I created a "Pirate Ship" cake for my son's 6th birthday. It was my first attempt at a cake other than a traditional layer cake. I got the main idea from this web site, selecting various elements from the different pirate cakes on the site.
I started by baking 4 chocolate sheet cakes (9x13). I probably only needed 3, but wanted to make sure I had enough. I then baked a batch of chocolate cupcakes and a batch of yellow cupcakes. I froze everything (properly wrapped) so that I could bake in the weeks preceding the party.
The plan was to create the main cake like the ship, and use the cupcakes as the ocean. I created the cake board to look like "Water". I used store-bought cake boards taped together to get one large enough. Lots of packaging tape on both sides (under the paper) to ensure it was sturdy. I then glued on scrapbook paper that looked like water and covered the entire thing in saran, taped underneath with packaging tape.
Time to build the cake. The ship had to be tall enough to appear above the ocean! Two 9x13 layers were stacked with frosting, I then cut the fronts in a "V" for the bow. I added another bow section on the front 1/3rd and a narrow stern section on the back 1/3rd. Added a second narrow layer to the back for a high stern. Used dowels to secure and frosted. The cupcakes were 'spray painted' blue with store bought food coloring spray then sprinkled with sugar crystals in blue and green to give it the water look. I found it easier to frost and spray paint the cupcakes blue before placing them around the cake. After placed, I connected the cupcakes with more frosting and then finished off the spray painting (shield the cake with an extra cake board to avoid over spray). Sprinkle with sugar to get the look of water.
The sails were created ahead of time on the computer and trimmed to my liking. Wooden dowels were used to place them on the cake. I had intended to decorate the deck more, but one of my other children was ill and I ran out of time. I did create canon candles using tootsie rolls attached to wooden dowels. These were fun but difficult to blow out because I had three on each side of the cake! Overall I was really happy with the cake. It was impressive and easy to serve because of the cupcakes. It tasted great too!