Monday, July 28, 2008

Notes from the past


Piano lessons were a huge part of my childhood, like many Asian-Canadians of my generation. Beginning at around age four, weekly lessons became torture sessions due to our prototypical scary old piano teacher who shall be called Mrs. T. Mrs. T. seemed like she was 100 years old and since I had to wait by myself in her sitting room during my sister's lessons, her house too was a source of fear and mystery. Her ancient perfume and a wooden carved statue of what I now realize was St. Francis of Assisi still haunt my memories.


Music did not become fun until high school when, admittedly, I was a band geek who thrived in concert and jazz bands and choir ensembles. I played the flute, sang alto, and briefly learned the trombone for two months in order fill a vacant third trombone seat. Switching to a fabulous new piano teacher also allowed me to actually enjoy playing the piano. Technique and expressivity never came easy to me; I was not a musical savant and solo public performance was exceedingly anxiety provoking. Ultimately, completing my ARCT Performance Diploma at the dinosaur age of twenty will always be one of my proudest accomplishments, especially because I broke my left pinkie finger four days before my exam and had to defer it one year before finally passing with honours. So traumatizing.


I always credit my early exposure to piano as why I am very fond of fine motor tasks which require dexterity and coordination. The smaller the better, is my motto. Making this birthday cake was ridiculously entertaining and provided great satisfaction. The piano was built from an 8" x 8" x 2" square cake placed on its side with pastillage legs, keyboard, sheet music, and framed portrait of the birthday girl. Because she is a panda fanatic, I decided to have a well-dressed panda as the pianist, constructed from carved Rice Krispie treats and then covered with fondant.


The piano cake concept was adapted from one found in The Essential Guide to Cake Decoration, a good book on basics with cute design ideas. The panda was purely freehand and took almost the entire day to make. I am particularly fond of its carefully formed snout. When I heard that the birthday girl refused to let the panda be eaten, I was secretly relieved. Wouldn't you be?

18 comments:

bunny said...

You have such talent! I love looking at your creations they are wonderful.

Jessica Park said...

Your sugar work is awesome!

I am a pastry cook in the SF Bay Area and I stumbled across your blog. Wow, I really love the small details of the piano. (I used to play piano too.)

Celine said...

this is absolutely outstanding.

Allison Says said...

Wow! That's unbelievable. Way to go!

Jacqueline said...

Wow, that is an awesome cake!
I completed Grade 10 piano at the RCM and never finished preparing for the ARCT Performer's exam because of other commitments at high school.
Congratulations again on persevering with music and on the coolest piano-playing panda ever. (I'm also glad the birthday girl refused to let the panda be eaten!)

Jocelyn said...

super cute!! i just looked through the rest of your blog/flickr and i love your cakes and photos :) i, too, am an asian-canadian from vancouver and was tortured with piano lessons from a young age. now that i'm older i totally appreciate it, though!

did you go to a pastry school in vancouver or are you self-taught? i'm looking to take some courses somewhere but i don't know where.

noobcook said...

This is amazing! beautiful! :)

Bridgett said...

Your small detail work is unbelievable! The piano was just amazing especially when it comes with memories. You have such talent.

Tartelette said...

This is so adorable! Well done!

Coffee & Vanilla said...

This is sooooo beautiful!!! You have real talent :)

miri said...

I admire your patience! The outcome is so worth it, it's absolutely stunning!

Mike said...

Fantastic cake, well done. I wish I could make cakes like this. Shouldn't the final note be a minim (half note) as the piece is in 3/4 and the opening anacrusis will cancel out the 3rd beat of the final bar?! ;)

Anyway, I'll stop being a geek...! Well done again on a great cake.

Hillary said...

This looks so professional! You're so talented. I wouldn't want to eat the panda OR the piano. I would just stare at it all day.

Patricia Scarpin said...

This is lovely, a labor of love. And I'm with the little girl! :)

akemi said...

Hi Charmain!
I am the birthday girl. Thanks so much for this cake!! It is unbelievable and I was moved so much when this cake appreared in front of myself, almost crying. I can not believe you combine perfectly my three treasures. Panda bear, my portrait and piano. I will never forget this moment and your cake made my birthday!

Aran said...

beautiful!

Charmaine said...

Thanks all for your lovely comments.

Jocelyn: Yes, I went to pastry school in Vancouver at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver (www.nwcav.com)

Leslie said...

You are completely AMAZING!
Your attention to detail is breathtaking