The Lambeth Method of Cake Decoration and Practical Pastries
Author: Joseph A. Lambeth
Publisher: Virtue and Company
Year: 1936 (1st edition)
Size: 12 x 9 x 1½ inches (22,5 x 30,5 x 4 cm)
Weight: 2.6 kg (5.7 lbs)
Photos, total: 240
Color photos: 30
Instructions given for cakes depicted: Yes
Price range: $175-400 (prices checked july 2018)
About the book:
The Lambeth Method has to be the most famous baking book of the victorian era. Written by Joseph A. Lambeth, it is so famous, that the lavish victorian style of overpiping is often referred to simply as “The Lambeth Method”. Even though he did not invent overpiping, he sure made it popular. The book is written not for the housewife, but for the baker, and as such contains a lot of recipes, but only superficial instructions. Anyone with experience in baking from scratch should be able to recreate the recipes without too much trouble. The portions are huge, though, and must be scaled down for everyday use.
Printed on sturdy paper and bound in leather, this is one heavy book. Expect to pay a bucketload for shipping, depending on where in the world you are located.
First part of the book is dedicated to the typical bakery items of the victorian British/American bakery, most of them not meant to be refrigerated. There are a lot of recipes, all of them illustrated. Many of them use the same base recipe, such as a certain buttercream, a chocolate filling or a cake base, and the recipes are spread all over the chapters. If a recipe calls for “croquante” or “chocolate cream paste” or “filbert base” and no recipe is given, use the very extensive index in the back of the book to find it. Sometimes the recipe is hiding on the last pages of the chapter, sometimes it’s hiding in the back of the book or in another chapter entirely.
Chapter 1: French Pastries.
Recipes for various buttercream-based serving size pastries such as “cream filberts”, small discs of hazelnut shortbread, sandwiched with abricot jam and decorated with a lattice of vanilla buttercream, and “frangipane desserts”, small shortcrust pastry boats filled with raspberry jam, frangipane and topped with buttercream and chocolate in various patterns. There are “marshmallow creams”, a big scoop of chocolate buttercream, mixed with chopped marshmallows and walnuts, set on a nut-chocolate-malted-milk cookie and covered in poured chocolate fondant. Bascially every combination of shortcrust, buttercream, jam, chocolate, nuts and sugar you could ever dream of, including specialty cakes, which are cute and shaped like brussel sprouts, pigs heads, chickens, flower baskets and so on and so forth.
Chapter 2: Petit Fours.
Made with a sponge base glazed with abricot jam, with or without buttercream filling, covered in poured fondant and decorated in various ways. This chapter gives recipes for different types cakes to use as base, and for buttercreams as well.
Chapter 3: Buttercream Specialty Cakes
Recipes and instructions are given for making full sized buttercream cakes decorated with buttercream flowers and pulled caramel.
Chapter 4: Dessert Macaroons and Tea Breads
This chapter is all about cookies, which “offer outstanding sales opportunities to the alter trader” as Lambeth writes. Good to know! This chapter offers a lot of recipes for cookies made with almond paste, dried fruit, nuts and chocolate.
Chapter 5: Novelty Cakes
This chapters calls for extensive use of various copper moulds, in order to make cakes shaped like a basket of fish, or a big head of cauliflower. The cakes are nice, and the talented decorator might be able to recreate them without the use of a mould. There is a section on making your own moulds from sulphur or plaster, but I’m not sure this practise is entirely food safe. Also, a guide to blending colors.
Chapter 6: Chocolate
Info on tempering and moulding, along with some recipes for chocolate desserts and a few cakes. For example the “chocolate malted milk cake”, layered with whipped cream and decorated with panels of tempered dark chocolate. Instructions are also given for chocolate eggs, moulded half shells decorated with royal icing.
Chapter 7: Danish Pastry Specialties
Some rather elaborate recipes are given for danish pastries, along with a few base recipes. How about “banana cream boats”, danish pastry baked in a boat-shaped mould, filled with raspberry jam and a hazelnut-frangipane of sorts, and then topped with almond custard and sliced bananas. Yes please.
And thus endeth the part with all the bakery items. At page 136, the decorating part begins.
Chapter 8: Technique in Flower Making
The art of piping royal icing flowers. Detailed instructions are given, and there are plenty of pictures. Roses, sweet peas, apple blossoms, daisys, dahlias, lilies, carnations and poinsettias are just some of the flowers, you can learn to make. Instructions for piping sprays of flowers. There are also a page on marzipan roses, as well as some suggestions for cakes decorated with flowers.
Chapter 9: Decorated Border Construction
This is the chapter most people want, when they buy the book. There are 55 different border designs, some of them very elaborate. The pictures are clear, showing the progress of the overpiping, with instructions for each one. The instructions are somewhat superficial, instructing you to “pipe a bold scallop” or “use No. 9 star tube for upcurved crescent”, but not explaining in details exactly how to do this – so some knowledge of piping is required. The pictures help a lot. The tube (tip) numbers do not always correspond to modern day tubes, so you have to use your imagination.
Chapter 10: Designs For Cake Tops
It contains, as the title says, designs for cake tops, and 15 of them, with instructions provided for each one, often referring back to the previous chapter.
Chapter 11: Seasonable Cakes
Instructions for all kinds of celebration cakes. Birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, St. Patricks and so forth, decorated with royal icing. There’s also a page on Easter Egg Cakes.
Chapter 12: Wedding and Specialty Cakes
These cakes are more elaborate, some of them have two tiers and different types of ornaments, such as baskets or vases. There are wedding cakes, christening cakes, birthday cakes, bridge party cakes, anniversary cakes and bon voyage cakes. There is also a selection of presentation cakes for the young debutante, waiting to be introduced to the court or the local elite.
Chapter 13: Gum Paste Decoration
All about decorating cakes with gumpaste pressed into moulds. No freestyle moulding here. These types of decorations were usually made by rows and rows of young women sitting in factories, decorating cakes all day. Since the moulds used are not available today, the chapter is not very useful, except perhaps to serve as inspiration.
Chapter 14: Figure And Relief Piping
Instructions are provided for piping all sorts of animals with royal icing. You might already know this technique as pressure piping. There are two cake projects in this chapter as well, combining overpiping with flowers and figure piping. A small section is dedicated to writing with royal icing as well.
Chapter 15: Exhibition and Display
A series of pictures of some very elaborate and quite frankly awe inspiring cakes, the author have made for exhibitions and friends. Look at them and weep. There are also display cakes, to put in the window of your bakery shop. Remember the price tag. Instructions are provided for a the display cakes.
Chapter 16: Icings and Miscellaneous Formulæ
I love how he uses the letter “Æ”, usually reserved for Danish, my native language. This is a collection of recipes used throughout the book. Here you’ll find all sorts of icing recipes, buttercream and of course, a recipe for regular royal icing, called “decorative icing”. We are sternly told to use this icing for decorations noly – never to cover cakes meant to be eaten. For this he has a softer royal icing recipe, with added glycerine.
The last part of the book is dedicated to a large and very useful index. If you can’t find a certain recipe, flower or cake, look here.
And such are the contents of this huge book. It is, I think, a must for every royal icing enthusiast. Even if you are not particularly fond of his personal style, there is a lot to learn from this book. It is well written, the pictures are plenty and clear, and it contains a lot of tips and tricks for the baker. The section on royal icing flowers is one of the best I have seen, and his use of flowers to decorate cakes is inspiring.
The book is very easy to find. There’s always someone somewhere willing to sell it. You can search for it on eBay, Abebooks or Alibris, or simply do a Google search to find other sellers. Expect it to be expensive. The price has gone up quite a bit in recent years. I have been told that the editions published in the 60’s and 70’s have images of poor quality, probably due to the original photo plates no longer being available. I haven’t seen any of these later editions myself, so I do not know if it’s true. But 1st editions can usually be found for the same price as later editions, so there is no reason not to buy it.
The book was published with loose templates. Finding a copy with these templates is incredibly difficult as loose paper tends to get lost over time. If you find them, consider yourself lucky.
I have also been told that 2nd edition contains material not in the 1st edition. I actually went and bought a 2nd edition to compare, but found no difference between the two copies. If you find any differences between the editions, please let me know. I would be ever thankful, and also very poor.