As soon as Archie announced the theme for his party, my mind raced to the cake and I knew instantly, there was no way of avoiding the issue. It had to be the ship. As daunting as this sounded, the good thing is a few years ago, a friend asked me to make a ship for her step-father’s birthday party. So I’d had a trial run. Even so, I did worry about how, as a completely self-taught home-cook, I was going to pull this off.
I knew it had to be big. And I knew that this cake was definitely going to be sculpted so the cake itself would have to be dense and solid to handle that kind of treatment.
Remembering the cake I made for the previous ship, I whipped up two Donna Hay Melt-and-Mix White Chocolate Cakes. These cakes are made with massive quantities; too big to be mixed in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid. In fact, my largest bowl isn’t big enough so I ended up mixing the cakes in my biggest saucepan with a hand beater.
I made the cakes well in advance. Another thing about making a sculpted cake is that the sculpting is so much easier if the cake is frozen. So it’s not as if the entire business of making a sculpted cake has to be done on the day; you can make the cakes a few weeks in advance and store them in your freezer until you need to sculpt the cake.
The next thing you’ll need is a very large cake board. And make sure it isn’t made of flimsy cardboard; this cake will be weighty so you’ll need a board made of masonite.
You’ll need to allow the better part of a day to sculpt this cake and it’s definitely preferable to have the house to yourself and not have kids and uni students marching in and out of the kitchen – or there could be a stabbing.
To make the ship, you’ll need to make two cakes.
Melt and Mix White Chocolate Cake Serves: 50 Degree of Difficulty: 2/5 Cost: Moderate. Could be cheaper if you weren’t dealing with such vast quantities.
- 1 kg (2lb) butter, chopped
- 4 cups (2 pints) milk
- 8 cups caster (superfine) sugar
- 600g (20 oz) white chocolate, chopped
- 8 cups plain (al-purpose) flour, sifted
- 1 1/2 tbspns baking powder
- 1 tbspn vanilla extract
- 8 eggs
Preheat the oven to 160C (325F). Place the butter, milk, sugar and chocolate in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until smooth. Place the flour, baking powder, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and use an electric hand mixer to ix until smooth. Line a 35cm (14 in) square cake tin with non-stick baking paper. Pour in the mixture and bake for 2 hours 20 minutes or until the cake is cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow the cake to cool in the tin, then turn out and when completely cold, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 12 hours. Warning: It took Carl and I almost seven hours to construct this cake with both of us on the job without a lunch break but there was a lot of stop/start as we did research and tried to work out what we were doing.
To Sculpt a Titanic Ship Cake Degree of Difficulty: 5/5
- 600gms dark cooking chocolate
- 3/4 cup cream
- 1 x cake board 71 x 41cms (28 x 16 inches)
- 1kg (1lb) black icing
- 1kg white icing
- 1kg navy blue icing
- brown and orange food colouring
- edible glue (available from specialty kitchenware stores)
- black and white writing pens
- tape measure
- fondant smoother
- small paint brush
Make the ganache by melting the chocolate with the cream over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. When combined, removed from the heat and allow to cool until it’s slightly thickened and of spreadable consistency.
Lie the two cakes on a kitchen bench and cut out a long rectangular shape. We used the middle section. Place on the cake board joined end to end.
From the remaining cake cut out two long pieces to put on top of the rectangular pieces and join together to create a wider strip. Cut out two additional pieces for the bow and the stern. Keen extra cake pieces to fashion funnels.
Begin to sculpt cake. (We had been loaned a book on the Titanic and one page folded out tri-fold that gave us great detail of the outside of the ship). You’ll need a very sharp knife and a good eye.
When the cake has taken shape, cover in ganache. As the cake has been frozen, it will still be quite cold so the ganache will set quickly. Smooth as much as possible with a palette knife.
Sprinkle a large kitchen bench with icing sugar. Roll out the black icing until 3mms thick. (Try not to turn the icing over as you roll it out as it will be difficult to remove the icing sugar from the black icing. Using a tape measure, measure the length and height of the pieces you will need to cover the sides of the ship in black. Then, with a ruler, cut out the pieces you need. Carefully position the icing onto the sides of the cake (you have to be careful because the icing will stretch but don’t worry, the extra bits can easily be cut away with a knife). Smooth the icing using the fondant smoother.
When the parts of the ship that need to be black have been covered, take half of the white icing and tint it brown. Mould it well so that it is well blended. Begin to cut out the timber decking pieces and again, it’s best if you measure the pieces you need then cut out accordingly.
When the timber decking is complete, roll out the white icing and begin to cover the vertical pieces of the ship in white. You might need to use a paint brush to paint on some edible glue to make the sides stick. Smooth with fondant smoother. The white can be tricky because you need to try hard not to get black mixed with the white. Tint remaining white fondant orange.
Using leftover cake pieces, fashion four funnels about 1 inch in diameter and 6cms in height. Cut bases on a slight angle so they look like they’re leaning back. To make it easier to cover the funnels, place a skewer through the middle of them from the top to the bottom. Holding a skewer, cover funnel in ganache, then the top third in black fondant and the bottom two-thirds in orange fondant.
Use the skewer to push the funnel into place. When the skewer touches the bottom, pull it up a little then cut it off then push it back down so that it’s now embedded and hidden within the cake. Take the writing pens and begin to draw portholes and cabins on to the cake. We used a picture of the Titanic to help us with this. Roll out navy blue icing until 3mms thick. This is to cover the rest of the board and make it look like the ship is traveling through the Atlantic late at night. Measure the pieces on the board that need to be covered then cut out the rolled navy icing accordingly. Use the paint brush to brush the board with edible glue then affix fondant to the board. Use the fondant smoother to smooth and join the pieces of navy icing.
Cover two skewers in remaining ganache and stick into the cake as masts. And now it’s finished! The next hurdle is moving it to your venue. This is probably a more stressful time than the actual making of the cake. Make sure the passageway is clear and that no small dogs or cats can leap out in front of your feet. The cake is very heavy and so you will need your strength. It’s also very helpful if it’s not raining! Once the cake is in position at the venue, it’s mission accomplished!
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