I feel there is a simplistic beauty of a basket weave cake. I first learned how to do the design when I was in culinary school. We were tasked a three tiered wedding cake as part of our showpieces class. It felt like it took me forever to do. The end result was beautiful, and I was sold. About two years later a client asked me to make a cake for a family gathering and they wanted it to look sophisticated. I first though of the basket weave, but I thought to myself – it should look like a real basket holding something. The end result was a basket of berries. My clients loved it and it was a hit at the party they took it to.
I made this cake time and time again. It had become the most requested cake I had done over the years. And every time I have created it I would hear back that no one thought it was a cake; they thought it was actually a basket holding berries. A very good friend of mine loved it so much they asked that I make it as their wedding cake. And once again I was doing another three tiered wedding cake. This one was just as beautiful as the first; no doubt about it, it was a classic. So this past week I wanted to treat my co-workers and friends to a dessert that I felt expressed myself to them. (It was my last week working with them as I was moving on to something new.) So of course what else should I make them then my basket of berries cake.
So now I had to decide on what kind of cake and filling to go with the pretty basket weaved buttercream and berries. I finally decided on my Old Fashion Vanilla Bean Cake that I have been making for years. It has a very moist and buttery texture that is flecked with real vanilla beans. But what filling should I use? If you know me I always think chocolate is good for just about any occasion, and what a nice contrast to buttery vanilla cake and the tart yet sweet berries. Now that I was settled on my cake, off to the market I went to pick out my berries. I have used many different kinds of fruits and berries over time: blackberries, gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, golden raspberries, currents, blueberries, cherries of all kinds, and even kumquats. The trick is making sure you have a variety of color and nothing too big in its size. (There have been times where we I have scattered flowers among the fruit too.) We are in the height of berry season here in the North West so they were all beautiful and abundant and ended up with four different kinds. And I was off to make my cake!
Beneath is a recipe for the cake, filling, and icing. It also includes a step by step instruction of how to do a basket weave out of buttercream with pictures. Keep in mind that this is not the type of cake you can decide to make in the morning and have done by that evening. It is best to give yourself at least two days to get it done. This is because you need a day to bake, cool and chill the cake. Then, use the following day to start your icing and decorating of your cake. I hope you enjoy it and find it as fun and satisfying as I have. I hope you find the beauty of the basket weave that I have. If you do, I want to see pictures!
Old Fashion Vanilla Bean Cake
2 ¾ cup of A.P. Flour
1 Tbsp. of Baking Powder
¼ tsp. salt
6 oz. of butter (softened)
1 ¾ cup of sugar
1 Vanilla Bean (Sliced and seeds scraped)
1 ¾ cup of Milk
- Pre – heat oven to 325 degrees.
- Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.
- In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment cream together the butter and the sugar until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the Vanilla Bean Seeds. Be sure to check that all ingredients are combined.
- In three alterations add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, and then the milk. Be sure not to over mix because cake will become tough. Also be sure that all is combined.
- Pour into prepared 8 inch pan and bake about ½ hour before checking. The cake should bake at least 1 hour and 10 – 15 minutes. Let cool before removing it from the pan, and best to chill for a few hours or overnight in a refrigerator before filling and icing.
10 oz. of Semi-Sweet Chocolate (chips or chopped fine)
1 cup of Cream
- Place Cream and chocolate in a bowl of a double boiler over medium heat (there should only be an inch or two of water in the pan, and the bowl should not be touching the water).
- You want to gently stir the chocolate and the cream together as the chocolate melts. Keep stirring until your chocolate and cream are combined and are a smooth sauce, and glossy looking.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly before using. *if filling a cake ladle in the center on the layers and gently lay the next layer above it. When done filling be sure to place in refrigerator to set and form together (at least 1 to 2 hours) – if you do not chill your cake with the filling you risk your cake sliding and oozing its filling as you try to ice it.
Butter Cream Icing/Filling
2 lb. of Powdered Sugar
1 lb. of butter
2 tsp. of Vanilla Extract
Milk - a few tablespoons
- Cream together the Butter and Vanilla and then slowly add the Powdered Sugar with the paddle attachment. Once all is well combined, add in the Milk a tiny bit at a time. You will mix until the creamy consistency you desire is reached. You are looking for something that is stiff yet spreadable.
** Depending on weather conditions it will sometime need a bit more milk to get to the desired consistency.
*** For piping your butter cream you want to have your icing with a nice stiffness, but not too soft. You want to be able to pipe it smoothly out of the bag while holding its shape. If it is too stiff you risk your hands cramping up before you are half done with your cake.
Assembling and Decorating a Basket Weaved Cake
Step 1. Taking my pre-chilled cake, I placed it on the plate and/or board I want to serve it on and gave it a generous base coating of the buttercream icing. This assures your cake is coated, which helps keep it moist, and no crumbs from your cake will sneak into your final decorating. It is worth it at this point to place your base coated cake in the refrigerator so that your base coat of icing and your cake stick to one another.
Step 2. While your cake is chilling I color my buttercream for my basket weaving. I have always liked a more “natural” color. I feel this helps with the appearance of the cake looking like a real basket. I have never been a fan of a lot of food coloring, and achieve this light brown color by adding a bit of unsweetened coco powder or melted chocolate to my butter cream, but food coloring works just as well and can give you any array of colors of your choice. I also never completely mix my color into my buttercream. I feel this too adds to the end result in a more natural look and appearance. (Please note, that a very saturated color usually calls for a lot of food coloring and can make your buttercream runny and not want to hold its shape when piping. If this happens you can fix it by adding more powdered sugar to your icing to absorb the extra moisture.)
Step 3. Prepare your pastry bag fitted with a coupler and tip. The tip I like using is a star tip as opposed to a basket weaving tip because it makes your cake seem fuller in its look. Any star tip will work, but the smaller in size you go the more time you will be spending weaving back and forth. Also, too large a tip never gives the right appearance. I feel a medium tip works fine. You want to think of “Goldie Locks and the three Bears” – medium is just right! You will then fill your bag and begin to pipe. Working in one section at a time, start with one straight vertical line of icing down and then small horizontal lines of icing across it, at least a “tips” distance apart.
Step 4. You want to continue this across the entire cake, but you want to alternate each one. You want have your next vertical icing line to cover the ends of your horizontal ones and continue to have them be a “tips” distance apart too. (Be sure to look at the photos to clear up any confusion.) Continue this all the way around the cake and try to seam up your beginning and end if possible! (There are times it goes smoothly, and others when it is difficult, I will not lie!) Then pipe a top boarder around your basket weaving to make it look more finished. I choose a shell boarder, but a simple straight line all the way around would be fine.
Step 5. Place your cake back in the refrigerator to chill your basket weaving; you'll need to do this in order to continue. You want your buttercream to firm up in order to finish decorating. It is at this time that I wash and dry all my fruit well and be sure you do not have any moldy or soft fruit. While the fruit is drying it is time to get a piece of fondant ready. I keep the fondant white so that it looks like a real napkin that has been placed in the basket, it but feel free to color it or decorate it if you wish. I work the fondant in my hand a bit so that it is soft and playable, and roll it out on a powdered sugared surface. You want to roll it out thin enough - not too thick (you want it to look like a napkin) and trim it with a sharp knife in the shape of a square or rectangle. Remember that you want it a bit bigger than the size of your cake so the ends fold over the rim of your basket.
Step 6. Take your cake out of the refrigerator (your buttercream should be firm now) and gently lift your fondant off your work surface. I like to have both my hands on the underside of it, and gingerly lay it over your cake. If you work quickly enough you can mold it and play with it a bit. I like to keep a pair of scissors with me in case I want to trim it. I make sure the palm of my hand runs lightly over the top middle of the cake so that your fondant is “adhering” to the buttercream, but with my fingers I go over the edges and ruffle it and fold it so that it looks and lies like a real piece of cloth would. It should drape nicely without much of a hassle.
Step 7. Lastly, pile on your fruit. I usually start in the center and work my way out alternating the fruit and piling it up from there. I try to give the overall cake a glance to see if you have any blank spots that need filling. I personally feel this is what blueberries are perfect for. Their small size is perfect for those little blank holes that need filling. I also then place a few of your fruits on your board or plate the cake is on to give it the appearance that one or two have fallen out and your basket is overflowing. Congratulations, you are done!!!!