The Evolution of an Idea

June 19, 2018 (Last Updated: September 18, 2018)

Back in early 2018, I was browsing Instagram when I came across a photo that intrigued me. It was from the Instagram account @swmsweets (https://www.instagram.com/swmsweets/) and featured a number of colourfully decorated and shiny chocolates.

My first thought upon seeing this was “that kinda looks like Jacques Villeneuves helmet”.

I decided to look at more decorated chocolates and what I found astonished me. I had no idea that chocolates could be so colourful and shiny. Below are a few of the images I found and loved!

The more I looked at these chocolates, the more I started thinking just how much they resembled racing helmets, both in design and in finish. It was at this time a plan started to emerge.

Before too long, I had purchased a few 1/8 scale racing helmet models along with some food grade silicone. I planned to make my own chocolate racing helmet moulds. The first two helmets to arrive in the post were James Hunt’s helmet and Fernando Alonso’s, so I got to work.

Since the helmets are presented attached to a base plate and with a clear plastic display case, the way forward seemed simple. First I separated the helmet and base plate from the clear plastic display case top and removed of the flimsy plastic visor. After applying a thin layer of vaseline to the helmet and inside of the display case, to aide removal, I stood the display case upside down on the table and mixed in a separate container the thick white silicone base liquid with the blue curing agent at a ratio of 10:1, stirring until thoroughly combined. I poured this silicone mixture into the display case, doing my best to avoid trapping too many air bubbles, until it was around 20mm from the top. Next I submerged the 1/8 scale helmet into the silicone mixture very slowly, being sure to once again to avoid trapping any air. Once I was happy that I had done all I could to ensure good contact between the helmet and the silicone, I pushed the base plate into the display case until it clicked in place. Then I righted it and left it to set for 12 hours.

The next day, after a lot of encouragement and thanks to the application of vaseline, I was able to release the silicone mould from the plastic display case and then release the helmet too, leaving a perfectly formed cavity. Well, as perfectly formed as it would be possible to make at home with the equipment I had. The finish was poor and pockmarked with tiny air bubbles, but it would do.

My first step was to thoroughly clean the mould and then fill it up with water before placing it in the freezer. Before casting a chocolate racing helmet, I wanted to first cast an racing helmet ice cube. My photo of the result was well received on social media, with many people re-posting it as “the perfect helmet for Kimi Raikkonen”.

Next I used the mould to cast a solid chocolate racing helmet. Once again, this was generally well received and it gave me the confidence that my idea of making filled chocolates, shaped and decorated to resemble racing helmets might actually be a good one.

Ultimately though, I was unhappy with the overall design of this mould, primarily because of the visor section. It was so difficult to remove the chocolates due to the silicone tongue that protruded from the mould to make the visor cavity, that I destroyed a bunch before ending up with one to photograph. If there was one thing worth improving on, it was doing away with the visor cavity and instead having a solid visor. I therefore proceeded to create a brand new mould, following the same steps I listed above, but with a few minor modifications. The first being that I used Fernando alonso’s helmet and left the visor (and other little aero bits) in place. The other was that I chose not to use vaseline, as its use previously had reduced the finish of the mould and therefore the quality of anything cast with it. Once the mould was created and cleaned, I applied some coloured cocoa butter inside before pouring in the chocolate. I chose black cocoa butter for the visor section, white cocoa butter for the aero bits and red cocoa butter for the rest of the helmet.

By having a solid visor section, removal of the chocolate from the mould improved significantly, but I recognised that such an intricate mould brought its own problems. Namely the cleaning of the mould after casting. It was a pain in the backside, so I used a Stand 21 helmet CAD file with permission (thanks to them for helping me) and then made modifications to this in CAD so that it better suited to my application and did away with a lot of the intricate details that appeared on the 1/8 scale model of Fernando Alonso’s helmet.

The resultant 3D printed model, mould and moulded chocolates were a big step forward in terms of design, quality and ease of use. The new design allowed me to reduce the thickness of my chocolate shells, which resulted in an improved snap and mouth feel. Sadly though, my 3D printed was low resolution so everything was covered in layer lines, as you can see from the moulded chocolate above. It was at this time I decided to speak to the professionals.

I spoke with a number of chocolate moulding companies, but decided on Westfield Thermoform (http://www.westfieldthermoform.com/) following a visit to speak with the team. After committing to having 3 silicone moulds manufactured, each with 20 cavities, I focused on improving my chocolate skills and setting up the back-end aspects of creating your own business.

While I waited for the moulds to arrive, I signed up for a “5 day Chocolate Business Start-Up Course” at the Chocolate Academy in Banbury (https://www.callebaut.com/en-GB/courses/5827), I obtained my Level 2 Food Hygiene Certification, registered my home kitchen with the local authorities, registered the company name “Racing Chocs Ltd” with Companies House, setup a business bank account, setup the website https://www.racingchocs.com, purchased a chocolate tempering machine, a vibration table and a whole host of other equipment.

After a few weeks, I received a single cavity sample mould and attempted to cast my first official chocolate racing helmet in it, albeit without much thought to the decoration. The results were very pleasing. The finish was super smooth, it was easy to de-mould and looked great.

After confirming I was happy with the sample mould, Westfield Thermoform cracked on with creating the master piece that would be used to create my 20 cavity moulds.

Eventually I received my first finished silicone mould.

For the very first chocolates I cast in the new mould, I dusted some red and blue lustre dust into each cavity before moulding some which chocolate and filling with a rum ganache. The helmets all popped out of the mould easily and had a great finish. I once again took to social media to share what I was up to and received some great feedback from the motorsport community.

Right now, I am working on my decoration skills. Even overly simple racing helmet designs, like those of Senna and Hunts, require a steady hand, the right type of brush and decent preparation of the coloured cocoa butter. When you get to more complex designs like that of Mansell’s helmet, simple brush strokes just don’t look right and take too long, so I’m looking into using alternative techniques.

Next week my five day course at the Chocolate Academy begins, which hopefully will help me to improve my decoration techniques and product the kind of results I’m looking for.