Friday, August 9, 2013

How to make a Grand Piano Cake

Here's the hardware you will need:
1/4" wood board 16"x20" (Piano bottom)
1/4" or 1/2" wood board 17"x24"  (Floor)
1/8" wood board 16"x16" (Piano Lid)
1/2" wood board 8"x4" (Piano Lid supports)
4 small hinges
1" wooden dowel or 3 wooden candlestick holders 6" high each (Piano Legs)
cabinet nubs
1 chopstick
black paint
contact paper
4 wooden candlestick holders 3 1/2" high each (Bench Legs)

Step 1: Build a cake board:

First: Print out a life size paper template of your piano.  I got an image off the internet and printed it on 4 pages and taped them together.  I used this for everything.  This helps figure everything out and helps it all fit.  Also, figure out the ratio of your cake to a real piano so you can use actual dimensions when possible.  I wanted the front of my piano to be 16" across so I divided the actual piano size by 3.6.  Now I know what to divide the height and bench by to make it look right.  I drew a line across my template to show where I wanted the lid to be.
Use the template to trace out a base out of the 1/4" wood board.  Fold along the piano lid line and trace out a lid from the 1/8" wood board.  Use the scraps to cut out a 3"x6" rectangle for the bench.

 Cut these out using your saw and cover in contact paper.  I really like using contact paper for my cake boards.

Next: Cut the 1/2" wood board into 3 sections.  6"x4" and 2 1"x4" sections.  These will hold your piano lid.
I didn't take pictures of this, but if you are using a dowel, cut 3 sections 6" each, or find 6" wooden candlestick holders.  I used a 7/8" dowel and I thought it looked too thin.  You could go as wide as 1 1/2"
Paint everything black.  The bottom of your base board and your lid should be painted black.  The side that will face up should be covered in contact paper

 Go outside and paint all that black with a clear coat so the paint doesn't scuff off and all the frosting and powdered sugar will wipe off easier.  Go ahead and give that a second coat the next day. You really want to be able to wipe frosting and powdered sugar off of the black.

Set those boards up, screw them all together to see what it looks like and if you need to make any adjustments.
Yes, I hadn't painted my piano legs at this point, but if I were to do it over again, I would paint them first, then assemble. Sometimes I get too eager to put stuff together.
Here are the hinges screwed into the 4x6 board.  I used an additional scrap of the 1/8" wood so my screws wouldn't go through the top.  Also, that 1/8" makes the boards even when you add cabinet nubbies to the other wood supports.  Don't forget to paint that scrap under the hinges.
Good, now while you have everything together label which dowels go where and what direction they go in.  When you put them back together with everything covered in cake, you are going to want them in the exact same position they are in now.  Of course if you are absolutely perfect and all of your holes are dead center and all of your edges are perfect, then it may not matter which one goes where.  But just to be safe, label them.
Ah yes, and drill a shallow hole large enough to fit the end of a chopstick into.  Then paint it black.  You don't want to be drilling and painting your supports after you have cake on the board.  Nobody likes sawdust in their cake.

Step 2: Decorations that can be made well in advance.
 I cut out a music stand and sheet music a 9 days early so it would be nice and stiff and stand up on their own.  I curled the corner of a few pieces of music just to give them a little movement.
 I like to set my fondant in front of a box fan to help it dry.  The white fondant (MMF) was ready after 2 days.  The black fondant I purchased (Duff), and even after 9 days, it had a little give, but was stiff enough to stay.

 Once the fondant was hard, I added the music notes.  Use edible marker and a ruler.

 I also made the name for the front of the piano.  To make the letters, I rolled fondant into skinny snakes, shaped the letters, let them dry and painted them gold.
 Here are what I like to call the "guts" of the piano.  I let these dry so they would be stiff when I put them in.  They were going to hover over parts.  (I spent a lot of time looking at pianos)

Oh yeah, cover your floor in marbled fondant ahead of time too.

Step 3: Bake your cake.
 This is a 16" square.  It's such a big cake.  I baked 2 of these.  That thing in the middle is a heating core.  I really like using it, but I don't think it is required.  16 inches of cake is really hard to work with, you could do eight 8" square cakes instead, but then you would be baking all day.

 Once your cakes are baked, and cooled, plop them on that board.  (ok, this is really tricky, but you will have to figure it out.  I actually took the lid and all side supports off, put the cake on one layer at a time, roughly trimmed each layer before adding the next.  When they were all on, I trimmed them together and dirty iced everything.  After it was all dirty iced, I cut out small sections of cake to make room for the supports on the sides.
The front of your piano should be 4 inches tall, and even with the supports.  The rest of the cake should be 3 1/2 inches, about 1/2" lower than the supports.  This leaves room for the piano "guts" and to make it look amazing.  My cake was about 1" lower.  Next time, I'll do it a little higher.  Also, I don't have a picture of this, but I put about 1/2" of cake along the front for under the keys.

When you get to this point, chill your cake overnight.  Cold cake is so much better to work with.

While the cake is hanging out in the fridge, make the bench.  Screw the legs onto the 3"x6" board you cut from the scraps.  Put 1/2" of cake on and dirty ice.  Take a straw and poke holes where you want the button indents to go.  Cover in fondant.  trace lines in the shape of an X in the divots and add buttons.

Step 4: cover in fondant

Heads up, this cake takes a lot of fondant.  I used 4 pounds of fondant and still had to roll it thinner than I would like.

Start in the front, cover the front in black fondant.  Not the sides, just the front where the keys go wrapping it up around the top and into the inside.

I rolled out fondant for the "guts" and traced lines for the strings of the piano.  Then I cut out the other parts, poked some holes, traced some lines and painted them gold with an airbrush.  Then I put them on top of the cake.  I should have put the sides on at this point, but the sides scared me, so I did something fun instead.  I made the keys.

 I use a template for everything.  I printed out a keyboard to scale and used it so my keys would all be the right size and equally spaced.

 Add the keys and the piano name.  I feel better when I can put pretty things on.  Now, on to the sides.

I rolled out a 5"x46" piece of fondant, rolled it up and with the help of 6 hands, stuck it to the side of this cake.  Here I am trying my best to smooth those sides, but some of those 6 hands were not super delicate and left finger prints.  Fingerprints are not very easy to get out of the sides of cakes.  Oh well, the fondant is on and we are not doing it over.  I added side curves to the side of the keyboard.  I also added a black strip around the inside of the piano to support the fondant that has to free stand.

Quick, get that cake in the fridge so all that fondant can firm up.  You don't want anything slipping of the sides or sagging.  Ok, it will sag anyway, but after it chills for a while, straighten everything out and trim everything even along the top and bottom.

Cover the lid of the piano in fondant too. There is some cake rule about everything visible that is not a support is supposed to be edible, otherwise I guess you could just paint the lid black.  I covered mine in fondant.  That way it will also match the rest of the piano. 

Step 5: Put on the top.

Time to screw on the top.  I took a box and trimmed it to the exact height of the piano so I could lay the lid on it while I screwed in the hinges.  After that, I added the cabinet nubbies to the other supports for the lid to rest on.  The nubbies I used were rubber so I drilled out the center of one of them and stuck it to the underside of the lid to stick the chopstick into when the lid is propped up.

Oops, I forgot to paint my chopstick so I had to dig out all my paint again.  Fortunately it is a really warm day and it only takes about 20 minutes for paint to completely dry.

Now, screw the piano to the floor, add the music holder, sheet music and bench and you're done.  Piano cake in 5 easy steps (ok, only step 5 is easy)


  1. I just stumbled across this and it's amazing! Would you be willing to sell this stand or sell one similar?

  2. This is crazy good. You are amazing.

  3. Hello. Thank you for you blog, got to make one of these this week, would not have know where to start if it wasnt for this post. Only problem is finding a template online, could you help me pls and let my know where you found yours.
    Marileze, South Africa

  4. Looking to do a similar cake in January. This is amazing

  5. This creepy ass painting is brought to you by the lobby of the Historic Faust Hotel in New Braunfels, Tx. Sydney Pianos