Buttercream flower basket cake

It’s was my auntie’s 80th birthday last weekend, and I had been champing at the bit to make the cake. I’ve always wanted to try one of those basketweave cakes with flowers on top, but I’d struggled to find the right occasion to give it a try. I’d always worried it might be a little too old-fashioned, but for an 80th birthday, I think I can get away with it!

Whilst I’ll do my best to describe how I put the whole thing together, I’m not going to do a tutorial on making all the flowers. I don’t think you could easily learn to make them without the use of a video, and there are loads of great tutorials available already. I leaned how to make most of these flowers from a combination of Youtube and The Contemporary Buttercream Bible.

I will, however, give you all the tips and tricks I picked up whilst making this cake, so it will take you a lot less time and energy than it took me!

Ok, so first you’re going to need your cake. Having recently discovered the most amazing butter cake that I used for my lemon cake, I was keen to use that as the base. The sour cream makes it really moist and tender, but also sturdy enough to hold a bit of weight. It’s my new favourite cake.

As the cake design needs to be quite tall, I decided to make it in deep 8″ x 3″ cake pans, and then split those layers in half. Unfortunately, I had several failed attempts – they were always undercooked and sunken in the middle, no matter how long I left them in the oven.

After a little experimentation, I increased the oven temperature and reduced the amount of leavening, and I got the recipe to work – hurrah!

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Deep 8-inch Butter Cake

315g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 ts baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
225g unsalted butter, softened
450g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream (235ml)

Preheat oven to 190c/170c fan.
Grease and line a deep 8-inch cake tin, at least 3 inches high.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a mixer cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Stir in the vanilla.

Add half the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, then the sour cream, before adding the last of the dry ingredients.
Scrape batter into the prepared cake pan.

Bake until set, when a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Let the cake cool in the pan, then invert onto a rack.

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Taste and texture aside for a minute, this is not a pretty cake straight out of the tin. It only really works if you’re going to top and tail it, like I am.

With my 2 large cakes split into 4 layers, I sandwiched them together with some of my homemade strawberry jam (recipe coming soon!) and chilled it, ready to cover with buttercream.

I made a classic crusting American buttercream, but omitted the milk from the recipe – I needed the buttercream to last a couple of days at room temperature, and also the weather was very hot, and I didn’t want it flopping about!

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Crusting Buttercream

227g unsalted butter, room temperature
227g Crisco, or 113g Trex, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla essence
650g icing sugar, sifted

Beat butter until soft and pale
Add Trex and beat to combine

Add vanilla and incorporate
Slowly add the icing sugar
Beat for another 30 seconds once visually combined
Scrape the bowl down, and beat again for another 30 seconds.

DO NOT OVERBEAT!

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After trimming the edges of the cake to remove the dark brown crust, a quick crumb coat, and then back in the fridge to firm up again. A final coat of plain buttercream, and then ready for decoration! As I was going to be covering the entire cake in more buttercream, the surface didn’t need to be that smooth, so no painstaking perfecting of the finish this time 🙂

It is very important to plan your decoration; It’s always best to know exactly what you’re going to do before you start. I strongly recommend sketching out the position of flowers, and working out exactly what colours you’ll need, and how to minimise the amount of wasted buttercream.

For example, you can use a brown buttercream to tone down colours that look unnaturally bright, and  you can use a small amount of purple buttercream to whiten your plain buttercream to make a strong white colour. Leftover yellows can become greens, leftover pink can become red. Plan accordingly, otherwise you’ll end up having to make twice as much buttercream as you need!

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I began with the basketweave, as I wanted the flowers to really look like they were overhanging the basket. This was achieved by creating some vertical guidelines with a dough scraper, and then building the basketweave effect with two different brown colours. I avoided using a ribbed basketweave tip, as I have never liked the way those look. I used a Wilton 7 tip in both piping bags to create the weave, and switched to a Wilton 3 to create the curly border on the edge. My only regret with this cake is that I made a bit of a mess of the edge border – I should have slowed down and taken a bit more time :/

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Next, I placed blobs all over the top of my cake to mark where my flowers were going to go. I would have built the top up a bit higher to give the cake a more rounded look, but I had to transport this in a cake box to it’s final destination. I then placed my three roses, which was by far the hardest part of the decoration. I would encourage anybody new to this technique to practice extensively before you embark on a project of this scale! Putting roses on cupcakes would be a good way to practice – you will need a Wilton 104 tip. I made these on a flower nail and used scissors to transfer them to my cake.

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Once the roses were done, the pressure was off!

The rest of the flowers were piped directly onto the cake:

Sunflowers were made with a Wilton 352 ‘leaf’ tip, creating a large base and pulling away whilst still squeezing, then stopping and pulling away. Using a Wilton 2 tip, a series of piped brown dots for the centres.

Camelias were made with a Wilton 104 tip, just squeezing out static petals in a circle, in two layers. The centre is made from one giant ball, formed in one big squeeze.

The Chrysanthemum is formed with a Wilton 81 tip. The petals are formed in the same way as you would the sunflower, with thick bases and pulling up as you squeeze. The centre is a series of spikes, made with a Wilton 2 tip.

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Once the main flowers were on, the only thing left was to pipe some smaller flowers and leaves to fill up all the gaps in the buttercream, and make the spray look as natural as possible. To create the filler flowers, that are loosely based on hydrangea, I put purple and green in the same piping bag, and then carefully lined up a Wilton 103 tip to add simple 4 petal flowers. The leaves are made with the Wilton 352 tip.

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I couldn’t have been more thrilled with this cake! Not bad for first try, eh?

I am pleased to report that my auntie loved it 😀

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