The Helmet Cake Breakdown
I am always looking for an excuse to make a cake. Especially a cake that is not your typical 9″ round or sheet cake. I’m talking 3D cakes (no glasses needed). I had such an excuse when THE Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines got together for the fiercest rivalry in college football. OK, I know what you are thinking, “How can a nut and a rabid woodland creature be rivals?” Trust me, it’s a long story including Toledo and I don’t want to bore you with the details. Anyhow, some friends and I get together to watch the game and eat way too much food while we do it. I thought I would try something different this year and the idea for the Helmet Cake was born.
A week prior to the game I sat down and mapped out just what I wanted to do for the cake. My overall plan was tinted sponge cake with buttercream frosting and vanilla almond fondant for the helmets and using modeling chocolate for the face masks. One side of the field would be sponge cake with cannoli filling and vanilla cream frosting and the other would be chocolate sponge cake with mocha filling and fudge icing. You have to understand, even before I decided to pursue baking full time, I always wanted to show off with what I made…this is the pinnacle of me showing off.
So I started baking the cakes. For each helmet, I used two 6″ rounds and half of a “ball” pan. This pan gives the cake the rounded
top. I baked two 11″x14″ sheets for the field, one yellow sponge and the other chocolate sponge. After letting the cake cool to room temperature, I put all of the cake in the freezer to firm up a bit…this makes it easier to carve later. I then mixed up all of the icings and fillings, which meant a lot of washing the mixer and the beaters. The result of all the cakes, icings and fillings are pictured here. And yes, that is coffee, the lifeblood of making a cake such as this one.
To end a long day of prep work, I made the fondant…yes, I MADE THE FONDANT! It tastes good, no grrrreeeaaattt!, not like the fondant you may buy at the store. The kind I make has to cure for 8 hours, so I put it in a container, sealed it tight, and moved onto the modeling chocolate. This, too, needs to sit for a while, so I let it sit overnight.
This is where all the fun is; putting the cake together. As you can see in the picture, I started with the helmets. I took one 6″ round
and cut it at a slight angle. I used the angled piece as the base to give the helmet a slight tilt. I then layered the second 6″ round and domed piece to complete the stack. Once stacked, I carved out a little of the front to give the helmet a bit of depth (pictured left). I then “dirty iced” the helmet to keep it together and for the fondant to stick to the cake (pictured right).
Dirty icing is where you put a thin layer of icing to collect crumbs in a buttercream iced caked or just the layer used to have the fondant stick to the cake. After carving the cake and getting the general shape down, I rolled out the fondant and draped it over, smoothing it as I went. Having already cut the modeling chocolate into strips suitable for the face mask, I formed the strips and placed them onto my cake.
Giving the finishing touches to this cake was fun. I used a strip of white fondant, a strip of red fondant and a black food coloring marker to make the stripe and Buckeye leaves.
I used the same steps, albeit, different color ingredients for the Michigan helmet. I have to admit, it was difficult putting time and effort into making a Michigan helmet look good. (See “10 Years War” for any questions.) The Michigan helmet was a little more difficult to decorate. Their helmet has wings…uhhh…yeah…wings!
The helmets were complete and it was time to call it a day.
This is where the “fun” kicked in, and by fun I mean I wanted to punch a clown. I layered the cakes as I planned, the cannoli filling in the yellow sponge cake and the mocha filling in the chocolate, but when I placed them together, the cake was huge. Way bigger than I anticipated (22″x14″ for those keeping track.) So I decided to cut them in half, and place them together then cover the two halves with green fondant. Yeah…here is a fun fact. When you use two different types of cake and you don’t measure them exactly and you use two different types of filling…they will not line up. So after some “creative” icing, I started to cover the two sides of cake in green fondant…which I didn’t have enough of. So, after much deliberation (about 15 seconds) I decided to purchase the remaining fondant, since I didn’t have 8 hours worth of patience in me for the new fondant to set. I took the green fondant I had, placed it over the center of the cake. I had some grey fondant remaining from my football helmet and used it for one of the end zones and made a yellow end zone and yard markers out of the purchased, paste tasting fondant. The end result is the cake pictured below. Let me know what you think, or any other ideas for 3D cakes.