohol content. These can be stuck on using a bit of water and icing sugar.
*Quite a bit of planning is needed for this cake if, like me, you have a full time job and only have evenings to work on this

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