If it were possible to give this 10 stars, I would do so in a heartbeat. This is definitely one of the best royal icing instruction books in which I have had the pleasure to learn; I joyfully add this to what I thought was a pretty complete library of royal icing instruction until this came along.
Having several volumes of royal icing volumes in my baking library, I wasn't quite sure if I needed this particular book to add to it. But never one to turn away from any baking source without giving it a good glance, I was extremely happy to have gotten this. It is not one that seems to be easily accessible, and to that point, I needed to purchase this through a seller rather directly through our friends here at Amazon. I would hope they would rethink that option and add this to their selections.
This is a large, heavy, luxurious, and voluminous book of royal icing education; to say that it has everything, is an understatement. You are given what seems to be, for intermediate cake decorating folks like myself, a thorough and precise methodology of how to use and create detailed, exquisite, and delicate works of art using a most friendly medium. To which point, I would say that this also incorporates much of the Australian/Lambeth style of cake decorating to which so many wish to aspire.
The author/instructor is one Eddie Spence, who hails from Edinburgh, and through most humble of beginnings, made his way to Master Baker with all the accomplishments, glories, and accolades befitting of such a man. His list of clients range from the commoner to royalty, even making the wedding cake for Prince Charles and Princess Diana. His love and passion for this art has garnered him much deserved praise as well as a following by students who stand in line to be in his classes.
As stated previously, the book is large and heavy with chapter divided into Basics, Tutorials, Cake Tops, and Cake Projects. The photography is wonderful, and while always welcoming more, most of the photo's are large, very close-up, and detailed. The weights and measurements are both in metric and English; every once in a while you might find a difference in terminology, but not so much so that you wouldn't understand. That is why I feel that this would be an excellent book for intermediate to advanced students, though a novice would find this a real treasure after doing some thorough reading and perhaps have another reference book on the side.
The Contents are:
The Biography of Eddie Spence; Before you begin anything, this part is a "must" read. In order to both understand and appreciate the man and his immense talent, you need to understand where he began, how his life and experiences shaped him, how he became the Master that he is now, as well as who, what, and how events influenced him. I found this part fascinating, as only a "baking foodie" would!
PREPARATION AND BASICS
Equipment and Edibles: It is deeply appreciate when a numbered listing of equipment or ingredients is displayed along with a corresponding photograph of same said equipment. The "Edibles" are edible products used in making royal icing projects, such as glazes, marzipan, egg whites, food colorings, etc.
Recipes: He uses a good, rich fruitcake as the foundation for his projects. There are many other batters that one can use so this is obviously something left for the baker to decide. There is also information on prepping and baking of the batter, portion guide, how to cut a cake depending on it's shape, and a wonderful size chart that gives you the quantities of batter needed, dependent on the shape and size of the cake; an invaluable guide. Now, as for the Royal Icing itself, there are 2 types you can use (dried egg whites or fresh egg whites). I was duly educated on the 5 types of Royal Icing possible, all dependent on what project you have in mind and the type of fluidity or stiffness needed for the project. There is also space dedicated to the difference of using either machine or hand-beating in making Royal Icing.
Techniques: The basics of torting and covering cakes with marzipan, royal icing, or sugarpaste. How to make "plaques", how to make and fill a piping bag, coloring with food colors, doweling a cake, and gilding round out this section.
This is the heart and soul of the finesse of Royal Icing artwork and is the section that I spend the most time reading, learning, and enjoying. It would take pages of space to adequately describe everything so I will be brief.
Pressure Piping: Delicate flowers like lily-of-the-valley and roses, grapevines, doves, doves in flight, doves holding delicate ribbons in their beaks, swans, mother swan and duckling scenes, stork with baby; this was just exquisite work!
Combining Drop Line Work with Pressure Piping: Linework like scrolls, scallops, C-scrolls, S-scrolls, 3-D flowers, 3-D piped baskets (wow!), etc
Scrolls: Further sudy on greater scroll and rope work; building on scroll work
Pressure Piped Figures and Motifs: Ducks, horses, eagles, lambs, baby booties, Christmas trees
Piped Flowers using an Icing Nail: Beautiful and delicate flowers built on flower nails
Lettering and Numerals: The beautiful and delicate ability of numbers and letter that remind one of Victorian cakes and pastries.
Run-outs and Collars: people, architecture of building a gazebo's using netting, those lovely stand-out collars on cakes that look too perfect to be real.
Embroidery Techniques: How to make projects look "embroidered".
Oriental String Work: Making absolute beautiful "fences" of royal icing to surround a cake! Exquisite fantasy!
Extension Work: This chapter made it all complete; learning the Australian Method/Lambeth Method! Lovely and fine bridgework and extension lines!
CAKE TOPS: How to make those lovely cake tops with scenes for special occasions such as birthdays, holidays, etc. The one that captured my heart is a 3-D scene of a yellow baby chick in a pink flowered-covered bonnet, walking along a sun-filled grassy path, with a little budding/flowering tree behind her and a small little brown fence ahead of her with "Happy Easter" wishes written so delicately on the top. Or perhaps a musical stave with notes and wishes for a "Merry Christmas" with 3-D flowers, or a smiling Santa perched on atop "Christmas Greetings".
CAKE PROJECTS: Lovely wedding and party cakes to desire and inspire.
Yes, I am a cake-decorating fool and I give no apologies. This was yet another wonderful book that needs to be a part of your cake library. You will make this one of your most treasured acquirements. Thank you so much Mr. Spence!!