Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    Sailboat Cake Tutorial

    August 21, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    It’s that time of year again! On at least four occasions per year, I decorate a cake for a special someone. This time around, it was O.’s turn.

    This cake was super simple, so this tutorial will be, too.

    Step 1: Bake two round cakes. I did eight-inch. Nine-inch would be fine, also.

    Step 2: Freeze said cakes. Don’t skip this step. It is far, far easier to decorate a frozen cake compared to an unfrozen one. So do yourself a favor and freeze the cake. This can be done up to two days in advance without negative consequences.

    Step 3: Make your frosting. I make the Wilton Buttercream. It never fails me. I made three batches, but only ended up needing two, so I froze some on the off-chance that it will last until I make cupcakes in a few weeks.

    Ste 3a: Taste test the frosting. You know: “Just in case.”


    Crumb Coat


    Step 4: Crumb-coat and cake-stacking. Put your first cake on your pedestal {or wherever you want it to be when you’re done}. Generously frost the top because this will be your filler {unless you’re fancy and using some sort of real filling}. Stack the second cake on top, and then do a crumb coat on the top and sides. The purpose of the crumb coat is to catch the crumbs for you. It should be super-thin, but completely covering. I don’t always do this, but since I had chocolate cake under this white frosting, I considered it imperative. When I use white cake, I often skip this step and it looks messier, but I’m not a perfectionist and so…I don’t care.

    Step 5: Put in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. You want that crumb coat to harden up. If you are me, you put it there and then ate lunch and came back to it later.

    Step 5a: Taste test more frosting. You know: “In case something changed.”


    Base Coat


    Step 6: Do your base coat. I don’t know if this is official Cake Decorator’s Language, but I call the final coat upon which the decorations sit my “base coat.” For this cake, I did the white sides first and then the light blue top second. I was afraid I’d smear blue on the sides if I did it the other way around.
    Step 7: Put it back in the fridge for at least 10 minutes. Once again, you are hardening it up to prevent smearing it around.

    Step 8: Mark out your sailboat. I did this using a toothpick. I do not like free drawing with frosting. The cake I was imitating used fondant for this part, so it was cut and then slapped on top. I don’t like the way fondant tastes, so I did all frosting, therefore I marked some light lines on my “canvas.”

    Step 9: Add your sailboat. I did the blue {darker than the base coat} bottom first, then the white sails. Then I put it back in the fridge for 10 minutes before adding the red stripes. I consider that optional so I’m not making it an official step. I marked my stripes with a toothpick in the cold frosting and then traced it. Finally, I added the mast and the white portholes on the bottom.

    Side View


    Step 10: Add borders. I used one big blue dot separated by two smaller red dots. You can do whatever you like with whatever frosting you have left to use up. The main purpose of borders is to neaten it up and give it a finished look, and most types of borders can do that for you.


    Top View


    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts August 26, 2011 at 4:47 am


    Right. Those calories don’t count! 😉


    The Michael’s class! How fun! Some of the tricks I use I learned from a gal who had taken all of their classes and was a complete master when it came to cakes. I bet you are having fun. (Enjoy sampling the frosting. 😉


    Double birthday party! How fun! I usually decorate the cakes the night before the party, but most of my parties start at 11 or noon. In the summer, my guess is that if you starting frosting it fairly early in the morning, you’d be perfectly fine by 4, especially if you kept it out at room temp after it was done (of course, if it’s too hot your frosting can melt…). I feel like cakes start defrosting pretty quickly–I am always careful to pull them out right when I’m ready for the crumb coat and not before. With that said, I’ve never timed it as far as how long it takes to defrost all the way to the core…

    Sorry I’m not more help!

  • Reply Jamie Wilkinson August 26, 2011 at 3:46 am

    If you freeze the cake, how long does it take to defrost before the party? If it’s frozen, and you decorate the cake the morning of, is it thawed out by 4pm???? I have never tried this idea before and instantly knew it was genius when I read your post. Thanks for the tip. I will be using it this weekend for my second son’s 6th, and my baby girl’s first.

  • Reply Rahime August 23, 2011 at 5:42 am

    I’m taking a cake decorating class right now, and thought of you when I started it. It’s series of four 4-week classes offered at our local Michael’s, and I’m halfway through the second course (though I think I’ll stop after this course and practice a while before taking the other ones).

  • Reply Rebekah August 22, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Super cute! I love the Wilton Buttercream frosting….I don’t even want to think about how much I “sample” while I’m decorating a cake. Somehow those calories shouldn’t count, right? 🙂

  • Leave a Reply