Contrary to what you may believe based on my choice of careers, I do not enjoy piping. Well, I kind of enjoy piping. I enjoy it when I can do something relatively simple that yields fantastic results. Enter: the buttercream basket weave!
If you're new to cake decorating you might be recoiling in fear, and if you're a seasoned pro you might be rolling your eyes. I'm here to reassure both of you: the basket weave is easy and it can be cool. I promise.
How to pipe a buttercream basket weave
All images via Erin Bakes
- Crumb-coated layer cake (I'm using a 5" tall, 6" round cake.)
- Bench scraper or other straight edge
- 5-6 cups of extra buttercream for piping the basket weave
- Gel food coloring in whatever shades you like
- Piping bag
- Basket weave piping tip (or piping tip of your choice)
- Large star piping tip
- Drop flower/Russian piping tip
- Large leaf piping tip
Prepare your cake
Technically you could pipe a buttercream basketweave on any size cake you like, but it does look best on cakes that are 3"-5" tall, in my humble opinion.
Your crumb coat color will peek through your finished basket weave. Choose the same color for a solid effect, like me, or go with a different color for a two-tone look. This could be particularly effective if you're trying to make it look like your cake basket was full of something like flowers, money or baby chicks.
The basket weave will adhere best to a cake that's been freshly iced. If it's been a while since you crumb-coated your cake, give it a little spritz of water to make it sticky again.
I also suggest sitting down while piping a basket weave. You'll have better control over the piping bag and will tire less quickly than if you were standing. Position the cake so that the area you're piping on is at eye level.
A turntable is not necessary. You may even find that you prefer not to use one so that the cake stays still while you're piping the horizontal lines.
Choosing your piping tip
Fill a piping bag fitted with any tip you like (or none at all) with the shade of buttercream you'll be creating your basket weave with. I'm using the classic basket weave tip, which has one flat side and one side with tiny teeth and grooves. I'm using the flat side of the tip for a more modern look.
You could also choose a simple round tip, star tip, leaf tip or really any tip that will weave! Each tip will yield a different look. Experiment first on a plate or cutting board before moving to your cake.
Choosing your color
Traditionally basket weave cakes are done in white, yellow or brown. I've chosen this untraditional cheery shade of cement gray (haha!). Actually, I chose this color because I recently purchased a number of gray felt baskets to organize my living room and I'm in love with them.
Take this as a lesson in things not needing to be what everyone expects them to be. Experimenting with color can transform traditional cake designs into modern masterpieces.
Pipe the basket weave
This look can go wonky real fast if the basket weave isn't kept in order from the start.
Step 1: Mark a vertical line
I am notoriously bad at piping a straight line, so I help myself out by marking a vertical line first. I suggest you do the same. A bench scraper is the perfect tool for the job, but any straight edge will do.
Step 2: Pipe your first vertical line
Pipe over the line you marked with the bench scraper. I'm starting the first strip at the bottom of the cake and piping up towards the top. This prevents the basket weave from appearing like it's "puddling" at the base of the cake. The little tails at the top will be covered with the final buttercream border and flowers.
Step 3: Pipe horizontal lines over the vertical line
Starting at the bottom of the cake, pipe tiny horizontal lines over the first vertical strip. Leave one piping tip's width distance between each strip. The strips should be about 3 times the width of your piping tip.
Don't stress yourself out over super-exact distances. This technique is one that feels awkward as you start, but then things fall into place once you've piped a line or two. It's also very busy, which is great for hiding flaws.
Step 4: Mark and pipe the next vertical line
Use the bench scraper to mark another straight, vertical line directly next to the ends of the first row of horizontal strips. Truth be told, I wish I would have made the line above a little closer to that first row of strips. I'm proof that this will look cool even if you make a mistake or two (or ten). Pipe a vertical strip over the line.
Step 5: Add more horizontal strips
Pipe horizontal strips over the second line, this time nestling the strips between the first row of strips. Start with the tip of the piping bag almost tucked under that first vertical line, then apply pressure as you move the bag over the second vertical line. Release pressure and pull away as the tip returns to the surface of the cake.
Step 6: Repeat!
Repeat these alternating rows of strips all the way around the sides of your cake. Take breaks as needed to prevent hand cramps and piping fatigue. This technique requires a little patience.
Step 7: Finishing the basket weave
When you get close to the end, it's time to make some decisions. Since my weave is pretty tight, I'm opting to squeeze two more rows of strips in this last space. That also allows me to end with the horizontal strips in the right position. It's not the biggest deal in the world if you end up with lines that match up.
Pipe the top border
Since you've just completed a piping marathon, take it easy on yourself and pipe the border with the same tip you used on the sides. If you want to switch up the tips at this point, then I suggest adding a coupler to your set up before filling your piping bag.
To create a pretty, braided border start by holding your piping bag directly over the surface of the cake with the flat side of the piping tip facing away from you. Apply pressure to the bag and pipe a small strip of buttercream about the same length as the smaller strips piped on the side of the cake.
Start with the tip toward the farthest edge of the cake and pipe the strip at a slight angle so that it ends about ½" in from the edge of the cake.
Start the second strip at an opposing angle so that the end of this strip overlaps the end of the strip before. Work back and forth, crossing the ends of each strip, all the way around the cake until the border is complete.
Fill your basket with blooms
Once your buttercream basket weave cake is complete, you have an endless number of options for filling it. Flowers always seem like the right call to me. I love the way the bright colors pop against the modern dark gray basket. Here are a few previous posts with techniques you can mix and match to fill your basket:
- Piping hydrangeas and rosettes
- Piping buttercream peonies
- Piping buttercream garden roses
- Piping buttercream leaves
- Piping buttercream succulents