Feb 2, 2009

Fire Helmet Cake Eagle

This is part 3 of a 4 part series on how I made the chief's fire helmet. This piece is probably the one that impressed the guys and gals at the firehouse the most due to the attention to detail. The eagle is made completely out of MMF (and yes, it's edible, not palatable, but edible). I had ordered the "real" brass eagle for my hubby's new helmet, but due to time constraints I couldn't wait for it to be delivered and I had to get going on it. So I relied on memory and pics from the net, and hoped for the best. (brave, I know LOL)

I found a picture of the eagle on a site that sells fire equipment. I photoshopped the image, flipping it so I now had two sides. I printed the image on paper, then placed a piece of computer transparency film (acetate) over it and cut it out with an exacto knife. Lay the piece of paper and transparency film over the fondant and cut out a whole piece. Notice I have a little gap going down the middle, that's so it will create a "back" to the eagle and will fit over the ridge on the helmet later on. (make this about a 1/2" in width)

Ok, so I said the eagle was edible, and it is...except...I had to insert a wire for support. I cut a strip of fondant the same length and width as the middle (top) gap. Laid that down across the top of the cardboard form that I had lined with aluminum foil, then I placed a floral wire (wrapped in floral tape) on top of that shaping the beak into a curve, then carefully lay the entire eagle base on top. Then immediately formed the two fondant pieces of beak around the bent portion of the wire. Why go through the trouble of a wire anyway? Well, I knew that once it was in place on the cake, it was going to actually "hold" the shield up (just as the real thing does) so the last thing I wanted to happen is the eagle's beak cracking off and the shield flying off during transport. (yeah, sometimes it pays to think things through)

Then I took another printed paper copy of the eagle and cut out the individual sections of the eagle in fondant pieces to lay across the form. I did some of the detail work with them laying flat. I also applied the "screws" at this stage. Then I applied each layer to the solid form, layering as I went. This gave the feathers the three dimensional look. Notice I kept the pieces under plastic until ready to apply as to keep them from drying out and cracking. You'll need to ever so slightly moisten the underside of each layer before applying so that it will stick to the fondant piece underneath. I use a paintbrush (clean and one I only use for fondant work), dip it in vodka and wipe on a paper towel, then swipe the area. When the pieces dry, they will be fused together.

After applying each layer, I used a fondant tool and in some cases an exacto knife, to imprint the detail work and "carve" the feathers. I let it dry for several days before painting (leave it on the form until completely done). A brass color is very difficult to achieve with fondant. The trick is to, first of all, use a light yellow colored fondant. Secondly, do layers of color to achieve depth, allowing to dry between coats.

So for the first coat, I used a gold luster dust mixed with vodka and a tiny bit of green food coloring. Why do I use vodka? Vodka evaporates faster than water, therefore you are able to get the object painted without it turning into a gooey mess. (water would literally melt the fondant) The second coat, I used a brown food coloring (with a tiny liner brush) only in the crevices for depth. I used a darker brown where needed, like under each row and between the feathers and such. Then I applied another layer of the "brass" color only on what areas were raised to highlight them. When the "real" eagle arrived that I had ordered, I was thrilled that I got the "faux" eagle so close. I only had to do a little more painting to adjust the depth of color. (I totally regret that I don't have pics of each painting stage, next time I will, I promise)

Note that most "standard" issued helmets come with a flat brass piece that has a screen printed design (a painted on eagle). I mention this because I have seen a lot of cake helmets with this style of eagle. If that were the case, I would have cut out the base of the eagle, laid it on the form, painted the brass color and then simply draw on the eagle with a black or brown food color marker or better yet, hand paint the lines with a thin brush.

The longer you can let the eagle dry and harden the better. I'd give it a full 2 weeks just to be on the safe side. If you'll notice, my form had little "feet" bent outwards. I placed it in a shoe box and taped the "feet" to the bottom. This kept it safe from falling over. I put the lid on so that it would remain clean and dust free until I was ready to assemble the cake.

You're probably wondering how much time was spent in total. It took me only a couple of hours to cut out patterns, construct the eagle, and do the first layers of painting. Another two days for the initial drying, then a few days between coats of paint. The looks on the faces at the firehouse, made it all worthwhile ;)

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


Robert Daus said...

I am actually the designer and sculptor of the Brass eagle you are holding.

You did a nice job.

Robert Daus
Liberty Art Works
"Honoring your Bravest and Finest with Quality Made in the USA"

DDpie said...

Wow, thank you so much for the kind comment Robert, I'm honored. Thanks for stopping by!