Weekend Diversion: The Ultimate Superhero Cake

Thanks to 3D printing, creativity and a lot of effort, this DIY Optimus Prime cake is unlike any other.


“When he came home, I could see a change. He was quieter and he was a man and a hero to me. I watched him and listened to him. I’d never had an opportunity to do a superhero, and when that came, [that voice] just came right out of me and I sounded like Optimus.” -Peter Cullen, on his brother

Being a hero is something we all dream about in our own way. On our birthdays, everyone deserves to live out that fantasy, if only for a day. Have a listen to Tracy Chapman’s reflective and provocative song, Change,

while you consider the ultimate in “changing” superheros: Optimus Prime.

Images credit: Transformers (1984), (L); Jester Pictures (R).

Unlike the flashy Decepticons, who transformed from robots into fighter jets, stereos or even guns, the Autobots were all cars and trucks, led by Optimus Prime: a semi truck. The key to what made transformers awesome, of course, was the ability to go from a vehicle to a robot and back again, something that easily captured a child’s imagination and — of course — led to tremendous toy sales.

Images credit: Powermaster Optimus Prime, via http://www.angelfire.com/scifi/bbfortress/pmprime.html.

What kid wouldn’t want to be an Optimus Prime-caliber superhero, if not Optimus Prime himself? Well, lucky for Russell Munro’s six-year-old son, he was just the person to make this dream come true, in cake form.

This idea came simply from my eldest son asking for a Transformers cake for his birthday, my wife makes our two boys cakes each year. My inner child immediately pictured a cake that actually transformed and that was it, I was hooked. […] I wanted it to be like a magic trick and fool the viewer (mostly 6 year old children) into thinking the cake was standing up by itself. So that was the challenge, make Optimus Prime come to life in an invisible way.

And so he went to work on exactly that.

Image credit: Russell Munro, via http://russellmunro.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/transforming-birthday-cake-animated.html.

He built a multi-stage design, with:

  • a base platform,
  • two segmented leg pieces,
  • a “body” for the cab,
  • and a raising mechanism for the head.

You’ll note that this is just a “skeleton” of a cake, because the goal was to have this not be a mechanical device with icing or fondant atop it, but a real, genuine, edible and delicious cake! So he made a mere skeleton out of 3D printable parts (using PLA, which is food-safe) that was capable of holding the weight of the custom-made cake components that his wife was baking.

And with a combination of 3D printing, steel fishing wire, elastic bands and motors, the parts started to come together.

Underneath the main platform, of course, were the electronics and motors necessary for operating the cake itself, and enabling the “transformation” to take place.

Image credit: Russell Munro, via http://russellmunro.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/transforming-birthday-cake-animated.html.

And when the (very well done!) cake pieces were complete, onto the individual platform pieces they went.

Image credit: Russell Munro, via http://russellmunro.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/transforming-birthday-cake-animated.html. I’m pretty sure this is an “after” picture, however.

In “beta testing,” everything looked fantastic. But remember, this is how the device operates before any cake is added. And cake — as anyone with a sweet tooth (like me) can attest — gets heavy fast.

This almost led to disaster, as Russell was quick to attest:

The cake is where all very nearly came unstuck. I drastically under calculated (totally stuffed up actually) how much mud cake weighs. So the cab had some Styrofoam in it to help lighten the load a little.
The cake was chocolate mud cake covered Bakels Pettinice (Fondant) rolled as thinly as possible to reduce weight. Rolkem Super silver was used where a metal look was needed.

But the birthday party came around, and it was time for the ultimate moment of truth. You can watch the transformer struggle to make it… but (spoiler) it makes it!

This was the coolest thing I’ve seen in quite some time, and I’m so happy to get to share it with you. For all you Optimus Prime fans out there, remember what he says:

There’s a thin line between being a hero and being a memory.

Although Optimus Prime the cake is just a memory, Optimus Prime the idea is still a hero. Thanks to Laughing Squid and PSFK for bringing this to my attention, and to Russell Munro himself for documenting in such great detail how this cake came to life. Hope you enjoyed it!


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