As an English major, I am mildly addicted to books. I have a lovely library of cake decorating books, but have a select few that I seem to grab over and over for assistance. These are 10 of my favorite books that I’ve owned for years. There are many new books out there on the market, including books by Debbie Goard, Liz Marek, Shelly Baker and Valeri & Christina that I’m not including in this list today…not because they aren’t great, but because I’m focusing on the older books first!
Before you ask, yes, I have a first edition Lambeth book. I have a Nirvana book. I’m not including those, either. Why? Because they aren’t resources to which I frequently turn. I’m glad I own them and maybe someday, I will use them.
So let’s get to the books that I would grab first if I had to grab books to save. Some of these are discontinued. Don’t get mad at me…search for them. I see people selling books all the time.
1. The Art of Royal Icing by Eddie Spence, MBE.
Oh how I adore Eddie Spence. He is seriously the coolest decorator I’ve ever met. This man has been crafting cakes for royalty in England since he was young. He is a delightful 82 years young and I got to study with him this year. He impressed me even more in a classroom setting.
This book is truly a bible on Royal Icing work. He has recipes, tips, patterns, gorgeous cakes and more information than I can possibly absorb in my lifetime. Eddie has hand tremors, but if you watch him pipe, his hands do not even hesitate. He pipes exquisite straight lines. His freehand artwork and piping literally blew me away in class. Invest in this book, if none other that I list. It is that good.
2. Delicate Sugarcraft from Japan by Naomi Yamamoto
I don’t care if I can read a book, as long as the pictures are amazing. This book is in Japanese, but the titles are in English. The step by step photos are so great that I believe I could do everything in the book, just by looking. This book is NOT cheap. I don’t care. The people that I’ve shown it to have fallen in love with it instantly. Ask Dawn Parott.
This woman does great extension work. Her flowers are breathtaking. The photo gallery in this book is work the price! I bought mine from Squires Kitchen in England.
3. Painting on Sugar by Lesley Herbert & Jean Hodgkinson
I watched a demo by Betty Van Norstrand at ICES one year and fell in love with painting on cakes. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years and have experimented with almost every style. The best instructional resource I’ve found is this tiny little book. It is part of the Sugarcraft Skills Series of books. I have the entire collection and love all of them, but have a special place in my heart for this one.
The authors tell you how to do lots of types of paintings and give you great patterns. This is an invaluable resource.
4. Sugarcraft Flowers Through the Four Seasons by Rosemary Merrills
I love, love, LOVE these books. They remind me of how I was taught by Eleanor Rielander from South Africa. They are thin books, divided by season. I found three of these rather quickly in my career and set out to find the last one. The books had long been discontinued and I just couldn’t find one. I walked past a booth at ICES and there it was, my lovely book!!
These books offer step by steps like Alan Dunn, but the steps are mostly done through drawings. I don’t care. I’ve used these books more than any other flower books I own.
5. Floral Wedding Cakes by Alan Dunn
Since I was speaking of flowers, it seemed natural for me to list a book by Alan Dunn next. I have all of his books. I love his step by step instructions and the way that he colors his pieces. I think that this is the best book to buy if you are only going to buy one. It includes a wide variety of flowers that are popular in weddings.
I asked Alan what his favorite book was and he said it was his Tropical Flowers book. Like Alan, I adore the tropical flowers. I know that brides don’t order them as much, but they sure are great on competition cakes! I think every flower artist should have at least one Alan Dunn book!
6. Sugar Flowers by Jill Maythem
This is an old book. There are hardly any color photos in it. I love it anyway. It has almost every flower that I’ve ever searched for. It has excellent drawings of the steps. It has great patterns. Jill Maythem started JEM Cake Decorating Tools and has cutters that go along with many of the designs in this book. Even without her cutters, I’ve been able to follow her instructions to create beautiful flowers.
7. International School of Sugarcraft books by Nicholas Lodge
I can’t leave Nick Lodge out!! These four books were really invaluable as I was first starting my career. He covers virtually every technique you need to know about. He has great photos and patterns included. It is kind of amazing that I now get to call Nick a friend! I absolutely recommend these books!
8. Techniques in Cake Design by Geraldine Randalsome
Geraldine owns Creative Cutters (www.creativecutters.com) and I buy many tools from her. I always take her demo at the ICES convention when it is on piping. She makes piping look ridiculously easy. Geraldine has several books on the market, but this is one of my favorites. It takes extension work to a new level. If you can master the things in this book, you are a true rock star!
9. Cartoon Cakes by Debbie Brown
Actually, any book by Debbie Brown!! Debbie makes figure modeling and small sculpted cakes very, very simple. She does everything from sweet cakes for children to naughty cakes for adults (some of my favorite books!). Debbie is one of the nicest folks you will meet and she truly loves what she does. That love shows in every book. If you struggle with modeling figures, let Debbie teach you about proportions, shapes and color. Whichever book you purchase, you cannot go wrong.
10. The Well Decorated Cake by Toba Garrett
Toba Garrett has been a long time teacher and she has inspired many young decorators. While I have all her books, I consider this one the best. The steps are beautifully written and the projects are exciting. Most of us won’t get to study with Toba, but we can all take her knowledge home.
11. Colette’s Cakes by Colette Peters
Colette’s books were the first I ever bought. I’ve tried to recreate several cakes from her various books. One of my first competition cakes came from her Christmas Cakes book – before I knew that you DON’T copy cakes from books for competition! I’m still not sure why Colette isn’t in the ICES Hall of Fame. She was the inspiration for a couple generations of cake decorators. She is also incredibly sweet and humble. Her creative approach to life is evident in every book.
What are your favorite books? The ones you grab when you need an answer? What kind of book do you wish was out there? Who should write it?