Day 3 of the Squires Kitchen 5 Day School with Guest Tutors was a day I was really looking forward to, despite the fact the class would be in my least favourite medium for cake decorating, Royal Icing. I really don’t like working with royal icing, royal icing and I don’t seem to get along. Piping is a skill I definitely need more practice in and that I have the most trouble with. BUT, the teacher of today’s class was going to be none other than Eddie Spence MBE, a veritable legend in the cake decorating world and widely considered to be THE master of royal icing. I have Eddie’s book, The Art of Royal Icing and the things the man can do with royal icing amazed me, so I couldn’t wait to see him piping in person and learn from him.
Eddie did not disappoint, he was extremely charming and personable, and watching him pipe calligraphy, flowers, doves, swans, storks and all manner of beautiful decorations with royal icing was awe inspiring. The man certainly knows his art! Here are some of the samples he showed us:
We started off the morning with a lesson in how to make royal icing. Afterwards, Eddie demonstrated how to create a piping bag from baking paper then showed us how to drop a line with royal icing. Then Eddie got us to fill small piping bags fitted with a 1.5 tube with some royal icing and asked us to do drop some lines, loops, double loops, and other swirly line patterns to see what we could do. Quite frankly, I couldn’t do much! Eddie showed me how to hold the piping bag really high above the board to get more control and a smoother line when it was dropped which really helped. He was very good about going round to each individual and helping them one on one.
Next up was some pressure piping. Eddie showed us how to create dots, ovals, tear drops, and some simple flowers. Then he showed us some more advanced pressure piping such as grapes, different kinds of flowers, love birds, doves, swans, and a stork carrying a baby. Watching him so quickly and easily pipe such beautiful creations was amazing!
Next it was our turn to try our hand at pressure piping. We started off with the simple shapes he first taught us then gave some of the more advanced piping a try. Here are my best attempts at flowers and a swan:
Eddie also shared with us some tips and tricks not involving royal icing, such as how to create a very quick rose from flower paste using 5 circles.
We covered a 10 inch cake board with sugarpaste then it was time for lunch. After lunch, we embossed the sugarpaste discs with a fuschia flower pattern, then after another demonstration from Eddie, we set about piping using petal, leaf, and 1 and 2 tubes. Here is my embossed disc before piping:
We used the number 1 tubes first to drop lines for the stamens, then the petal tubes to create the flowers, then the number 2 tubes to create the base of the flowers, and the leaf tubes to create the leaves under the flowers. The larger leaves were filled in with green royal icing and a petal tube. Number 1 tubes with green royal icing were also used to drop lines for the stems. Eddie had to help me a lot!
Next up Eddie showed us shells using a number 44 star tube, and some simple barrels, followed by overpiping on the shells and barrels with a number 1 tube. We then piped a barrel design with C scrolls at the base of our sugarpaste discs and shells around the border of the whole disc. Eddie then piped an inscription for us with white royal icing which we were supposed to overpipe in pink but we ran out of time. Eddie very quickly overpiped for us so we could take home a finished product. Speaking of which, here is mine (that’s my Mum’s name on it, this seemed like the kind of thing she’d like):
I have to confess that Eddie did a fair bit of the work on mine to show me how it was done, then I did the rest. I did do all the shells by myself though and was very proud when he told me my shells were “very good”. They ought to be as that was just about the only piping skill I had coming into the class!
I enjoyed watching such a world class artist at work, but I have to say, I’m still not a fan of piping or royal icing. Eddie says it’s a dying art and that it’s up to us to keep it going. Sadly, I don’t think I will be perpetuating his art. While his work is very beautiful, I don’t have a lot of demand for this kind of decoration, and I have to give my clients what they want.
On a side note, I also managed to sit on my board of practice piping and got royal icing all over the seat of my jeans! See, me and royal icing really don’t get along.