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There are many things that come to mind when you think of a warship. Big guns, secret missions, white uniforms, badges, officers, ranks, commands and coded ciphers. Buttercream frosting? Not so much.

This month’s craft spot is inspired by none other than our new Action Stations experience, just launched. In much the same way (and not the same way at all) as how Action Stations is all about making the experience of our navy vessels more surprising, immersive and delicious, making an edible delectable destroyer or battleship cake embraces a little something of the surprising (a sweet and squishy rendition of a mean machine), the immersive (you enjoy its appearance, eat it up and experience all the goodness it has to offer) and the delicious — of course. And perhaps it’s also a good way to celebrate and salute to all things navy and nautical, just as we are doing every Family Fun Sunday this month.

This crafty cake-making is not so much about mastering any kind of culinary skill. It’s more a template to recreate the impossible shape of a ship in delicious cake form.

Simple, full of shortcuts, and all about the stacking and frosting and licking of bowls — so it’s easy to involve little ones in most of the making.


  • 3 packets of pre-made slab sponge cakes (we used the small square sort available from Woolworths or you can find larger versions at party supply shops)
  • 1 batch of buttercream frosting (you can use our favourite recipe here)
  • blue and black food colouring
  • white and black writing icing
  • lollies to decorate (we chose licorice)
  • icing piping bag
  • spatula or butter knife
  • spoons
  • Copies of our SHIP SHAPES TEMPLATES printed on A4 page 1, page 2
  • 12 wooden skewers or toothpicks

step 1Step 1

Place the templates onto your sponge cakes and cut out the shapes using a knife. For the first layer we stacked two layers of cake and sculpted the edges on an angle to make our cake more ship-like in shape.

step 2

step 3Step 2

Stack the sponges starting with the base layer, then the second, third and fourth, adding a small amount of frosting between each layer to keep them in place.

step 4Step 3

Mix up your buttercream colour — we are imitating the battleship grey/blue of our HMAS Vampire by adding 2 small drops of black and 3 small drops of blue to each batch we mix (1/3 of the icing mixture at a time). Once mixed, thoroughly apply all over the ship cake.

step 5Step 4

Smooth out your icing with a spatula or plastic butter knife.

Once you have covered most of the cake with icing we recommend placing the cake in a freezer for 15 minutes to allow the gooey frosting to set a bit before adding your final batch of frosting.

step 7

step 7 b

finished cakeStep 5

Remove cake from freezer. Now it’s time for the fine details. We’re decorating our cake with the number and insignia of HMAS Vampire using white and black writing icing. Then pipe along the edges of the cake blocks to outline the whole ship for effect. The magic of this white piping is that it will make even a novice icing job look much more presentable.

step 6

finished cakeStep 6

Add your lolly decorations — licorice for the guns, smarties for the radar towers, whatever takes your fancy. And if all else fails (as our lolly radar did: too heavy to stand up) you can substitute a bit of paper craft on a toothpick.

There it is! A delicious destroyer or a buttercream battleship cake (the shape is a bit simple to specify which is which so lets just says it’s a big navy ship).

Time to go in to battle for the best slice!

— Annalice Creighton


Annalice Creighton

Annalice is the public programs coordinator at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Posted in: Kids and family