Making a Pirate’s Treasure Chest cake from scratch.

Seeing as I can’t bake in Hong Kong, I thought I would write an informative post about how to make a cake instead.

A Pirate’s Treasure Chest cake would definitely go down well at any children’s birthday party. I made my for myself when I turned 27 as I had a pirate themed BBQ. Each to their own I suppose. Anyway, here goes my attempt at a useful blog post.

Making the sponges

IMPORTANT TIP: Make sure the margarine and eggs are the same temperature. If you use different temperature eggs vs marg, the mix can split and it’ll look horrid.

I made two sponges for my cake. I used a 6 egg vanilla sponge mix as follows:

2 x 2lb loaf tins
Weigh the eggs (shells on)
Self raising flour = egg weight
White caster sugar = egg weight
Baking margarine (I like Sainsbury’s the best) = egg weight
2 tsp Vanilla extract

1. Turn on the oven to preheat at 160 Celsius. Make sure the shelf is in the middle.

2. Beat the margarine and caster sugar until it has gone a much lighter colour and has a ‘fluffy’ appearance. I use a hand mixer for this, a wooden spoon takes too long.

3. Crack the eggs into a bowl/large mug and add the vanilla extract. Whisk with a fork until well mixed together.

4. Add the egg/vanilla mix to the margarine/sugar mix bit by bit. Use a wooden spoon or low hand mixer setting to make sure the eggs mix in completely as you add them. Add all the eggs. The mix will be very sloppy once you’re done.

5. Sift the flour in bit by bit and mix it in with a wooden spoon. If you use a hand mixer at this stage, your flour could explode on the counter. Not a good look.

6. Once all the flour is in, get the hand mixer back on the job and beat until the batter has gone a much lighther yellow than the original colour. I never bother to scrape down the sides of the bowl into the mix until the very end as the batter stuck to the sides is a fabulous indicator of when your hand mixing has got to a lighter shade of yellow. Please see my crude example below:
cake batter colour example

7. Grease both loaf tins well with margarine and line just the bottom of them. I can’t be hassled with lining the sides. It never works for me and besides, a wooden spatula is your best friend with loaf tin sides.

8. Split the mix between both tins but make one slightly deeper than the other. NOTE: The deeper cake will cook slower than the thinner cake.

9. Bake for 15 minutes then check them through the window. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. If they are doming in the middle,
turn the oven down 10 degrees. if they are sinking in the middle, turn the oven up 10 degrees.

10. Bake for another 10 minutes and check them through the window. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. Repeat previous check. Doming = 10 degrees down, sinking = 10 degrees up.

11. Check obsessively every 3-4 minutes IT IS NOW OK TO OPEN THE OVEN. Remove when they are a little bit springy to the touch.  I don’t normally use the clean skewer test but if you’re not confident with your ‘by eye/feel’ timings, break out the skewer.

12. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes or so then turn them out onto a cooling rack. Leave them until they are completely cool.

That’s the baking part done. Now, the decorating.

Shaping the cake

First of all, you need to level off your cakes. You can do this by eye with a sharp knife or you can use a cake leveller (available at good cookery shops like Lakeland etc). Once they’re levelled you should have something looking like this:

Levelled cakes

Place the levelled, thickest cake onto whatever you want to serve the cake on. Place the thinner cake top side down onto a board as you’re about to slice a wedge off it. The wedge will prop up the lid of your chest so that you can have treasure spilling out of it.

You need to cut a wedge that has the cross section of a right angled triangle. It is very important that you cut the wedge entirely from the bottom side of the cake. The topside of the cake needs to be complete and untouched. Please see my photos below for an example of what I mean.


You can see, the topside of the cake has not been cut, it’s all taken from the bottom of the cake. Here’s a shot with the wedge removed from situ:

Wedge cut

Once you have your wedge, place it onto the base cake as follows:


To get the wedge in the correct place, put the wedge on the edge of the cake first. Look where the wedge finishes then place the wedge so that it starts where it previously finished i.e. place the wedge it’s own width into the base cake.

Once the wedge is in place, you can sit the top cake onto the wedge. It should not need any extra supporting but, if you’re worried, you can butter cream/jam the parts together. Here’s a side on and front on snap of the cake with the lid on.


Decorating the cake a.k.a. the fun bit

So, you have your cake all shaped, now for the fun. Decorating!

I used chocolate fudge butter cream icing, chocolate coated biscuit sticks (‘Pocky’ brand), edible silver balls and gold coins.

TIP: Outside of Christmas time, it’s a real struggle to find gold coins. in the end, Thornton’s came through for me with the pound shop a close second.

Here’s what I did.

First, make the butter cream. This is a recipe from the Peyton & Byrne British baking book that I swear by:

60g dark chocolate
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp boiling water
90g butter
250g icing sugar
Half tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

1) Melt the chocolate and add the vanilla extract to the melted mix.
2) Dissolve the cocoa powder and salt in the boiling water.
3) Stir the cocoa powder/water mix into the melted chocolate. Leave the mix to cool.
4) Beat the butter until very light and fluffy
5) Sift the icing sugar in little by little. Stir it with a wooden spoon at this stage or your icing sugar will explode everywhere under the power of a hand mixer. Mix in all the icing sugar. The mix will actually be more like a bowl of crumbs at this stage.
6) Add the cooled chocolate mix and mix into the icing sugar/butter mix. Use a hand mixer on low to start with and crank the speed up as you can. Beat the icing until it’s smooth and lovely.

Once the butter cream is made, spread it all over the cake with a palette knife/smooth side of a regular table knife and smooth it over. It doesn’t need to be pristine as you are going to cover it with biscuit sticks. TIP: If you want it to be pristine, dip your chosen smoothing implement in water and then smooth.

The biscuit sticks I used (Pocky) had a bit of uncovered biscuit at the ends of them so I sliced these off to leave me with just chocolate or biscuit bits. I arranged the sticks all over the sides of the cake by pressing them into the butter cream. I used the chocolate only pieces for the main parts but I used the plain biscuit parts to the edges of the cake to produce a bit better effect. I also created a fake locks with the plain biscuits. You can see what I did below.


It was quite tricky to do if I’m honest and, should I make this again, I would not use biscuit sticks. I would do the following:

A) Draw the detail into smoothed off butter cream with a cocktail stick/drag a fork through it or use a more malleable substance for the wood effect e.g. chocolate matchmakers.

B) Make the locks from roll out icing.

C) Use plain butter cream for the edge details.

The biscuit sticks also made the cake hard to slice and ended up being picked off and eaten by the guests before we could actually eat the cake. Anyway, I digress.

Once your covering is done, refrigerate the cake so that the butter cream doesn’t go too soft. Once it’s refrigerated you can put your gold coins into the cake and have your finished article.


My full spread at the BBQ was as follows:

Full Pirate spread


11 thoughts on “Making a Pirate’s Treasure Chest cake from scratch.

    • You are so welcome! Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes (mainly the biscuit fingers being too hard to cut) and pull off a fantastic treasure chest. Good luck 😀

  1. Megan says:

    Thank you so much for your instructions and step by step photos. I am making a treasure chest cake for this weekend and could not figure out how to do lid.

  2. Sara says:

    Thank you for instructions! Made one for my little boys 3rd birthday today, couldn’t get the lid to stay up but cocktail sticks did the job.

    Here’s my attempt (hopefully pic will show)

    • How amazing! So pleased it went well. Hope there wasn’t a lot of it left at the end of the party. Thank you so much for sharing the picture. Made my day 🙂

  3. Rachel says:

    Made this for a fourth birthday party today. Followed the excellent instructions and my cake turned out perfectly! I added smarties, fruit pastilles and jelly diamonds to the coin treasure. And used ferrer rocher ‘rocks’ to hold up the lid. Thanks!!

    • Thanks so much for the comment Rachel! I’m pleased the entry helped. Great thinking with Ferrer Rocher rocks! Hope you saved a couple for the cook though 🙂

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