Last month, my sisters and I got to put together an over-the-top 60th birthday party for our parents. They love going on cruises, and unfortunately had to cancel their cruise reservation for this year (the first since Dad's original cancer diagnosis) because he was just diagnosed with the same cancer again. With a long road of of treatment ahead of them, we wanted to go all out and throw them a birthday party to remember. To make a long story short, the party was a huge success, and was full of the artistic touches that my family is known for. My main contribution was this nearly 3-foot long cruise ship cake:
I wanted to make a relatively long cake to best represent a typical cruise ship, and have multiple decks. I figured the simplest way to get this shape would be to make 3 9x13 cakes, and cut them down the middle, giving me several 4 1/2" wide cakes which I could cut and stack. I've only worked with fondant once before, and I wasn't that impressed with it, so I wanted to focus on a better tasting cake and use regular frosting instead. This would make it a bit more difficult to make the necessary details to make it look enough like a cruise ship. So I set out to make some good windows...
I didn't want to pipe out frosting windows. The idea seemed too tedious and labor intensive, especially since I'd be building the cake the day of the party. I also didn't want a bunch of frosted windows because they would look inconsistent in size and shape. This led me to the idea of making square windows out of white chocolate, colored blue. I did some experimentation ahead of time to get it right, and they turned out great. I melted white chocolate slowly in a double boiler setup, and colored it blue with food coloring. Once it was colored well enough, I poured it out on some wax paper on a cookie sheet, and layered another piece of wax paper on top. At this point I spread out the melted chocolate to an even thickness and put it in the fridge to chill and harden.
Cutting proved to be tricky. You can't just cut all the way through with a knife, otherwise it cracks and breaks in unpredictable ways. What worked best was to score the surface of the chocolate sheet, and then break it along the score-line. This method let me easily break it down into even strips, and then squares. This of course produced a number of irregular pieces which made for some good snacking.
In the end I made a couple hundred little blue windows and kept them in the freezer to prevent any melting or sticking together.
I took the cheap and easy route for the cake itself... boxed cake mix and jar frosting. Both of which came from Aldi at a great price and were much tastier than I had originally expected. I went off of Wilton's cake batter recommendations, which said a 9x13 wedding cake should be made with 7 cups of batter (about 1.5 boxes of mix for each). Each cake was baked at 350 F for 35-40 minutes. The biggest thing I learned was how to properly flour a pan. I came across a youtube instructional video that recommended putting a sheet of parchment paper (also greased & floured) in the bottom of the pan. This makes it MUCH easier to remove from the pan. I tried once without this parchment paper bottom layer, and ruined a cake trying to get it out of the pan.
I planned out the design and so I knew how long the cake would be, and cut a plywood board a little larger. This was then wrapped in blue paper from the craft store to serve as my cake board. The first layer was laid out with wax paper strips underneath the edges (to protect the cake board and keep it clean). Between each layer was a mixture of chocolate and white frosting. This was chosen so it would resemble the wood floors on each deck. Mixing chocolate and white frosting is also an easy way to get light brown.
When I started the assembly my cakes were nearly frozen, but eventually warmed up. This made frosting a bit difficult toward the end. I got most of the outside done with a frosting spreader, but had to finish up by piping it on, otherwise the blade would pull off bits of cake and it wouldn't stick.
Last but not least I stuck on the windows, which really made the cake look like a cruise ship, and added a fun chocolate touch to each piece. This was fun to build, and even better to eat.
Best of all, it tasted great, and looked good surrounded by more of our fancy buffet.
Happy Birthday Mom & Dad!