Cake Tops & Sides – Commercial Designs
Author: S.P Borella
Publisher: MacLaren & Sons
Year: ca. 1910 (uncertain – book contains no date)
Size: 8.2 x 8.1 x 0.6 inches (20.8 x 20.5 x 1.5 cm)
Weight: 1.1 lbs (0.5 kg)
Photos, total: 68
Color photos: 0
Instructions given for cakes depicted: Yes
Price range: Expect to pay around $100, or more. Although I have seen a few selling for as low as $20.
About the book:
Cake Tops & Sides is a small, blue book that is 100% percent about decorating with royal icing. As the title suggests, all of these designs are commercial. That means that they were meant to be put on real cakes, sold for money, because they could be executed rather fast. If you can pipe as fast as the bakers from back then, that is. I sure can’t.
The book contains no recipes or instructions, apart from the 34 cake designs. The designs increase in complexity throughout the book. The pictures are good, most of them show the design clearly. A few are somewhat overexposed, but all pictures are clear enough to be useful.
Each design has its own chapter. There is a full page photo of the cake top as well as a template with measurements. It’s nice to see the templates actually embedded in the book, instead of loose pages, and the instructions on how to create them yourself are very clear. There are measurements and instructions to use different sizes of round cutters as markers. Very practical and low key.
The instructions for the piping itself are superficial. There is no basic information on technique, and you’ll have to guess which piping tubes are used from his mentions of “small rope tube” and “small plain tube”. The pictures provided makes this easy, though, especially if you have previous experience with this style of cake design. The pictures show the progress of the design as well, which is very helpful. Of course the first few designs do not have this feature. I guess they were deemed too easy for that kind of coddling.
On the next page of the chapter you will find a picture of the cake side design, usually some rather elaborate stuff that makes you wonder how they manage to pipe something like that on a vertical surface. You’re going to need a tilting turntable for this, just saying. But again, the pictures are mostly clear and show progress on every design except for a few deemed to easy.
This book is easily one of my favourites. The designs are simply brilliant, and requires quite a bit of precision and patience, especially for us impatient neat freaks. It surprised me, when I first received the book, how difficult the designs were to execute as neatly as he does. Don’t get too lost in the details. Just pipe. Pigheaded insistence at recreating the cakes in this book will make you a better decorator. At least that’s what happened to me.