I looked at cakes on this website and some pictures of pirate ships. Then got my mom's old fashioned vanilla cake recipe and a chocolate wedding cake recipe (both were firmer not too moist cakes that would be good for stacking). I knew the bow and stern would have more cake, so I made 2 double batches of each cake. One each for the base of the cake, and one each for the bow and stern areas.
Each pan was 9 x 15.(so 4 - 1 1/4" thick cakes total). I made the cakes the night before, cooled them and wrapped them in cling wrap for freshness - so the task of putting the cake together would be more fun and less daunting. The next night I made 4 batches of chocolate buttercream frosting and assembled the cake.
My husband used fat tootsie rolls for the cannons and pushed in the centers. He used Nestle crunch pieces for the cannon base and milk duds and whoppers for cannon balls. Yellow skittles were the round windows, yellow Starburst for square ones. I used Hershy's chocolate Plank, Snyder's pretzels and long thin tootsie rolls for railing. I used the fruit leather strips and cut out the anchors and the rudder. We finished it off with blue gel food coloring mixed in coconut for the water.
This cake fed about 60 people large pieces and was not even half eaten. We saved the left over icing and cut off the triple layer stern, re-iced the cut side and had a huge cake for his actual birthday(the party was 5 days earlier). The best tip is having other family members participate by coming up with ideas and making the candy details for the cake!
We had fun doing this labor of love together for our son!
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