This was a cake I made for a friend’s 60th birthday party, he’s music mad and plays the piano and is also known as The Spooky Organ Player (on this site, at least!). Some of you might remember his Spiced Pumpkin Soup from last year, perfect for the coming months. His wife, Mandy made only a couple of requests, that I somehow incorporate the red trousers that he’s famous for and that the cake have a music theme.
As David loves baby grands, I went on a hunt for one that would fit the cake, in the end having to decide between a brown baby grand and a black non grand. Well, you can see what I went for! The piano man himself was made out of hardened sugar paste. One of these days, I’ll do a step by step for the sugar paste figure too. I forgot to take pictures when I was doing this one!
I always use Madeira cake for celebration cakes because it’s denser, therefore easier to work with and lasts a whole week easily. Here, I use a simple buttercream icing and jam to fill, and homemade fondant for covering, even the modelling paste was just homemade hardened with gum tragacanth. However, by all means, use shop bought fondant but for the buttercream, I urge you to make your own, it’s miles better! I don’t believe in shop bought buttercream and cake and cookie mixes when the real thing is so easy to make. The cake here is huge, the pan I used was 12 inches but really, scaling down is not a problem. See the Madeira Cake page for cake pan conversions.
Now, the instructions below are set out for the novice, so I have tried to include as many handy tips with the instructions as possible. I’ve also tried to be as detailed as possible. Everything I’ve learnt, I’ve learnt the hard way – I’ve tried to include all that!
Covering the cake board – in this cake it’s essential as it completes the look. If you don’t fancy all that fondant, finish the cake on the board, then roll out a layer of fondant and drape the paste around the board. Follow the other instructions the same way (see below).
Using rolled fondant/sugarpaste – always knead it, adding a little white vegetable fat, for a couple of minutes before each use to warm it and make it pliable. This will get rid of any “tightness” and ensure that your icing doesn’t crack as you lift it and cover the cake. The adding of the fat is, in my opinion, essential if you want to prevent cracks. If you’re not sure on thickness, use spacers, 4 or 5 mm (about 1 eighth of an inch) is perfect. I know we all like less fondant on our cakes but a too thin fondant has a greater tendency to stretch as you lift and drape, resulting in tearing. I find that coating the surface with a very thin layer of white fat is better that icing sugar when rolling out the fondant. Use a smoother and your hands to smooth out the paste but make sure that your hands are clean and dry to prevent marks on the paste.
Another handy tip? Long nails and fondant do not go together!
How long will the cake last? – easily a week (kept in airtight container), 2 if it survives that long! BUT this will depend on your buttercream too. If you add milk to buttercream which I do, I love evaporated milk for an extra creaminess, then I would say 3-4 days, tops. This is because the icing will start to change in texture, not nice! So, when I’m making a big cake (my girls are very imaginative in what they want!) or when it’s a cake on order, I skip the milk, for obvious reasons.
For stacking cakes, check out the Dowelling Cakes page.
Things you’ll need:
1 x 12″ round Madeira cake
smooth/seedless strawberry or raspberry jam
1.5 kg white fondant icing
500g black fondant icing
1 x sitting down piano man
1 x piano (preferably black to complete the look)
1 x piano stool
1 x 15 inch cake board
1 x 6 or 7 inch cake card (the piano & figure will need to sit on this)
white vegetable fat like Trex for kneading and/or rolling out the fondant
palette knife (offset is always best, you know, the one that angles up/down from the handle)
small knife like a paring knife
small clean paint brush
Covering the Board
1. Knead about 500g of white fondant until smooth. Roll out, using spacers if needed, to a thickness of about 4mm.
2. Moisten the 15″ cake board all over with a little water or edible glue.
3. Lift the fondant with your rolling pin and drape over the cake board.
4. Gently smooth the fondant with the smoother in a circular motion.
5. Using a small sharp knife (I use a paring knife), cut the excess fondant, keeping the edges vertical, in line with the board. Leave to dry.
Filling the Cake
2. Place the cake on a flat surface (on baking paper to save cleaning up). Very carefully, slice the cake in half by using a very long/large bread knife, cutting into and around the cake as you go along (Picture 1). Don’t cut straight across as you might end up with uneven cuts. Cutting around the cake allows you to keep the knife level constantly. If it helps, insert toothpicks around the cake, equidistant from the base of the cake. Use a ruler and measure!
3. Carefully, lift the top half and place it on the side.
4. Using a palette knife, start filling the cake with the buttercream. Using a to and fro movement, spread it all over the cake, up to the edges.
5. Follow with jam.
6. Very gently, lift the top half of the cake and place over the cream/jam, aligning top and bottom as much as you can.
Covering the Cake
The cake is first covered with a thin layer of buttercream that’s called a crumb coat. This acts as the glue that holds the fondant to the cake. Of course if you’re only using buttercream, the crumb coat will smooth out the crumbs, allowing a smooth second coat.
1. Dilute the buttercream with about half-one tsp of milk/water and mix well. A lighter buttercream spreads better.
2. Using your spatula, cover the cake completely with the buttercream. As this is the undercoat, we don’t have to worry about making it pretty.
3. Knead and roll out the rest of the white fondant, to about 4mm thick. Remember to grease the surface with a little white vegetable fat before rolling out.
4. Make sure your cake is very close by. Again, using your rolling pin,( i.e., roll about a quarter of the fondant onto the pin) lift the fondant and drape it gently onto your cake.
5. Using your hands, fit the fondant on the cake, lifting and draping, not pulling. Using the the side of your hands, tuck the fondant at the base of the cake.
6. Smooth the top with a smoother and press down around the base of the cake to mark a cutting line.
7. Using a small knife, cut the excess fondant off.
Decorating the Cake
Here, the piano sits on a small cake card which then goes on the cake. We need dowels in the cake for support. Please see page for Dowelling Cakes.
1. Once the dowels are in place, knead and roll out the black fondant paste as before, to a thickness of about 4mm.
2. Moisten the small cake card with water or edible glue and drape the black fondant over it, again smoothing it down and cutting along the edges, dead on to the card.
3. Place a tiny blob of moistened fondant on each of the dowels tips and moisten a little of the small square made by the dowels.
4. Place the now covered small cake card on the large cake, centring it. Press down gently.
5. Place the piano and the stool lightly on the black cake card. Once you’re happy with their positions, press down ever so lightly to mark. Bear in mind that the piano man will be sitting on the stool, make sure you have enough space.
6. Take the piano and stool off and using a small paint brush, light apply some edible glue on the feet. Place them back on the black card, pressing down to set.
7. Apply some edible glue on the stool and sit Mr Piano Man down, placing his hands on the piano keys. Phew!
8. Now, you want to line the base of the cake and the edge of the cake card with a thin layer of black fondant, to bring it all together. If you have a sugar shaper, great, use it. If you don’t, start with a sausage length and keep rolling out and along the length of the paste until you get a long, thin length. Moisten the edge of the card and the base and lay the thin, fondant length all around.
As you can see, I’ve left it simple and just finished it with some musical notes on the white board and some words.
You could go cut out lengths of black fondant to resemble piano keys and stick them all around the sides of the cake to resemble a piano to make a bigger statement.
If you have any comments, you can always reach me at:
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See you real soon!