ZPi Logo "Serving the Paranoid
since 1997"
Lyle Zapato

Cake Decorating Of Yesteryear

Lyle Zapato | 2005-01-20.1800 LMT | Random Found Thing | Food | Retro

Figure 1: The seductive appeal of scalloping.

From Magic for Your Table... Cake & Food Decorating By Wilton, published in 1971. It's sort of a combination cake decorating HOWTO and product catalog from Wilton Enterprises, Inc. (now Wilton Industries). Could there be retro-wackiness inside?

Of course not. I just like cakes.

The cover.

The softcover book welcomes us to the creative world of Wilton by first introducing Mr. Norman Wilton, a man of worldly sophistication and impish good looks:

NORMAN WILTON, president of Wilton Enterprises, Inc., director of the famous Wilton School of Cake Decorating, internationally recognized author and lecturer. Mr. Wilton has traveled the world, teaching and exchanging decorating ideas with the foremost decorators and chefs.

Rest assured, dear reader, that you're in good cake-decorating hands!

Three caballeros from Mexico, headed for successful decorating careers, collaborate on a wedding cake as Norman Wilton and Manuel Lopez look on.

After meeting our host, we get a bit of history of Wilton Inc., from it's start as a family-run cake decorating school in 1929 Chicago, to the opening of the beautiful and modern Wilton Chicago plant in 1964, to it's 1971 state as an international decorating-supply powerhouse employing over 325 people world-wide with offices in Hong Kong and Chicago. We also get to meet other top Wilton executives and learn their secret executive powers:


R. G. Andersen, sales manager and buyer ... long time high level bakery business pro. He knows what you need.

J. H. Hull, controller, accountant and legal counsel, whose 28 years in the public accounting field serves us well.

William Lythberg, personnel and office manager. A man with a special knack for making the office run smoothly.

Vincent A. Naccarato, assistant to the president, handles special assignments and acts as Mr. Wilton's good right hand.

(I'm not up on 70s corporate lingo, but I think that means Mr. Naccarato played "Bosley" to Mr. Wilton's "Charlie". Mr. Naccarato has since risen to Chairman and CEO of Wilton Industries. Congratulations, Vince!)

Michele Ojer

Next, our friendly tour guide Michele Ojer -- a "recent import from England", wearing a warm, welcoming smile and a skimpy yellow crocheted number -- gives us a peek at the bustling inner workings of Wilton Enterprises, including how our orders are processed:


Fingers fly as the mail room girls open, sort and distribute the hundreds of letters arriving at Wilton's daily.

Former top Wilton decorator, Manuel Lopez, now operates Wilton's efficient new 1130 IBM computer.

(Good to know that if the tech sector takes another dive, System Administrators can always fall back on cake decorating.)


The famous Tuk-N-Ruffle, a Wilton original, is turned out by just 4 women, working on 8 machines. These lacy strands of ruffle and ribbon trim hundreds of thousands of cakes.

Jack Chenoweth is boss of our injection molding department—here he checks our new Reed-Prentice 9-ounce automatic as it turns out another new Wilton product.

(Note hippy flower decals on the Reed-Prentice 9-ounce automatic. These were standard at the time.)

Two teen-age students put the finishing touches on an enchanted cottage -- proving that the easy Wilton method can make almost anyone an expert decorator!

With this corporate introduction out of the way, we get into the meat of the book: Cake decorating. Besides a comprehensive (and not really amusing) selection of helpful tips on making flowers and fancy borders with icing and lots of repetitive wedding cakes, there's pages of more creative, themed cake ideas, like this one:

Deadly olive cake

Olives are deadly, so they say, depending on where you find them!

At a cocktail party, you'd better keep count of how many you eat! And while you're counting, enjoy your guest's reactions to this clever cake.

Martini-soaked free verse isn't your thing? How about a doll with an edible dress:

Doll cake

Too risqué? Need something for the kid's birthday party? Not to worry, good ol' Norm has you covered:

Freaky Raggedy Andy cake

That'll scare the little snots quiet so you can get back to your drinking:

Cake with bottle of booze baked in

The last third of the book is the Wilton Decorating Bazaar [sic, I'm assuming] which lists all sorts of little plastic doodads -- cars, hula girls, spacemen, Indians -- that Wilton sells to put on the top of theme cakes, along with theming suggestions.

For instance, your teenager might enjoy a "Teen Swinger Cake" ("all occasion decorative sheet cake really turns them on!") which features dancing teeny bopper figurines, miniature records, and things like "Boogaloo!" and "POPCORN!!" written in icing. And we can't have a teen swing party without a "groovy" band:

'Go-Go Swingers' band

Or for "youngsters with a yen for adventure," how about a cake with their favorite superhero, Catman!

Batman... wait, no, CATman!

Holy copyright-infringement, Catmen! It's kind of hard to see in the picture, but I think they might have painted whiskers on him. "Catman" comes with six bats, since, of course, bats and cats often flock together.

And finally, in the black and white dregs at the end, there's this:

Suggestive football player

If you enjoyed this post and want some more Wiltonian goodness, check out this selection of photos from The 1974 Wilton Yearbook of Cake Decorating on Cate's Garage Sale Finds.

End of post.