Feb 2, 2009

Fire Chief's Helmet Cake

This is part 1 of a 4 part series explaining in detail how I made the fire chief's helmet cake that I had made as a surprise for my hubby to help celebrate his promotion to ops chief. Here I will explain how I constructed and assembled the main (2) cake parts. In the other parts of this series, I explain how I did the brim, eagle, and shield. The cake covering, as well as each component, was made with MMF. If you are new to working with fondant, this is well worth the read. (you may also want to read my other articles on MMF ) So hang on....here we go!

The top:
Because the celebration took place one week after Thanksgiving, I baked the cakes about 2 weeks ahead of time and stored them in the freezer. The top was made using 2- 10" cake rounds and 1 Pyrex glass bowl for the round (bowl) top. There is a cake board underneath (shaped slightly oval by trimming each side) for support. After filling, layering, and shaping the cakes, I crumb coated the top with thinned out butter cream and let that dry until a crust formed. Just before the next step, I covered the cake with about 1/4" layer of butter cream.

Next, for the strips that created the molded top, I used a bit (softball size?) of fondant with a small amount (maybe 1/2 tsp?) of Wilton's Gum-tex powder (alternately you could use Tylose powder) sprinkled on and kneaded in, this made it more of a gum paste, which enabled the strips to dry quickly and harden, so they would stay shaped after applying the fondant over the top. I rolled the gum paste out to about 1/4" thick and cut out the 4 strips going from the front of the helmet to the back, and then across from side to side. The other 4 "lines" were rolled pieces and placed in between each "strip".

Next, I rolled out a large piece of fondant, about 1/4" thick, to cover the whole cap portion. After rolling out the fondant it was time to transfer it to the cake. Using the rolling pin with the fondant loosely rolled onto itself, I started on one side and unrolled the fondant as I crossed over to the other side. I smoothed the fondant with my hands, starting at the top and working my way down, and then I used a fondant smoothing tool to define the lines and make sure any strips that had shifted were straightened. Once it was all smooth, I trimmed the bottom and I also checked the top front strip to make sure my eagle was going to fit. I had to pinch it just a bit, as it was a better idea to pinch the fresh fondant on the cake rather than trying to "spread" the eagle for it would have cracked. However, I waited until the assembly of the whole cake before attaching the eagle so I could make adjustments ensuring that the shield and eagle were going to fit together. I then moved the cake to "a safe zone" while I worked on the bottom portion.

The bottom (hood and base):
For the bottom, I had baked a 9x13 cake. I sculpted the bottom base to match the shape of the helmet brim that I had done the week before. It was only slightly smaller than the brim on the sides and in the back. I carved it slightly lower in front and higher in the back so that it would give enough room for the (gold) hood and also so it would tilt forward like the real helmets do while sitting. Then I rounded off the top of the back so that the back brim would slope downward. After sculpting the cake I applied about 1/4" coat of butter cream (I didn't need a crumb coat). I positioned the base cake on the (sliver) cake board and covered the sides with parchment paper so as not to mess up the cake board wrapping.

base of cake ready for brim
I rolled and cut out the hood straight across on top with rounded corners on the bottom, folded the edges under for a smoother look and while it was laying flat, I used a serrated tracing wheel, and made the faux "stitching". I then applied the hood by placing it on the bottom of the cake board first, moving from back towards the front, I kept it loose and let it scrunch and fold as I moved upwards. Notice I didn't bother covering the top of the base completely because the brim was going to hide it. After that, I applied the black fondant in the front, smoothing and trimming it.

Before applying the brim, I placed 4 plastic (drinking) straws in the base for support to hold the (heavy) top round cake. I cut the straws level with the cake. I was now ready to put the brim onto the base. Sorry, I missed getting some pics, I was kind of in serious construction mode ;)

brim still on styrofoam form
Still on it's form, I lined up the brim with the base of the cake, and keeping it as close as possible to the base cake, slid the brim off the long side onto the cake base. (yeah, you got one shot at it, scary stuff!) I placed the round top cake onto the brim. Then I measured the circumference of the base of the round cake and rolled out a long piece of white fondant for a band. I cut the strip with a fondant ribbon cutter, rolled up the strip and unrolled it as I applied it to the base of the round layers to clean up the edges where the top cake and brim met.

Next I applied the black chin straps and buckle. I rolled out the fondant, then placed a strap (I used a clean, ridged-nylon, crockpot carrier strap) on top of the fondant and gently rolled over it again to create the imprint and texture of the strap. I cut the strap with a fondant ribbon cutter after it was imprinted with the texture. I looped one end of the strap into the buckle before it had a chance to dry so it wouldn't crack and carefully laid it on the board, tucking in the ends of the strap up under the brim. (The yellow buckle was made about 3 days beforehand, to allow time to dry and harden) At this time I also applied the black goggle holders, one on each side, that I had shaped when I made the buckle. You can see the edge of it sitting on the brim (top right corner of pic).

I had shaped and painted the little silver ring (in back) the same time I made the buckle, again, enabling it to dry and harden. So at this time, all I had to do was make the little "clip" strip on the back of the brim that holds the ring. I slid it through the ring, molded it to the brim and put on the screw. I waited a bit for it to dry somewhat then painted it silver. (yes, it really wiggled when touched after it was dry) While I waited, I cut out and applied the yellow reflectors, and painted them with pearl luster dust.

There is a thick, black, blocked V in the bottom front that sits behind the shield for support. To the left is a picture of the real helmet showing the support piece. (this is what the real shield is screwed to) It's necessary on the cake because otherwise there would be a big gap between the shield and the helmet, possibly rendering it unstable, and worse yet, cracking the eagles beak. I had made this "V" ahead of time and let dry on a slightly curved cardboard form and harden. (I made mine solid) However, when I made the second (black) fire helmet, I waited until the day of assembly and made the V support piece out of fresh fondant. This was even better as I was easily able to make adjustments to the positioning of the shield.

The only thing left to do was position the shield and the eagle. I applied a bit of water with a damp brush to the inside of the eagle's sides, where the eagle would make contact. I put the eagle in place and held it just for a few moments. I lined the shield up with the eagle, gently placing the tip of the shield under the eagle's beak. (it should tip forward just a bit) Using a paintbrush, I applied dots of water on the back of the shield and V piece so they would stick together. Surprisingly, the cake was very stable during transporting.

This cake was REALLY heavy, so I transported it to the firehouse on the wooden cutting board. We made it ok (yeah, the cake AND I) in spite of my nerves being a total WRECK! LOL The looks on the faces at the firehouse was priceless. Some of the guys and gals were in on the surprise, but they had no idea how detailed the cake was going to be. After the photo session (heh, I felt like my cake was on the red carpet or something) and watching the firefighters ooh and ah over every little detail, it was time to cut the cake and watch grown men cry......just kidding, here's a pic of the shift crew smiling, not crying LOL

Part 1- Fire Chief's Helmet Cake
Part 2- Fire Helmet Cake Brim
Part 3- Fire Helmet Cake Eagle
Part 4- Fire Helmet Cake Shield & Bugles


Bob said...

You are completely insane. That is unreal. It looks more real than the toy fire helmet I had as a kid!

mesa para 4 said...

I can´t help it...UAU !!!

Michele said...

You are so talented!

Marie said...

WOW! Girl...you have patience and total talent!

Spryte said...

I have some awards for you!!

You can pick them up here...

I gave you an award!! You can pick it up here


Donna-FFW said...

I have to tell you my husband is a firefighter and he LOVED these photos!!! You did a FABULOUS job!!

DDpie said...

Thanks guys, very much appreciated :) And thank YOU Spryte for the award!

Cookie Central said...

This is the craziest thing I've ever seen! My hubby (a F.F.) was floored....and now wants me to make him one (haha)...if you ever start selling to us common folk let me know :)

DDpie said...

Thanks CC, I'm glad your husband liked it...makes me feel good when it passes the ff test ;) If you do try one and have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for providing such a great resource for this cake. I made the exact cake for my niece's wedding as a gift (grooms cake) for her husband last weekend. The only difference was that I used yellow fondant since that is his helmet color. Everyone thought that it was amazing and I owe it all to you and your great step by step instructions.

thanks again

DDpie said...

Thank you so much Tricia, so glad the tutorial was helpful! Congrats to your niece and husband!

Anonymous said...

Would love to see a picture of your cake. I'm getting ready to make one in October and your tutorial is great. No pics.
Email them to m at andie66@gci.net.

Anonymous said...

Would love to see a picture of your cake. I'm getting ready to make one in October and your tutorial is great. No pics.
Email them to m at andie65@gci.net.

NW2009 said...

Dear DDpiesSlice,
I am planning a visit to my local fire department and would love to make them a helmet cake, I found your 4 part series very helpful, but it could be much more helpful if I could see the photos that are supposed to go along with it as they are all "unavailable via Flikr" if you could repost the 4 part series or email them that would be fantastic and such a help! You are an amazing baker! I can't wait to attempt your helmet cake! My email address is: ilfsuf2009@gmail.com. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible for you to email the tutorial with photos? knbarber@hotmail.com

I have heard great things about this cake!! I have to make one this weekend.