You’ve read about my inspiration for Sam’s pirate themed first birthday party and how to make your own pirate party invitation – now here’s how our party turned out and some ideas for your buccaneer bash.
The Pirate Ship
From the second I came up with the idea for the pirate theme, I became obsessed with building a life-sized pirate ship for our partygoers to play in.
If you’ve been following on Facebook, you know that I even resorted to the extreme of dumpster diving in the parking lot of Michael’s for cardboard boxes.
After harassing every shipping department from Sears to Safeway for refrigerator or washer/dryer sized boxes, I ended up purchasing 5 grand wardrobe boxes from U-Haul. The plans I downloaded from Mr. McGroovy called for 7 boxes, but it was hassle enough for me to maneuver the five I had, so I figured we could make do and be creative about it.
The $23 I spent on the plans and Mr. McGroovy’s rivet project kit were so worth it. The plans were easy to follow and the rivets made building and taking down the ship – literally – a snap. The great thing about the rivets is that you can re-use and rebuild your project over and over again.
We cut the cardboard pieces for the ship walls at home two days before the party and decorated the cardboard cutouts the evening before and the morning of the party when Hubby and Uncle B set up the ship at the park.
Jane had a blast painting and setting up the ship:
Hubby and Uncle B (dressed as a pirate) finished building the ship just as the guests began to arrive:
We spray painted the outer hull of the ship with black chalkboard paint with the idea that the kids could draw on the ship as a party activity. For the inside, we kept it bright and cheery in playful preschool colors. We also added some chalkboard contact paper to a few inside walls for the children to draw on.
The net and bamboo pole masts with pirate flags – Grandma’s ideas – were the finishing touches. I couldn’t find any starfish or other sea creatures to attach to the net, so we ended up using those toy animals that soak in water for 72 hours and grow 6 times their original size. Of course, after Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was released, pirate party paraphernalia showed up everywhere!
The Treasure Chest Cake
What I really wanted to do was this amazing cake by The Willow Blog. But since we designed, created and decorated the cake the night before the party, we changed the concept to an old sea-weathered treasure chest. I say “we,” because this cake was truly a family effort with Grandma, Granny, Hubby, and Uncle B all involved into the wee hours of the evening.
Here’s how we did it:
After stacking two rectangles of sheet cake, I did a crumb coat using my favorite buttercream frosting. Then Grandma fashioned the top lid of the chest with a curved piece of cardboard and not-to-be-overlooked outstanding architectural and design direction from Hubby and Uncle B. We covered the lid with aluminum foil and placed a few squares of leftover sheet cake under the lid at the back of the rectangular base to prop it up. Another layer of buttercream frosting over the lid and back of the cake sealed the lid to the base.
Using Wilton gel icing color in brown, I mixed a dark brown frosting to cover the entire base of the cake. To cover the lid, I pressed on dark brown fondant, and then placed light brown fondant around the base for a decorative trim that would help outline the shape of the treasure chest. Silver, gold and white Wilton shimmer dust added a pearlized, dusty effect proper for a glistening treasure chest washed ashore.
The fun part came next: I rolled several small fondant balls of varying sizes to make pearls and then covered them with pink Wilton pearl dust and the white Wilton shimmer dust. If you’re wondering about the difference between pearl and shimmer dust, the pearl dust is much sparklier – so of course I preferred it! I placed the glistening pearls in strands along the two sides of the chest so they would appear to be spilling out. Note: the homemade marshmallow fondant from The Frosted Cake and Cookie that I was so excited to work with didn’t work out so I opted for pre-made fondant. (I might try it again because of the rave reviews, including praise from SugarBelle, and because it was the most fun to mold and shape).
Finally, I stuffed the cake with as many chocolate gold coins (correctly pointed out to me as “doubloons” by Jane) as I could fit to achieve a stuffed, overflowing look.
We carried the cake to the park the next morning on a homemade cake board (cardboard covered with aluminum foil) and decorated it during the party. To create the beach, I poured light brown sugar around the sides of the cake and added some blue frosting for a bit of “ocean.” Then I added a sea of gold coins in the remaining space in front of the bit of ocean and on the sand.
We ended up never cutting the cake at the party! (See The Birthday Boy below). But the kids were treated to cupcakes decorated with buttercream frosting, M&Ms and cute pirate cupcake toppers from Meri Meri.
We offered a pared down version of the menu for Jane’s Special Agent Oso themed birthday party: bagels, cream cheese coffee and juice. We also offered personal organic watermelons, carved out with a melon baller and re-filled with watermelon balls, strawberries and grapes.
Inspired by all the beautiful dessert tables showcased around the blogosphere lately, we topped the tables with glass containers filled with rainbow Goldfish crackers, black and red M&Ms, Swedish Fish and RedVines to go along with the black and red pirate theme.
These Swedish Fish in blue jello technically were edible, but we just used them as decoration.
We followed Chica and Jo’s advice on mixing the blue Jello with clear gelatin, which worked, but the “water” was still a bit dark. If you’re going to make these, be aware that the Swedish Fish will blow up into Swedish whales if you make them too far in advance!
We simply painted the chests and then glued on jewels. A word of advice: don’t use Gorilla Glue! I had it on hand and was too lazy to search for our other kid safe glue and it foams and poofs up, which makes for a tight, but funny looking, bond.
We had planned to put foam pirate swords (similar to this), bubble wands and pirate teddy bears in the decorated chests for our toddler guests to find on a treasure hunt, but you know toddlers . . . the second they saw the treasure there was no keeping them away! It was much better this way, though – the kids enjoyed sword fights and blowing bubbles from the get go.
Jane also made these great homemade telescopes that we passed out as another pirate prop to play with.
We planned to give out these little pirate booty bags with sticker, chocolate coin and temporary tattoo loot that Granny put together, but never got around to it:
The Birthday Boy
Since he was sleeping during the party, we took the uncut treasure chest cake home and saved it for a celebration at home later the next evening.
Hope your pirate party turns out to be a swashbuckling success!