Sunday, 28 October 2012

Gingerbread Pirate Ship - Happy 4th Birthday Oliver !


Another year, another birthday. I can hardly believe Oliver is already 4 year old. It doesn't feel anything like that long since he was my tiny little bundle.

With a Mummy that bakes, the first thing on his mind about birthdays is what kind of cake he want's me to bake. Forget the presents (almost) because the cake is far more important !

Last year, we made chocolate cake and cupcakes and a rainbow cake. As pirates are still his thing, another pirate cake was requested for this year. 

"Please Mummy... I want a pirate cake - just like last year....."

After some persuasion, I got him to agree that we could still have a pirate cake for his fourth birthday, but it would be rather different to the one I made before.


A couple of weeks before his birthday, I got started with a load of cardboard and basically made myself a 3d cardboard pirate ship. This could easily be tweaked to get it to fit together nicely and give me an idea of the scale of the finished ship. 

Turns out, that whilst I was doing this, the bakers on Great British Bake Off were also making gingerbread structures and chocolate teacakes ! I honestly had no idea and watched it on repeat the following evening.

Having never built ANYTHING out of gingerbread  - the biscuit kind - before, I baked the pieces and then took them to work to assemble. My next door neighbour (Bev) kindly came with me to help hold the parts and put it together. The trial actually went much better than expected and I remade the whole lot to make the tidier, sweetie encrusted  version that you see here.

The chocolate sail proved the most difficult to do, and I admit that I did make THREE of them before I actually got one I was happy to use.The mast is made from wooden dowel rod. Everything else is edible. Initially, we tried sticking the sail to the dowels with royal icing - but it's cold in at work (especially at night) and it just was not hardening enough to hold the chocolate on the flexing mast. Bev and I even tried tying the sails on with strawberry laces (edible candy) - but that just stretched and the sail fell off.

Eventually, I used layers and layers of piped chocolate built up on both the sail and the dowels until the two came together and joined.Then a bit more chocolate for strength. It was still very very frail and I really did doubt it was transportable in any way...... I would have loved another sail on the ship, but time simply was not on my side.

Building of the gingerbread pirate ship !
Well, 25th of October and Oliver's birthday. He had pre-school in the morning and nursery in the afternoon. Whilst he was at pre-school, I put the ship in the back seat of mu pick-up. I managed to collect him from pre school and deliver him to nursery without it being seen. Quite a feat indeed when it filled the entire back seat area !

His face was a picture and the ship certainly caused some commotion at nursery. They were good enough to let me take a photo of him with it before letting all the other kids through to have a look. I don't think he could quite believe his eyes !

I've never such a crowd of very excited pre-schoolers .... Their little faces were a picture.
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when they bashed it up and shared it out later that afternoon..... 

There was so much ship, it took them two days to munch through it all. 

Ah - Happy Days !

Gingerbread Dough
recipe revised from Martha Stewart

5.1/2 cups of regular cake flour (plain)
1tsp baking powder
4 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
125g salted butter, room temperature
250g dark brown soft sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (60mls) golden syrup
1 x 454g tin of Lyle's black treacle

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. STOP the mixer and add syrup and treacle. I tried to pour it in with the mixer running the first time - and it flung treacle EVERYWHERE !
Whip again until combined, them beat in the two eggs. Add flour and spices mixture. You may need to bring it together with your hands at the last stage.

Divide into two balls and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Roll out to approx 4 mm thick (it will rise) and bake at approx 170deg C for as long as required.

Small pieces took anything from 12 minutes, larger pieces up to 24mins

In total, I used 1.1/2 batches of gingerbread. Thankfully, remaining dough will freeze well !

Sarah-Jane Nash - www.siliconemoulds.com - silicone bakeware specialists

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