The Latest Trend In Cakes Is Dripping With Old-World Charm

Delicious, intricate detail is back. Let us reintroduce you to Victorian piping.

Lambeth cake with cherries

Courtesy Larissa Neto

Larissa Neto, founder and owner of Bakey Bakes, an Atlanta-based boutique bakery, was searching for a cake style for a particular cake she was making for a client in 2020. “It was themed after Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and I wanted to mimic her yellow dress with the swoops and ruffles,” says the buttercream artist. She recalled the types of cakes she grew up with in her native Portugal. “I used to see them as old-fashioned, but I didn’t realize at the time that by modernizing the colors and the shapes of the cake it would have such a wide appeal with contemporary audiences,” she says. 

Because she enjoyed making that Belle cake so much, she did a flash sale of mini cakes in the same style to test if there was demand in Atlanta. They sold out instantly. She knew she was on to something, and it turns out she was ahead of a national curve of more overly ornate cakes. You might have seen them called Victorian piped cakes, Lambeth cakes, or overpiped cakes, but the concept is all the same: an intricately decorated cake, with multiple piping styles. As these cakes rise in popularity, here’s what you need to know, including a brief history, why they’re popular, and how to tackle one at home. 

Tiered Lambeth cake

Courtesy Larissa Neto

What Is A Victorian Piped Cake?

While the ornate style is popular, it does go by several different names. The overpiping or Lambeth method was a cake decorating technique used in Europe in the 19th century, traditionally made with royal icing, Neto explains. “Lambeth” in particular refers to an American cake decorator. “These intricate and symmetrical techniques were developed to wow people in the same way the intricate rooms and architecture were also done at the time,” she says, which is why they can also be referred to as Victorian piping. “Excess was all the rage!” she says. 

Modern Lambeth cakes mostly use buttercream, which Neto attributes to taste: “I imagine a mouth full of royal icing is pretty unpleasant as it is rock hard when dry. However, some people still use royal icing for the more intricate and thinner Lambeth cakes.”

Green Lambeth cake

Courtesy Larissa Neto

Why They’re Suddenly Popular

Search once for a Lambeth cake on Instagram and you will be inundated with dozens of accounts showing off delicate piping. Neto theorizes that there’s a cake revolution in the works. “People dislike the taste of fondant and are bored by that perfect, clean look,” she says. There’s also the vintage element at play. “There’s true value being attributed to products that appear more handmade and are reminiscent of times where care, love, and labor were put into things we consume.

Shelby Bower, the Houston-born baker behind cake decorating online destination The Sugar Scoop, says she’s seen an uptick in brides asking for this very romantic style. “I’m so excited to use these skills again. Brides are inspired by timeless beauty and there’s nothing more beautiful and classic than a detailed and skillfully-piped wedding cake,” she says. 

Jason Reaves, the executive pastry chef at Salamander Resort and Spa, is also seeing it in wedding cakes, sometimes fitting of a venue’s historic vibe. “We made this style for a couple that wanted to have a cake that was inspired by the wedding cakes that their parents had at their own weddings 40 years prior,” he says. 

Be forewarned, though, that a true Victorian piped cake requires quite a bit of intense labor on the baker’s part—which will come through to you in the price. “It depends on the size of the cake, how intricate the piping layout is, or how many colors it has,” says Neto, who says that it can take anywhere from an hour to four to five hours to pipe a cake in this style.

Brown Lambeth cake

Courtesy Larissa Neto

Why Southerners Love Victorian Pipping

Southerners lean into this trend perhaps more than others because of a love of formality, history, and nostalgia. “I grew up [ in Portugal] seeing ornate historical architecture and a longing for those days when so much care was put into things. I suspect it's the same here in the South,” Neto says. “We marvel at houses and buildings that remind us of how things were before the sterility of the modern era. We attribute so much value to those things and romanticize them because they’re no longer common.” 

Bowers agrees: “Southerners are drawn to beauty. We love romance and combining beauty with hospitality…it’s very similar to embroidery, cross-stitching and crochet,” she says. “Southerners appreciate these methods of creating beautiful art that takes time and patience.”

Lambeth Cake with cherries

Courtesy Larissa Neto

 How To Tackle One At Home 

A true Lambeth cake might be better left to the professionals, but Neto says that anyone with a piping bag and some patience can try their hand at home. 

Steady As She Goes 

Neto says that practicing steadiness is key, as you need to have a super steady hand to work the sides of the cake. “Gravity is your enemy,” she says. “If you lose pressure on the buttercream in any way, or if an air bubble cuts the stream, your line will immediately fall off and break the flow.” Mayra Garcia, an instructor who has developed a Lambeth cake course available at Fairfax, Va.-based bakery Fran’s Cake and Candy Supplies, also emphasizes pressure as a pain point. “Figuring out the pressure takes some practice and experience. Once you figure it out, it’s not too technically difficult.” She likes that it’s a very repetitive motion, which allows for wiggle room to make things up as you go, advising you to pace yourself. “Sometimes you can get sloppy with an achy hand,” she says. 

Black Lambeth piping

Courtesy Fran's Cake and Candy Supplies 

Keep It Flowing 

Another thing to consider: the flow of your icing. Bowers offers that high-quality piping tips and icing of the correct thickness—traditional royal icing or not–are extremely important. “You also have to tip your take at a certain angle to get the string work to lift off the cake just right,” she adds. Garcia says that preparing multiple bags of icing ahead of time will help to regulate the temperature of the icing, which can change with the warmth of your hand. “Alternate bags to manage the temperature, which will maintain the right consistency,” she says. Garcia notes that a common mistake is overfilling bags, which leads to hands tiring faster. “If you’re nervous, I recommend starting with the shell tip and sticking to it. There are so many designs you can make with just that one tip,” she says. 

Lambeth cake

Courtesy  Larissa Neto

Map It Out

Reaves advises measuring and mapping out the design fully on the cake ahead of time to save you time and effort in the end. “Make tiny marks in the frosting with a small knife or toothpick that you will pipe over so you know where to start and finish each repeating design,” he says. “Practice ahead of time by piping on a piece of parchment paper that has been wrapped around a cake pan or fake cake tier.” 

Most importantly, though, have fun, as modern Lambeth cakes are meant to represent whimsy as well as nostalgia. “Even a ‘bad’ Lambeth cake can be pretty,” Neto says.

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