Friday, 1 March 2013

WSC Pirate Treasure Chest Birthday Cake

As well as cupcakes for Sylvia's birthday, I also made a birthday cake like a pirate's treasure chest.  Planning it saw me making dinner with an icepack on my toe (after Sylvia dropped the cookbook on me), scribbled notes on my suduko page of the newspaper, and a lot of time browsing the confectionery aisle of the supermarket.  The timing was crazy with my niece's christening on the same day as Sylvia's birthday party.

Having family and friends overseas meant that by Sylvia's birthday she had a pile of presents awaiting her when she woke up.  At the birthday girl's request, we had pancakes for breakfast.  By then there was a generosity of presents scattered over the loungeroom.

We spent quite a lot of time preparing the afternoon tea to celebrate her birthday.  There was a lot of cleaning on the day before.  I also made the basic cake for the birthday cake, pate and grubs.  On the morning of the party, I made the chocolate frosting and did more cleaning.

Then we rushed over to my sister's place for a celebration brunch before Stella was christened.  Fran knows how to put on a party with style, even early in the morning.  I loved the soda fountains full of pink lemonade that was served in little bottles with striped straws.  There was lots of other gorgeous food.  My favourite was my mum's cheese scones.

Next was the actual christening.  It was slow and hot.  The church was packed with people and a token affect at cooling the place was made by little fans high above us.  Members of the congregation fanned themselves with the church newsletters.  It reminded me of going to mass at our country church when I was a child.  It often grew stuffy and it was not uncommon for someone to faint.


As soon as E and I could leave the church, we hurried home for some last minute tidying up and cake decoration.  The cake I made from Annie Bell's book was the same recipe I used for the Viking Cat Birthday Cake.  It didn't sag as badly as that one but the cake still had a dip in the middle.  It makes me think that maybe I will need to experiment with plain cake recipes.  (But plain is so boring.  Perhaps I could try this one.)  I also took issue with the picture of the cake mixture in the book that was far darker than mine, even with me adding a bit of extra cocoa.

The weather was hot.  The icing was soft.  My mum says it is made for a different climate.  (Perhaps a ganache would have been better and not as sweet.)  The treasure chest is made by placing one cake on top of another.  The cake had to be sturdy enough, though there is cardboard to hold up the top layer.  Spreading the icing on the top layer was a logistical nightmare.  Finally when I finally placed the top cake on the bottom it threatened to slide off until I propped it up with some toothpicks.  Even so the frosting pooled enough for E to compare the cake to Salvador Dali's melting clocks.  It made the chest look a little top-heavy but no one minded.

The cake was ready just on time but we still had to put out the rest of the food:
  • Hummus and pate with vegies and rice crackers.  
  • Cheese cubes.  
  • Fairy bread.  
  • Grubs - these were made gluten free with GF tea biscuits, ground up popcorn and almond meal.  
  • Plums, strawberries and blueberries.  
  • GF brownies and GF fairy cakes with pink icing and sprinkles (thanks Mum).  
  • Cookie dough nibbles made with spelt flour and carob (thanks to my neighbour).
  • To drink we bought some pink lemonade and I made limeade.
We had plenty of food.  Which might explain just why I forgot about the chunk of watermelon, grapes, cheezels and chips I had bought for the occasion.

I have no trouble getting together a fancy cake for a kids party.  After that my party organising goes as far as tidying the house and buying a packet of balloons.  Now Sylvia is 4 years old, we tried a little harder.  E brought streamers (that were forgotten) and party hats (Sylvia wanted the 1 year old party hats that were pink but they do not fit 4 year olds).  I lost the balloons but my mum had some.  We had talked about party games and lined up my niece Quin to lead them.  (I wanted to make lolly bracelets out of lifesavers and hat elastic but my mum thought it too hot to wear sticky lollies.)

Perhaps Sylvia will be a better party organiser than me.  She took her friends outside, they stripped off and we filled the wading pool.  They had lots of fun in the backyard - which was fortunately in the shade by then.  Once the cake was threatening to collapse, we gave them towels and brought them inside to blow out the candles.

Once the cake was cut and the treasure chest was raided, Sylvia sat on the floor and opened presents.  Again she was very spoiled with lots of books, clothes, craft and little elephant.  (Strangely enough she was given two little stashes of coins from special friends.  She had given them the coins some time ago and they were returning them as part of the presents.)  The one party tradition we got right was to have some lolly bags ready for when the kids left.

How to make a treasure chest cake:

What you will need:

Two loaf cakes baked in the same size pan but one should be twice as high as the other
A piece of cardboard cut just slightly smaller than the loaf cake (I used a shoe box lid)
Tin foil
1 batch of chocolate fudge frosting (such as the one in the recipe below)
toothpicks (we had pirate sword toothpicks)
sour strips (or red liquorice strips)
m&ms
gold covered chocolate coins
assorted little colourful lollies
lolly necklaces would be good (but I didn't think of that til later)

Chocolate fudge frosting:
Slightly adapted from Annie Bell's Birthday Cakes for Kids
makes a truckload!

350g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
225g butter, roughly chopped
225ml milk (I used soy milk)
450g icing sugar (confectionery sugar)

Gently melt chocolate and butter in a small bowl in the microwave (or over boiling water but this requires more care).  It is done in the microwave when the chocolate is just about melted but still have a few soft chunks that will melt if you stir it a bit.  Meanwhile mix the milk and icing sugar in a medium bowl.  Cool the chocolate mixture slightly and add to the sweet milk mixture.  Let frosting cool before spreading on cake.  NB I left mine in the fridge for 4 hours and when I returned it was quite easy to spread.

To make the treasure chest cake:
  • Bake your cake the night before. 
  • Make the frosting a few hours before you want to decorate the cake because it will take a bit of time to cool and set.  I suspect a ganache or buttercream would do as well for the frosting. 
  • Cut a rectangle of stiff cardboard out that is just slightly smaller than the loaf tin.  Cover both sides in tin foil.
  • Place the larger loaf cake on a plate and cover in frosting.
  • Scatter coins and little lollies over the top with more on one side
  • Spread frosting over one side of the foil covered cardboard.  Place cardboard frosting side down on the flat side of the smaller cake and then frost the other side of the cardboard.  (The cardboard is to stop the top sagging!)  
  • Frost around the corners but do not frost right up all the short sides of the smaller cake because you want to be able to transfer this cake onto the top of the larger cake without getting frosting all over your hands as I did.  See below how messy my cake was after lifting the top on.
  • Lift small cake and position on top of large cake like a lid.  As soon as I did this my cake started to slide backwards.  I stopped the landslide by putting four toothpicks behind the lid as you can see in the above photos (they are the coloured pirate sword toothpicks).  Perhaps I should have put the toothpicks in earlier.
  • Once the top cake is in position, gently spread the rest of the top with the rest of the frosting (I had a bit of frosting leftover but not heaps.)
  • Use the edge of a butter knife or small trowel or knife to make lines across the cake to imitate the wood grain.
  • On the side where the "chest" is open, stuff more coins and coloured lollies so they spill out and scatter some around the base.
  • Now select some brown, red, orange and yellow m&ms.  Cut the sour strips into 0.5cm width strips.
  • Place a strip of sour over one side of the chest (my strips weren't long enough so I had to use a few end to end) - about 2cm from the edge.  Remember to cut the strip where the chest is open.  Line up m&ms alongside the strip, with a bit of space between each one.  Place another strip along the other side of the m&ms.  Repeat over the other side.

Now your work is done.  As you can see the top went quickly with most of the treasure, leaving us with a yummy mess.  Quite a bit of this went into the freezer.  We have had heaps of leftover food.  We finished the pate tonight - it has been very good in sandwiches and sushi.

I am sending this cake to the Kitchen Maid for this month's We Should Cocoa (the event founded by Choclette and Chele).  The theme this month is fame.  I think I can say I am famous for my novelty birthday cakes among family and friends.

28 comments:

  1. Your treasure chest cake looks amazing - I bet the little ones loved it and the grown-ups were in awe. I know I am! Next time I'm feeling ambitious I'll give it a go. Congrats - it looks like quite a party. ;-D

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    1. Thanks Louise - I figure being able to assemble the cake on a hot busy day with not enough time means it doesn't need too much ambition - hope you make it and your little ones love it too

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  2. Oh my goodness Johnanna your treasure chest is incredible! :O I also love the two pink soda fountains! What a beautiful party :D

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    1. Thanks Lorraine - my sister hired the soda fountains and apparently it wasn't too expensive

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  3. Your birthday cakes are certainly famous in my eyes! I am a complete failure at fancy kids cakes - my mum was too - so I am in awe of yours. I'm glad you didn't make four this year though (or have you got more to show us?) And happy birthday to Sylvia!

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    1. Thanks Lucy - I always think I make these cakes because I wanted them so much as a child and my mum never made them - and no we didn't do four cakes this year - phew! - just the animal cupcakes and this cake - though I also did some cupcakes to meet a friend earlier who couldn't come to the party but they weren't very fancy

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  4. I am always impressed with your children's birthday cakes, and this one just takes things onwards and upwards! I am extremely impressed, especially with the warm weather challenges. I think with a cake like that, and accompanying food like this, balloons and lolly bags would be all any child could ask for in a party. Happy birthday to Sylvia again and I hope you had a very low-key evening after this busy day was finished!

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    1. Thanks Kari - I chose it because it seemed fairly straight forward for a busy day - the logistics of getting the top on was the hardest bit. We did have the air con on quite a bit that afternoon - and after I turned it off for a bit everyone got very wllted and asked for it to on again. And yes we just were very tired and low key that evening - it was a help-yourselves-tp-leftovers sort of dinner.

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  5. Great work! Looks like a perfectly rich chocolate cake to me! I also love the pink lemonade. Looks very sweet for a little girls birthday party.

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    1. Thanks Cass - the cake tasted great - which is very important - but I rarely have cakes dip in the middle like that and for it to happen twice in a row with the same recipe just doesn't give me much confidence in the recipe - I think the women's weekly basic cakes are more reliable

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  6. Happy Birthday Sylvia, what a lucky little girl! The cake is fantastic, my Mum always made fabulous, creative cakes for my and my brothers' birthdays and It's definitely something I'd like to do when I have children. The whole spread looks yummy, I especially love the look of the pink lemonade :)

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    1. Thanks Coconut and Berries - I spent hours pouring over women's weekly cakes like this but my mum always make a sponge layer cake - I practiced on my nieces which probably helps now I make them for my own kids

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  7. That treasure chest cake you made is gorgeous! Seriously awesome idea!

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    1. Thanks Joanne - as soon as I saw the chocolate coins I knew sylvia would love it

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  8. I am in love. I am in love with that, and you know I don't normally go for cake or chocolate desserts!

    I'm so sick of winter, Johanna. Oh god I want your heat.

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    1. Thanks Hannah - who wouldn't love a chocolate cake full of lollies - but for you I would just fill it with fancy chocolate :-) And I understand your winter blues - I felt like that in Edinburgh and it wasn't as cold as canada - soon your will be out sunbathing when it gets to 15 C

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  9. That is one COOL cake. I would've loved to have one as a kid as I was obsessed with pirates and treasures lol I was a silly kid. Great job on the cake, and all of the other eats looked amazing.

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    1. Thanks Natalie - pirates and treasure are fun - Sylvia loves the chocolate coins which she calls treasure (and always says it with a sparkle in her eyes)

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  10. Logistical nightmare or not, this is one mighty impressive cake and is so does look like an old pirate's chest with treasure spilling out of it. I should jolly well hope you are famous for your fantastical cakes. Two parties in one day is some going, well done and Happy 4th birthday to Sylvia.

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    1. Thanks Choclette - it is a great concept for a cake - not too difficult but kids love all the lollies - I would have loved to take along some food for my sister's party but our party was enough

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  11. And thanks for joining in with We Should Cocoa too :)

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    1. always a pleasure choclette! glad I managed it this month as it has been too long between WSC posts

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  12. I would have loved this cake as a kid as well Johanna...gorgeous :-)

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  13. I love your pirates treasure chest - it looks stunning. It sounds like you had a very busy, but fun day. Happy Birthday to Sylvia (if a little late!).

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  14. What a fantastic cake - and your blog... it's GORGEOUS! I will definitely be returning :)

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  15. ;) Very lucky girl

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  16. this looks great! I'm planning a pirate theme for my nephew!
    Love the little bottles and striped straws as well.
    Do you have any idea where the drink decanters are from?

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    1. The drink bottles and drink decanters are from my sister's party so I don't know where they came from - will try and ask her and put information here if I can find it out.

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