Author: Ernest Schulbe
Publisher: MacLaren & Sons
Year: 1930’s (9th edition)
Size: 11.4 x 8.6 x 0.4 inches (29 x 22 x 1 cm)
Weight: 630 grams
Photos, total: 80
Color photos: 0
Instructions given for cakes depicted: Yes
Price range:$50-75 for the original book, $20 for a scanned version.
About the book:
This book has a rather impressive full title: “Cake Decoration. Illustrated with Photographically Reproduced Full sized Engravings of Designs of Cake Tops, Sides, and Ornaments”.
This is why this book will often pop up in your search results if you are trying to find Borella’s “Cake Tops and Sides”.
Written in a very self confident tone, this book is for the royal icing newbie. Or rather, the baker, who wants to excel in the art of piping. Some knowledge is still required, especially given the book’s rather old fashioned language and use of ingredients and equipment no longer available and/or necessary.
There are no recipes (except one for royal icing in a huge quantity), and the pictures are surprisingly good for a book from this era. The piping is shown using dark icing on a light background, which gives much clearer pictures than light icing on a light background. The designs are very bold, a bit too much for my taste, and very different from the designs in his book “Advanced Piping And Modelling”. They are, however, perfectly suited for commercial piping. At least if you are a Victorian Baker, and that he was indeed.
Chapter 1: Necessary tools for piping and decoration
This chapter starts out with a big drawing of the tubes used in the book, followed by a description, as well as a plate with examples of which kind of royal icing work you can do with each one. There are instructions on folding and filling piping bags as well as some condescending words about his competitors. Gotta love those vintage books.
Chapter 2: Preparing icing
This short chapter is about actually making the royal icing, the main concern being how to get the icing perfectly white. Not so much a concern for us today.
Chapter 3: How to ice cakes
How to cover a cake with royal icing. Tip: you can’t do it without a revolving cake stand. Also known as a turntable.
Chapter 4: Preliminary exercises
Lots of pictures of various exercises, mainly using the round tubes. Since this is what I always tell people they should do – that is, practising the basics as often as possible – I was thrilled to see it featured in this book. It is a great way to improve your skills. It’s also incredibly boring, but no pain, no gain.
Chapter 5: Full designs – birthday cakes
21 designs for birthday cake tops and the corresponding sides. Some of them says Merry Christmas, though, but I guess Christmas is a birthday, after all. The designs increase in complexity and skill level needed throughout the chapter, but none of them are too complicated. The piping is hurried and they are obviously not designs meant to spend too much time on. Still, they can serve as inspiration, and you certainly don’t need to be quite so slobby when piping them yourself, since you are not standing in an assembly line decorating a cake in less than ten minutes.
Each cake has two pages. One full page is dedicated to a huge picture of the top design. The pictures are very clear considering the age of book, owing to the use of dark icing instead of white. There are no progress pictures, but since the designs are rather simple, it’s easy to see whats going on. Some of the designs have piping that goes from the top and down the side. This is marked at the top of the design, or at the bottom, as you can see on the picture above. This helps you figure out how to combine the top and the side. A great feature indeed!
The instructions are short but surprisingly elaborate. Instructions for the picture above includes the following sentence: “Divide cake into twelve. Place the inscription in the centre before commencing the edge border. With star tube No 5 you pipe the S shape exactly on the edge of the cake between each of the lines, bringing one end of each S on the top and the other on the side of the cake, as letter A will indicate.” Of course you still have to know what an S shape is and all that, and also which S shape he is talking about. And then the instructions end with “embroider in the usual manner”, so all good things do indeed come to an end.
Amidst the instructions sits a picture of the cake side. As you can hopefully see on the picture above, the letters A, A and B are marking the spots corresponding with the letters on the top cake picture. Brilliant.
Chapter 5: Wedding Cakes – Chiefly Netting
Here they come, the wedding cakes. 9 designs and as the title says, chiefly netting. Or cushion work, as some call it. It’s not a lie. Every cake features netting. Luckily, netting is explained at the beginning of the book, in chapter 4.
The cakes are more elaborate with a higher skill level needed than in the previous chapter, but otherwise it’s the same deal. A cake top, a cake side, instructions that are pretty elaborate and clear pictures. A few cakes even have progress pictures to show a certain feature. The cakes are bolder than in the previous chapter.
One design even features a chain link border, which I think is pretty damn awesome. I have to try it out some time.
Chapter 7: Chocolate Medallions for Cake Centres
One page on making chocolate medallions, as well as some talk about which colors to use when you pipe flowers on them. Appearantly people did not like green back then, and one should never ever use blue or violet. I guess I have very bad taste according to the people of the Interwar Period.
Chapter 8: Flower-Piping
A very short chapter on flower piping. Mainly talk about which tubes to use for what, no pictures provided.
And with this chapter we have reached the end of the book. It’s not a big book, but it’s a very useful one. It was written for the beginner, and while it still requires basic knowledge of piping, it is a good choice as Your First Vintage Royal Icing Book. Especially if you can’t afford the Lambeth book. It is easy to obtain, since facsimile prints (that is, a scanned version) of the original is available for $20 or so on Abebooks. Keep in mind that I have never seen one of these facsimile prints, so I can’t vouch for quality. An original will set you back around $50, and it’s easy to find a copy on Abebooks or Amazon.