Whats Your Favorite & Least Fave Cake Decorating Book/s?

Decorating By wrightway777 Updated 1 May 2008 , 5:28pm by tiptop57

wrightway777 Posted 25 Apr 2008 , 3:44am
post #1 of 33

Ok - I really have high hopes for this post. Please respond with your most favorite books (even cake recipe books if you like) and least favorite. Be fair though and give reasons. I'll start with a few of my faves (in no particular order):

Toba Garrett's books - well written and I think her French Vanilla Buttercream is divine. I loved comparing her site's prices with the pictures in "the Well Decorated Cake" book.

Confetti Cakes by Elisa Strauss - beautiful / excellent - staple for any library

Sweet Celebrations by Sylvia Weinstock - I think of her as the Julia Childs of Cake decorating (its an oldy but goody)

Martha Stewart's Baking Book and her 'Wedding Cakes' book - the wedding cakes are visually stunning. The book is exquisite

All of Colette Peters books - a wealth of knowledge reside in those pages

Least Favorite:
Culinary of Arts Cake Decorating Book....oh please why didnt they do some hard intricate stuff? They are supposed to be cutting edge. I was sooooo disappointed - I kept turning to the cover to see if it was really written by them. (dont razz me too hard about this viewpoint - and please dont hex my next clients' cake) icon_wink.gif

Who I wish would write a book:
Ron Ben Israel - Oh I would savor every page if he did!

32 replies
Petit-four Posted 25 Apr 2008 , 11:54am
post #2 of 33

Hi Wrightway....found your post.

I too love the Martha Stewart Wedding Cake book -- the photos are so large and clear your can see every last detail. The range of styles is great too --woodland cakes to super-formal. Only negative: if you like lots of step-by-step instructions, not the book for you. But if you like to learn by looking, this is the book for you! icon_smile.gif

For recipes, I collect old cookbooks (from the 1920s-40s) and modify the recipes. I've found some pretty neat flavors that way. One idea: "Black Eyed-Susan Cake" from a 1931 book: alternate thin layers of orange cake with chcolate cake. YUM!

Also, Marion Cunningham's Fannie Farmer Cookbook has lots of cake filling recipes which I haven't found other places (except CC of course). And some really good cake recipes too.

HerBoudoir Posted 25 Apr 2008 , 1:17pm
post #3 of 33

Favorite baking books I keep going back to:

The Cake Bible
Baking, Dorie Greenspan
Bittersweet, Alice Meredith
Perfect Cakes, Nick Malgieri
Basic to Beautiful Cakes, Roland Messnier
Baking at Home, CIA
Cakes, Maida Heatter
The Professional Pastry Chef, Bo Friberg
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, CIA


Toba Garrett's books
The Essential Guide to Cake Decorating
Cake Art, CIA


Anyone have a good step-by-step beginning gumpaste for dummies type book?

lchristi27 Posted 25 Apr 2008 , 1:30pm
post #4 of 33

This is awesomme! I'm always wondering which ones to spend my money on. The last one I got was the "Well Decorated Cake!" Seems to be a very popular one on here, definetly the best one for my money.

I love Toba!

My husband bought me a $75.00 Art of Pastry Chef book for Christmas, not worth the money!

lovetofrost Posted 25 Apr 2008 , 1:45pm
post #5 of 33

I can't remember the name of the one and only one I have. I will have to get it when I got to my shop. But I was wondering where you get most of your books? Thanks

wrightway777 Posted 27 Apr 2008 , 5:35am
post #6 of 33

Thanks all for your responses!

I did a search and heres some short cut on this topic (some about 2 yrs old) so you dont have to wait for the "search" - I think they are good threads:


this one mentions a great tip about mags:

this one mentions Peggy Porschen:

tiptop57 gives a GREAT list in this one:

wrightway777 Posted 27 Apr 2008 , 5:51am
post #7 of 33

lovetofrost - check out where I got some of my books on my post at this short cut (its at 4/25 @ 4:17am) for tips on getting the best deal at the the noted site:


playingwith sugar in that same post/thread also mentioned getting on Barnes and Nobles and Borders list for e- mailing and they send you printable discounts for any purchase in my thread above (worth reading).

I love Amazon (I am a Prime member so I get free shipping)- I dont mind if their used either (as long as in Great condition). I like their sneak peaks on the books too!

Gotta get to bed its almost 2AM here. TTFN

Petit-four Posted 27 Apr 2008 , 5:27pm
post #8 of 33

Thanks wrightway -- does anyone have Kate Manchester's book (The Perfect Wedding Cake, 2002) -- if so, how do you find it compares to the Martha Stewart Wedding Cake (2007) book? I am looking for great "design" books, rather than how-to books.

For how-to, I was thinking of getting Nicholas Lodge's book, Vol. III -- any reviews?

Also, I am "bumping" this so Deld can see it too. icon_smile.gif

bobwonderbuns Posted 27 Apr 2008 , 5:41pm
post #9 of 33

I love all of Kate Manchester's books as well as Dede Wilson's books. Toba's are good, Martha's Wedding Cake book is good for visual inspiration. For Gumpaste I like anything by Nick Lodge and Scott Woolley and Alan Dunn. Lindy Smith and Peggy Porschen are my faves for cool ideas. Kerry Vincent has a great wedding book out with some fab techniques. (Shall I go on?) icon_rolleyes.gificon_lol.gif

Petit-four Posted 27 Apr 2008 , 5:47pm
post #10 of 33

Thank you, bobwonderbuns... my Amazon order is processing! icon_smile.gif

Edited for spelling.

bobwonderbuns Posted 27 Apr 2008 , 5:48pm
post #11 of 33

Oh yes, there's also a new book out called "Cake Art" by the CIA -- with some awesome stuff in it. I just saw it a Barnes and Noble the other day and just had to have it... icon_rolleyes.gificon_biggrin.gif

bobwonderbuns Posted 27 Apr 2008 , 5:51pm
post #12 of 33

One thing I do recommend though is if it's at all possible, LOOK at the book before you buy it. There was one author who did one fabulous cake book which I just love and her next book came out and I went to Barnes and Noble to look at it -- Terrible!!! I didn't buy it. But there's no way I would have known that since it got rave reviews on Amazon. You might want to keep that in mind.

nefgaby Posted 27 Apr 2008 , 7:01pm
post #13 of 33

I love Peggy Porschen, Lindy Smith, Debbie Brown, Toba Garret and Colette's Books, I love each and every one of their publications!

I also love the cake bible and the cake mix doctor for recipes. Martha Stewart's wedding book is awesome too! And her Baking Hand Book! Love love love it!

Ohhh... and Geraldine Randlesome, she has some amazing books on stringwork! Also anything from the whimsical bakehouse for recipes.

Now for least favorite book, I would have to say Kate Sullivan's, sorry but it was a waste of my $ (maybe it is beacuse her style is just NOT my style, ugly!)

wrightway777 Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 2:58pm
post #14 of 33

bobwonderbuns - really? You thought the CIA's Cake Art book was good? With all the other great books that you mentioned, I have to be honest (I saw it in B&N) - I was a little disappointed IMHO and a little mad that they didnt put more detail into the book. Like really intricate stuff (fondant smocking, Ron Ben Israel quality fondant flowers, etc). They are supposed to be the best...we are supposed to aspire to their "greatness."
Oh dear hope I didnt stir up a hornets' nest!
I guess it depends on what level you are....but your cakes are beyond that book (IMO).

luddroth Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 3:12pm
post #15 of 33

Toba! Toba! Toba! And I just bought a great little cupcake book entitled, surprisingly, "cupcakes" by Shelly Kaldunski. Some really delicious recipes (for home baker -- each recipe makes just a dozen cupcakes) and great idea for combos. Decorating is simple for this crowd, but cute.

vteventrider Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 3:12pm
post #16 of 33

My faves are more baking books since that is my strong point so I love the Cake Bible, the Cake Book, All About Cakes, and Joy of Baking.

I have some decorating books, but I really want the ones by Toba Garrett.

My Cakes to Dream On by Collette Peters has visually stunning cakes and I love looking to them for inspiration but it will be YEARS before I could come close to some of those techniques.

I read them all ahead of time at B&N so I know what I am getting.

Thanks for this great thread and all the links to the other great threads on this topic.

HerBoudoir Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 3:18pm
post #17 of 33

I have Cake Art, and I like it as well.

You have to understand that CIA has two "tracks" of books: Professional books for culinary students that are meant to be kept as references for when they become professional chefs, and a line of non-professional books. Cake Art is of the non-professional track. The non-professional CIA books (there are quite a few) are more aimed towards an ambitious home cook wanting to learn really solid basic techinque, and I think Cake Art accomplishes that.

I have several of their professional line books, but not the Baking and Pastry book (yet!). I also have The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg (which, incidentally, also doesn't get into this style of cake decorating).

I took an Intermediate Cakes course at a community college that has a very reputable culinary program, and they don't teach you much about specifically "cake decorating" there either. We played around with fondant and such, but it was more European-style cakes and again, basic technique. The course instructor flat out told us that they don't spend a lot of time teaching advanced piping and fondant techniques because they felt it was more important to focus on the basics (i.e. how to make the cake taste GOOD, how to torte and fill, etc). The "gilding" were skills you would as a pastry chef pick up along the way, or there were non-college classes you could take to learn more advanced skills.

Petit-four Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 3:22pm
post #18 of 33

Yes, I think Toba's shorter book is a great value for the price. Very detailed (though she favors the formal style) and wonderful recipes.

If someone could help me out -- do you think
Lesley Herbert's Complete Book of Sugar Flowers or Simplifying Sugar Flowers by Alison Procter is a better book?

And -- if anyone wants to start a Martha Stewart Wedding Cakes book discussion forum -- I could just oooh-and-ahh over that book for hours (I have no life icon_rolleyes.gif ). I love the variety of styles, though I tend ot favor the more elegant/classic look in there. I looked through Colette Peters's book in a bookstore, and while I am in awe of her work icon_surprised.gif , I don't see myself working in that style (a little luster-dust heavy for my taste).

Rzrback Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 3:34pm
post #19 of 33

What a wonderful topic to start! I'm just a newbie to decorating. Just finished Wilton Course 2 and will be starting Course 3 Tuesday. I've been looking at my local library for books and have checked out several on Amazon for my wish list, but haven't bought any yet because I prefer to look at a book in person before purchasing it. This thread will help me know which ones to buy if I can't look at them first!! Thanks so much to everyone on CC, I LOVE this site!

So far I have seen a few polymer clay books that look like they would be great for making figures and animals. One I have right now is Create Anything with Clay. I like it because it has stuff my kids could make too. And I can't wait to get my hands on a book by Debbie Brown to look at in person!

tiptop57 Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 3:39pm
post #20 of 33

My thoughts:

Any molding author or clunky or shopworn designers i.e. Debbie Brown, Lindy Smith, Colette, Martha Stewart thumbsdown.gif

Any author who with stands the test of time or pipes or creates sugarpaste flowers i.e. Lambeth, Nirvana, Hanneman/Marshall Herbert, Proctor, Dunn, Venn thumbs_up.gif

I usually don't buy anything written in the USA or by Wilton and go straight way to the Ebay UK sight and buy used Brit piping or floral sugarpaste books. As it is now, any newly published modeling author has designs that tend to be shop worn just as soon as the book is printed because everyone and I mean everyone is copying that style as soon as it's out of the chute. Reminds me of how Disney took over the world and no princess can be a princess unless she is made by Disney. icon_biggrin.gif

Anddddddd since nobody pipes anymore, (what's with that icon_eek.gificon_eek.gificon_eek.gif ) all the old piping styles are new to this three year old designer.........

And as for baking or recipe books, I don't own any, I have my Grandmother's nonpublish fabulous recipes and a couple a greats from this site to round out the repertoire.

And Petit-four I own both the Proctor and Herbert books your listed and have to say they are both equally fabulous.

mommycakediva Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 4:03pm
post #21 of 33

Like this tread, as I only have wilton books and it gives me a good idea of what other book out there I might want to get!I'll have to make a list and give it to my hubby for gift ideas! lol

jenlg Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 4:06pm
post #22 of 33

I don't have any real books beyond the course books and wilton yearbooks. But, I do have Cakes & Cake Decorating by Angela Nilsen, Sarah Maxwell, & Janice Murfitt. It's a few years old but I love the tips and its got a lot of ideas for the "normal" cake ideas.

Petit-four Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 4:17pm
post #23 of 33

Thank you, tiptop57! I've been practicing my bridge and extension work -- hopefully getting better.

A great little book (only cost about $2.99) is the Ateco Cake Decorating Reference Manual -- it has just images of all you can do with each tip & amazing, clever borders. It's full of just beautiful classic, Lambeth-style techniques that are hard to find now. I use it all the time.

bobwonderbuns Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 4:45pm
post #24 of 33
Originally Posted by wrightway777

bobwonderbuns - really? You thought the CIA's Cake Art book was good? With all the other great books that you mentioned, I have to be honest (I saw it in B&N) - I was a little disappointed IMHO and a little mad that they didnt put more detail into the book. Like really intricate stuff (fondant smocking, Ron Ben Israel quality fondant flowers, etc). They are supposed to be the best...we are supposed to aspire to their "greatness."
Oh dear hope I didnt stir up a hornets' nest!
I guess it depends on what level you are....but your cakes are beyond that book (IMO).

You didn't stir up my nest! icon_razz.gif That's why I suggest that people LOOK at the books if at all possible, because recommendations are purely subjective. What I like may not suit another's taste. I've seen plenty of Cake Art books at Barnes and Noble that sound fab but when I've looked through them -- uh uh! icon_cool.gif So it's basically whatever rocks your world. Hope that helps! icon_biggrin.gif

wrightway777 Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 6:05pm
post #25 of 33

Herboudoir - good point! Then they are due to have a spectacular professional "cake decorating" book to come out. Even if its just to give a few instructional viewpoints of all known decorating mediums.

tiptop57 - whoa - fresh perspective! Your viewpoint is the topic to think about today! All the ones that you didnt care for...honestly I dont think anyone really "reads" those book (for the ADHD in all of us) its purely for visual ideas for me. Well I would have to admit I do have an order for Martha Stewart page 44 in July. Which I will be 'swag piping my head off.' I love/long for the client that allows artistic liberty (found one for June). Its so much more fun!

bobwonderbuns - whew-thanks! But, I know what you mean about the "other books" you have to wonder...how in the world did they ever get published. Not even worth lining a cake board with their rubbish. icon_smile.gif

New point - another person who I think should write a book is Geof from Charm City Cakes. Someone thought (I think its in one of the links on this post) that they wanted Duff. No, I think Geof would be better. I'm on a structural/architecture kick lately.

Petit-four Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 6:46pm
post #26 of 33

There is certainly a difference in what defines "cake decorating," hence our gravitation to certain styles.

I agree- good piping skills have gone to the wayside (I certainly don't feel I'm "there" yet) -- and like learning a musical instrument, there is a certain discipline in learning to do pressure control, etc. I think it teaches you a discipline which can extend into fondant-work, impressions, and the like.

One area I think many books lack (and please point out any books that ARE good at this) - is basic color theory, leaning to use textures well, and how to do design work. I guess editors likely discourage it. But it's often the design of a cake, rather than fondant or blown-sugar pyrotechnics, that make a cake a true (edible) work of art.

Ok....off soapbox. madhatter.gif

wrightway777 Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 8:17pm
post #27 of 33

petit-four - you're so right. As far as texture/color: Art Books, Art classes... its the only thing that works. Expanding ones library from outside our "normal" field. One can start out by simply buying a good (not the small one) color wheel and buying beginner art books. I have a watercolor one that isnt "too" bad that i use for painting flowers onto fondant (teaches depth of color layment). I plan on buying more art books.

as far as piping....I was lucky there is a great teacher where I am (2 hrs south of Atlanta) and she has been in the cake/cater business forever. Mostly my local "is" piping. But the real intricate stuff....thats what I am after. My area is just now 'coming into trend' with all the fondant flair.
So...I see both kinds of clients. Traditional and non.

Funny you should mention pyrotech...I just bought the bigger blow torch this past weekend. icon_smile.gif

tiptop57 Posted 30 Apr 2008 , 8:51pm
post #28 of 33

Whoa gang, I am a practicing sugar sculptor first and exhibit my work in many galleries and took those art classes and got my BFA. Ya need to know that you don't have to go to art school to get what you need! There are some very fine books with color theory, design and techniques out there. But hence, they are the older Brit/Aussie books and you have to do some research.

It took a bit but I just purchased the "hard to come by" Confectionery Design Book by Bradshaw and I'm still waiting on it.

Arranging Floral Sprays by Herbstritt which is Sugarpaste sprays, is a great one for techniques not usually found in any Johnny-Come-Lately hot designer of the moment book.

A couple of my older books have color theory.

I am also waiting on a book for advanced piping in which someone in England had to purchase for me and is posting tomorrow, because I can not find it anywhere online!

The material exists, you just have to educate yourself and move on from the "picture" books from the new hot designers today and look for really good instructional books thus you can begin to design your own cakes and not copy others. (However, when you begin that is what you do, copy lovely designs.)

And I highly recommend that any newbie purchase the *Sugar---craft Skills Series books to start. (The word Sugar---Craft is hypenated due to CC blocking the word.) And purchase any Alan Dunn book for gumpaste flowers.

Petit-four Posted 1 May 2008 , 12:36am
post #29 of 33

wrightway and tiptop -- maybe we'll have to form a "design and theory" subgroup. icon_confused.gif Gosh, sounds like cake grad school. No, really -- I'd love to learn from you and any others. I have have a design/art background too. I'm pretty new to cakes, though.

Thanks again for the suggestions -- I think there are a lot of older books/decorators out there who know so much.

Great thread, wrightway! thumbs_up.gif

lorijom Posted 1 May 2008 , 2:16am
post #30 of 33

I started decorating 34 years ago and at that time piping was the only way to go...so my strength and experience is in all of the classic piping styles. I started collecting books back then and I cherish some of my classic Wilton books. They are my go to books if I'm trying to come up with a new border or need a template for something.

A few in my collection:

Wilton modern cake decorating 1957
The wilton way vol. 1 1974
numerous Wilton Celebrate wedding cakes from the 70's

Some of my more modern - for techniques I'm learning

Spectacular Cakes, Mich Turner (I'm a fan)
Cake Decorating with Sugarpaste - Sylvia Coward, very informative
Colette's Cakes - good not my favorite but useful for occasional reference.

I lost count of cake books at 35...but we all have to have a vice right

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