Fire Truck Cake & Fire Cupcakes

Saturday, March 6, 2010

When my husband asked me if I'd be willing to make a cake for Poppy's surprise 80th birthday party, it didn't take long before I had pictures and ideas running through my head. And once I had it set in my mind that it would be a fire truck cake, there was no way I was going to let them bring in some store-bought cake for Poppy's big birthday party.

The only challenge that lay ahead was in figuring out just how in the hell I was going to pull this off.

It involved sculpting, people. And measuring. And fondant pieces and red icing. Red, which is a freaking bear of a color to make. Oh, and a TON of icing. Like, 5 batches worth. And um, to top it all off, I had to figure out a way to make this cake to serve 80 people.

I can say now: mission accomplished. (Thank you, baby Jesus.)

As with any cake project I've taken on, I started in Google Images to find photos for inspiration. It was a little bit difficult to find something that fit my own vision, but I felt like I really needed something to go on to help me with this monstrous task. Thankfully, I eventually found Julie at Peanut Butter & Julie. She did a really cute fire truck cake that pretty closely fit what I was picturing in my head. And, even better, she was super helpful in answering questions for me, too. So big thanks go to Julie.

Still, I found that with many parts of this project, I really just had to figure it out as I went along. Thankfully, it all ended up working out for me. But it was a lot of work. So much work. I literally worked on some aspect of this thing every night this past week, starting on Monday. Before I even started, I made a "schedule" of tasks for each night, doing what I could in advance.

And it's done! It's DONE. So pardon me while I share a bunch more photos. I just can't resist. (I'll also share some more info, too, for those of you who may stumble across this post doing your own Google searches for "fire truck cakes.")

The cake itself is constructed from four half-sheet cakes. I used a regular cake recipe (red velvet--I thought the color was really appropriate for a fire truck!) in each one, so the cakes were pretty thin. I found it was easier to work with thin layers because of the sculpting/shaping I decided to go with in the middle (with the varying heights). I filled the cake with buttercream icing between each layer, and it's frosted with buttercream as well.

The tires are mini chocolate donuts, and the lights are Jolly Ranchers. The ladders and the hose are made out of marshmallow fondant. The ladders are hanging on the sides of the truck using pretzel sticks as hooks. Everything else is buttercream. I "dirty iced" the whole cake, then covered it using a medium star tip.

I sculpted the fire hydrant out of fondant and let it dry out in the open for several days. The hose and water are also made of marshmallow fondant. The writing is in buttercream.

The cake board is a 2'x2' piece of plywood that we got at Home Depot. I covered it in black fabric (thanks again for the tip, Julie). The cake itself is sitting on a cakeboard that I cut to the exact size of the cake. When I first set the cake on it, there were little edges of the cake board showing, but as I iced and decorated, it was easy to cover up the edges of the cake board so it wasn't visible. It looked like the cake was sitting directly on the fabric.

I'm worried that the cake might not feed everybody at the party, so this is my solution. I made a batch of vanilla cupcakes (24 of them), and topped them to look like fire. The icing is yellow/orange buttercream, and the flames are made out of candy melts. I printed out a picture of a clipart flame, and traced it a bunch of times to make the candy topper for each cupcake.

Happy 80th Birthday, Sibby. :) I should've explained the significance of the fire truck--Poppy has been a volunteer firefighter for many, many years. Of course, he can no longer do any of the actual firefighting work, but he's still heavily involved in the fire company. I'd say the majority of the attendees at the party are going to be his buddies from the firehouse. It seemed only appropriate to honor Poppy and all of his friends.

I can't wait to show off this monster at the party tonight!


Gaynor March 7, 2010 at 6:11 PM  

Your cake is so impressive! Well done, bet he loved it!

Gia March 7, 2010 at 8:25 PM  

Looks totally amazing! GREAT job!

Mrs. G March 7, 2010 at 9:12 PM  

Wow! You did a great job!

Christine March 7, 2010 at 9:30 PM  

Heather - it is amazing! Great job! WOW!!!

Shauna March 8, 2010 at 9:58 AM  

Holy CRAP! Heather, that rocks!

bluewhitelife March 8, 2010 at 10:04 AM  

your cake is awesome! :) I so want to try it :)

Crystal March 8, 2010 at 11:38 AM  

This looks amazing, great job!

Miss. Candy March 8, 2010 at 11:46 AM  

I am a volunteer firefighter and I am in LOVE with this cake and cupcakes! You have so much talent!!!

Sara March 8, 2010 at 12:19 PM  

that is FANTASTIC!!!!!

Heather March 8, 2010 at 3:37 PM  

Thanks, everyone! I appreciate all of the nice comments. :)

Laura March 8, 2010 at 7:55 PM  

You are so talented, Heather. Your cakes never cease to amaze me!

Amanda March 9, 2010 at 11:13 PM  

This cake looks amazing!!

Jen March 10, 2010 at 1:16 PM  

OMG that is so freaking cute. Very impressive!! I would love to be able to make a cake like that. And the cupcakes are just perfect. Nice work!

Hollie,  March 26, 2010 at 11:30 PM  

I am so impressed!! I am going to Micheals tomorrow and sign up for classes. My boyfriend is a fire fighter and I would love nothing more than to be able to make this cake for him in September for his Birthday!! If you can email me any helpful tips my email is I love your work!!!!!!

Kim @ March 30, 2010 at 5:08 PM  

OMG! I love the flame cupcakes! Great cake and party too! and congrats on your pregnancy! (I am reading your whole blog now lol...)

Kim @
party inspiration

Anonymous,  April 22, 2010 at 6:57 PM  


I am so going to do this cake in September. I have done Micky Mouse, Thomas the Train, Nemo, and now this one. I am an amature to say the least but love doing this for my kids. My son will be 4 and LOVES firetrucks I think we have 5-6 at our house. Anyway I can handle most of what you describe the only thing I was curious about was how you did the flames on the cupcakes...I really want to do these also and would love if you can send me an email at with instructions and directions on how to make them. So far your cake is the best I have been able to find on the web. Great Job!!

Anonymous,  July 15, 2010 at 1:44 PM  

Hi Heather. Love the fire truck and cupcakes! My husband is also a firefighter, and our soon to be 4yo son is a fanatic about all things fire related. I'd like to try and make the cupcakes with the flames. Could you email me directions/recipe on how you did that? Thanks!

Amy Fox

Heather July 15, 2010 at 2:58 PM  

Hi Amy--

I explained in the post how I did the flames. I found a picture of a flame, printed it out, and traced them using candy melts. Beyond that, there are no "directions."

Good luck!


Anonymous,  December 5, 2010 at 5:18 PM  

Impressive! Saved pics of your amazin work so that I can attempt to create something so great for my son .. he is 18 months old and mickey mouse was my first cake ever for his 1st birthday.. since his dad is a fireman I'm guessing this request will eventually come :) thanks for sharing with us all to see!!

Tiff @ SuperMama101 January 1, 2011 at 6:45 PM  

Just found this - umm.. amazing!

I've never really done any specialty cakes (or cupcakes) before, so when you say you traced the clipart of the flame.. do you mean you melted the candymelts, put them in a baggy and squeezed them over the clipart like you would do with frosting? Did you put it on wax paper or something? And how are they so perfectly flat? Does the candy just harden that way?

thanks in advance!
tcoupons at

K March 17, 2011 at 11:49 AM  

This is exactly what I'm looking for and plan to make next week. However, while you provide the pan size, you didn't identify the actual size of the shapes - which would really be helpful.
You did an AMAZING job - I can't wait to try and tackle. And yes, it would also be helpful to know how you did the "flames" on the cupcakes

Heather March 19, 2011 at 12:51 PM  

Tiff--I know I am super late in responding to this (sorry). But yes, that is exactly what I mean. I laid out some wax paper, put the clip art print out underneath, and then squeezed the melted candy out to trace the flames. The reason they are so flat is because that is the side of the shape that dried against the paper. The other side (that I put up against the frosting) was a bit more textured/bumpy.

K--I'm sorry, this was over a year ago, I have no idea what size the actual pieces were. This can vary depending on how big you'd like your cake to be. Once you have all of the cakes baked and you're "building," it's pretty easy to figure out what to do. I just made it all up as I went along, cutting them to the size that I thought looked best, so I didn't stop to measure anything. Good luck!

Tiff March 19, 2011 at 1:21 PM  

Sorry I didn't credit your adorable cupcakes on my blog... I'm not sure if I forgot or what - I'm usually pretty good at that.

Anyway - my inspiration source is now linked up. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, and sorry for any hurt feelings!

Shelly Walker April 17, 2011 at 12:09 PM  

My 1 year old is having a Firetruck themed Birthday party this weekend! I attempted to practice this cake a few weeks ago and it wasn't too hard to make! Going to make another this weekend, and also attempt the cupcakes! This is way too cute! Too bad you can't make the cakes and mail them out :)

Anonymous,  June 22, 2011 at 12:40 AM  

Hi Im about to make an attempt to make this for my sons 2nd birthday. Any tips you could send would be awesome thanks love your work!

Anonymous,  September 13, 2011 at 8:52 PM  

Do you remember which food coloring you used, I know how hard it is to get butter cream to be fire engine red and not pinkish? Please let me know.

Anonymous,  October 30, 2011 at 1:28 PM  

Yes please Heather, how did you get the red not to be "pinkish"as is often the case...and just loved the cupcakes and "flames".

Heather November 2, 2011 at 9:05 PM  

The answer to the question about the food coloring is that I used a TON of it. I'm not kidding--a ridiculous amount. I want to say it ended up being like two entire jars of the Wilton colors. I used the "No-Taste Red" as much as possible so as to hopefully not alter the taste of the frosting (and it seemed to work) and used the regular red as well. I just added more and more and more until it started to get dark. Then, I let it sit for 1-2 days, as the color gets darker over time.

I've also heard great things about Americolor food colorings. Supposedly, their red and black colors are amazing, as they only take a few drops to get really vibrant shades. If I had to do a cake like this again in the future, I would probably try those--but you have to plan ahead, because (at least for me) they're not available locally and need to be bought online. Check out

Good luck!

Kathy Diaz (found baking) November 7, 2011 at 7:47 PM  

OMG you just saved my life. My sister-in-law has asked me to make a firetruck cake for my nephew's 2nd birthday. I needed inspiration and your cake just did. So beautiful and so impressive! Thanks for sharing the photos and the tips. Don't be surprised if I ask you questions along the way. I have to make the cake this week. Gulp! Wish me luck.

Jesi,  January 3, 2012 at 3:23 PM  

I am so glad I found this! My bf is a firefighter and I wanted to make him a fun cake/cupcakes as opposed to just my "usual" stuff! Thank you so much! Its a beautiful cake!

Deanna: Miss(ed) Conception January 20, 2012 at 7:52 PM  

I've had this post saved in my browser for almost a year. I'm making this cake x 2 in Feb. My hubby is graduating the fire academy and our first son is turning one a few weeks later. I'll be making the full size version for the hubby's grad party and a mini version for the kiddo's smash cake and then cupcakes for the guests. I am so excited and intimidated! Your work is amazing. I hope to be posting pics on my blog and linking up to the inspiration! Thanks!

SueB August 10, 2012 at 1:55 AM  

Love the cake!! My question is what did you use to hold the cake up so you could attach wheels?

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