My Mother-in-law’s birthday is today. When we got the flu over Christmas, I wasn’t sure if we were going to recover in time for me to do a cake for her. But, we got healthy just in the knick of time and the stars aligned just right, allowing me to bang this cake out in 2 days for her. Normally my cakes take a minimum of 3 days for me to complete because I’ve got 3 kids 4 and under. It’s taken me years to learn how to efficiently make cakes in the stop-and-go rhythm of motherhood. It’s hard to do cakes in piece meal, because once I start, I go into a zone and don’t want to be interrupted. Except, I’m ALWAYS getting interrupted.
Here’s what 2 minutes of cake decorating looks like for me now: put the baby in her seat; cut a hole at the bottom of my icing bag; tell the 2 year old that she can’t stand on a chair to watch, and take the chair that she dragged into the kitchen back into the dining room; put coupler and icing tip in icing bag, and maybe even put icing in the bag; get snacks for suddenly starving children; pipe a quarter of basket weaving on the side of a 9″ cake; answer 4 year old’s questions about how I’m doing this technique; swat 2 year old’s hand away from the cake, as she’s standing on the chair that she dragged back into the kitchen.
It can get frustrating very quickly, because my thought process is being CONSTANTLY interrupted. I’ve lost count how many times the 2 year old has messed up the side of my cakes, because she was eating the icing off when I wasn’t looking. I typically lose sleep when I do a cake because it’s just easier to work at night when the girls are asleep. So why do I do this?
Because I love it.
It’s one of the only things I do for myself anymore. It’s a much needed creative outlet for this hibernating actress. So I learn to fully think out my designs before I start so that I know exactly what I need to do when I get in the kitchen. I research on my phone while I’m nursing, absorbing as much information from YouTube as I can on new techniques I can try. I’ve learned to break the whole process up into steps, and to spread the steps out over days, because it’s going to take me longer than a professional in a bakery. I let go of my desire to tunnel vision, and accept the interruptions. I make extra icing in anticipation of having to fix whatever the 2 year old is going to mess up.
Before this cake, I had never done a basket weave, piped a buttercream rose, or piped a buttercream leaf. This is by far the most technical cake I’ve ever endeavored. But every time I do a cake, I do something new, so that I’m always learning. Sometimes I crash and burn like I did with my mom’s piano cake (which I plan on redoing for her one day). But sometimes, like today, I hit it out of the park.
I really wanted to do a flower themed cake for my mother-in-law because gardening is her passion. She has one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen and she meticulously plans out each and every flower, tree, and bush. The over zealous part of me wanted to create a basket of different flowers, but I knew I didn’t have the time for it. Different flowers mean different colored frostings, which means more work. Plus, I would have had to learn how to pipe more than one type of flower. In 2 days. No way. I picked roses because they’re so classic and beautiful.
I watched this tutorial video on YouTube, which goes through how to do the basket weave technique, as well as how to pipe the roses. I followed her instructions step by step and was really happy with the results! If you are interested in learning how to make this type of cake, I strongly recommend watching the video.
My mother-in-law just got me a cookie dough recipe book for Christmas. In this book is a recipe for a egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough cake filling, so I knew that I wanted to try it out for her cake. The recipe is really easy. Normally I always add less almond milk when using it to substitute for heavy cream. But since this was going to be a filling for a cake, I wanted to be sure that it was wetter than actual cookie dough, so that it would spread easily. But even still, adding the whole 1/4 cup of almond milk instead of heavy cream like the recipe calls for made it too wet. I ended up adding an additional 1/4 cup of flour until it was the consistency I was looking for. If you don’t have to worry about allergies, then just follow the recipe. But I wanted to throw that out there for my fellow dairy allergy people.
Cookie Dough Filling from The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook by, Lindsay Landis:
-1 1/2 sticks of butter
-1/2 cup white sugar
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup cream
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup of flour
-1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Prepare it the way you would normal cookie dough: cream the butter (or margarine, in my case) with the sugars; add the dry ingredients; add the milk; stir in chocolate chips. I used regular sized chocolate chips because they don’t make dark chocolate in the mini size. I don’t think it made any difference, but if you’re using dark chocolate and want the pieces to be smaller, just pulse them in a blender first.
I went with my go-to dairy-free moist vanilla cake, and did chocolate buttercream frosting since I needed the basket to be brown anyways. I wanted white roses, but didn’t have clear vanilla extract, so I flavored that icing with peppermint.
First thing is to bake your cakes; you’ll need 2 rounds for this design (mine are 9″). Once the cakes are cooled, dam and fill them (check out this great YouTube video on how to dam and fill cakes if you don’t know how).
I decided to not level my cakes, because I hate doing it. It’s tedious and they weren’t that bad. After finishing the cake though, I wish I would have taken the time to do it because it made the basket weaving difficult. (You’ll want to level the cakes before filling and stacking.)
Then I dirty iced the cakes to lock the crumbs in. This technique is actually one that I’ve only recently learned, and one that I wish I would have known about years ago. Crumb coating makes a night and day difference when icing cakes! If you don’t know how to do it, watch this video on crumb coating.
Next, you’ll want to score the sides of the cake where you want the vertical lines of the basket to fall. I have a dry wall spackling tool that I used to do this, but the blunt edge of a chef knife would work as well. I spaced mine out too far originally, so I ended up cutting the spacing in half from what you see in this picture. But you get the idea.
Then just take your time. I used a Wilton tip #47 for texture. The video will explain how to do the technique much better than I could, so go watch it if you haven’t already.
It really wasn’t difficult after watching the tutorial video. Just take your time and follow your lines, and you’ll be fine.
Then I piped a rope detail along the edge of the top of the cake using a Wilton tip #18. The video shows you how to do this detail as well. It really helps finish the look off.
Then I used a Wilton leaf tip and piped leaves around the outer circumference of the top of the cake.
Then I said a prayer and tried my first buttercream rose. I used a Wilton tip #104.
I was holding the tip upside-down, so the petals looked fat. Oops. I dumped that one back in the bowl of icing and did it right the second time. But then it flipped upside-down when I tried transferring it to the cake. Oops. So I carefully scraped it off and tried again.
My buttercream was too soft, so it was impossible to get the very center of the roses to be as tight as they needed to be, and all of them leaned to one side. But for it being my first go at them, I am damn proud of these babies.
There were some gaps in between some of the flowers because I wasn’t able to lay them as closely as I wanted to. So I just filled them in with leafs and pretended that that was the plan all along. Fake it till you make it!