Jenn and The Neverending Pirate Ship Cake

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I started making Bruna’s birthday cakes three years ago when she turned one. Her mom is my good friend Jen, and after the first, it’s become our own special tradition. Maybe it’s because I held her when she was only two days old (Bruna, not Jen…), or because I bribe her with bring her a gift every time I see her, but there is an important bond between us that means a lot to me. Best of all? She appreciates

the result which makes it completely worth it every time!

For her very first birthday I felt honored to be presenting her with the focal point of any celebration: the cake. Jen and I discussed some ideas, but I pretty much had free rein to make this girlie explosion whatever I wanted it to be. I filled a giant cupcake mold with two different flavors, then covered the whole thing in pink frosting with edible glitter and sugar flowers. It sat on top of an oversized sugar cookie (you know I love making these!), with purple writing, additional flowers and a frilly pink border.

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I also baked mini pink heart-shaped cakes as well as decorative sugar cookies in the shape of the letter “B” and the number “1”. (This was pre-blog days so I’m excited to share it with all of you now!)

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Last year, Bruna came into her own and was able to choose her theme. At the young age of 2, she was quite mature and knew what she wanted. A great quality to have! Per her request, I made a Muno cake to look like one of her favorite characters from the children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba. As you can imagine, Hubby and I don’t generally DVR a lot of kid’s programming so I had to familiarize myself with this funny looking creature. Fortunately, it came out great, and had Bruna talking for this whole past year about how “Jenn made Muno cake.”

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Last week, for her third birthday, the guest of honor asked for a Jake and the Neverland Pirates party. As you may have deducted, the cake was going to match the theme at hand. Again, I wasn’t quite sure who Jake and his friends were so after a little Google search, I was fully ready to rock.

Instead of creating a character like I did for her previous party, I decided to carve out a pirate ship. How hard could it be, right? I made a three layer chocolate cake with strawberry and chocolate filling (hey, the girl knows what she likes!), stacked them accordingly and began the shaping process. I’ve seen enough episodes of Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes to know what I’m doing. Or so I thought.

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The shape came out fairly decent and my vision began to come together until I noticed a slight problem. The entire left side of the ship was slowly beginning to capsize. While a normal reaction would have been for me to stop what I was doing and immediately try to remedy the situation, I pretended it wasn’t happening and continued with my detail work. Why? Because I’m the kind of person who would build a roof on a house without finishing the foundation just to see what the completed piece would look like. Anyone else get that impatient to wait when excited for their final product?

So as I’m delicately piping blue frosting with sparkly blue sprinkles for water around the edges, and putting together treasure chests made out of Swiss Rolls, embellished by writing icing then filled with pink and purple candy bracelets on a sugar cookie sand dune (my favorite part of the whole cake!), my creation basically toppled over.

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While it was tempting to just say it was a sinking ship and call it a day, I was pretty sure Bruna asked for Jake and the Neverland Pirates, not Titanic, and the whole idea of this thing going under seemed a little morbid for a children’s celebration. But that’s just my opinion.

I took a deep breath (surprised by how oddly calm I remained!) and was able to find a way to fix it. I formed the cake and frosting together as if I were making a cake pop and pushed the side back into position before adding more frosting, wiping down the board, and re-piping the water.

When Hubby came home from work, he put in his pirate ship expertise (No, he’s not a pirate and doesn’t own a pirate ship, but his inner boy came out to play at the opportunity to provide his input). Together, we finished the final touches, building a deck out of graham crackers, cannons from Pirouettes, and stacking figurines of Jake and his friends on top.

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I chose to purchase the plastic characters rather than attempting to mold them out of modeling chocolate, something I haven’t worked with before. I decided a three-year-old would more likely appreciate recognizing her favorite TV stars (and have them to play with afterwards), rather than a valiant sculpting effort from yours truly.

Eventually, it was time to head out for the weekend so I got in passenger seat of the car with this 10 lb cake on my lap. Hubby and I were driving along and…..EEERRRK! We stopped short. The cake, however didn’t get the memo and continued moving forwards. Pieces went flying onto the floor of the car, the whole side fell down and part of the back came off. All my hard work and once again, I had a sinking ship.

When we arrived at Jen’s house, I snuck in through a side door and fortunately with Hubby’s help, we were able to salvage it the best we could. If anyone is keeping track, I now no longer like pirate ships.

Finally, after all that chaos came the very best part. Bruna’s reaction. Watching her face light up as she saw the final product was my icing on the cake. Just look at that smile!

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After she made a wish, this sweet little birthday girl dove in. Like, head first. She bent her face down and used her tiny teeth to pull the front Pirouette ‘cannon’ out of the ship, scraped her finger along the side of the board and licked up all the blue ‘water’ frosting, then hand-picked out all the Swedish Fish and some of the mini Kit Kats. (Don’t worry, Bruna, I’m saving those photos for your own future keepsakes, and won’t embarrass you by posting them here!)

She looked up, smiled and said, “This is the best birthday I ever had!” With that, I was reminded once more, just how lucky I am to be part of that joy.

As Jen was thanking me and exclaiming how much she loves this tradition of ours, I asked if perhaps next year we can pick a simpler theme. “How about circles?” she joked, referring to the shape of a typical cake pan.

Hopefully for Bruna’s 4th, her request will be for long rectangles or geometric stacked shapes. But either way kid, for you, I’m all in.
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