This cute fishing basket was for a repeat client. I made a humidor with Clemson cigars for her daughters wedding and this one is for her son. He loves fishing, is a Clemson graduate, and an optometrist. This was a great way to incorporate a few of his favorite hobbies while also keeping the sophisticated look the client wanted. Let me warn you, this basket weave is labor intensive. It takes a long time to lay all these lines.
This tutorial will specifically focus on the basket including open lid. I'll also cover some of the general tips for sculpting shapes of cake and structure. I was feeling a bit rushed at the end & neglected to get photos of how I shaped and colored the fish and some of the details. I'll offer some tips on those but don't have photos of the process.
Every sculpted cake starts with planning. After speaking with the client and brainstorming ideas, I researched fishing baskets and gathered photos of how they really look. It's best to use real photos not photos of cakes.
I then used the photos to balance the size of the cake and how many servings we need. In this case, the cake will serve about 50 and measures about 13" x 7 1/2" on the bottom. I used a 16" cake drum.
I considered using a 1/2 sheet but quickly realized the best pan to use was a 13" round. Because the shape comes in slightly all the way to the top, I baked 1-13", 1-12", & 1-11". Each cake was 2" tall, & I cut each to 1" tall for a total of 6 layers.
I created a template for the bottom by simply sketching the shape I wanted onto parchment paper. I also planned out the size of the top. Double check this against your cake board so you know it fits. I use the bottom template to make a cake board, then use it to cut the bottom layers from the 13". I used the top template to cut from the 11" cake.
Once I had the bottom 2 layers cut, I stacked them and trimmed the one on top to be slightly smaller. I then used that layer to cut the 12" cake layers. I stacked them all together to see how close they were to the shape I needed.
I trimmed and shaped till it looked about right.
Next, I filled the bottom 3 layers. Sometimes adding the buttercream can impact the overall look so I again stacked the remaining layers as well and trimmed as needed to get the shape I wanted.
Once I felt this was the right shape, I created a cake board for the top 3 layers. Although not especially tall, this cake will have a heavy fondant fish & basket lid on top. That's a good bit of weight so I want to add some structure.
I use the bottom layer of the top 3 layers to cut a template. Place the layer on parchment and draw the outline. Then, use a ruler to get a straight edge. I fold the template in half and trim the outline so it's mostly even on both sides. Then, I can trim the cake to the template if it's not quite even. I cut the board just slightly smaller than the layer so the board doesn't show.
I dowel the bottom 3 layers using Poly-O dowels and fill and stack the remaining 3 top layers.
Next, I crumb coat all the layers. Usually at this point, I need to trim something or add some extra buttercream to get the exact shape I want. I did end up trimming the top slightly different from the original template. I chilled the crumb coat, then final frosted. Once that too was chilled, I added a very thin frosting of black. I use Americolor Super Black because it works fast. I'm doing this because there will be tiny spots that the basketweave doesn't cover. I want what shows to be black instead of white. Black can stain teeth so I try to only use a bit of it.
I just want to say that as I type this, it goes so fast and seems so easy. It doesn't in real life. This took much longer than it looks here.
Now that I have the right shape, I need to adjust that top template so that I can use it to make the lid.
I cut the template exactly to the cake. I do not adjust it so it's perfectly even because I want it to be the same shape as the cake.
Next, I planned the basketweave. You'll want to keep in mind that you want the correct amount of vertical lines so it all matches up. Also plan for the weird spots on the side where you'll need a bit for weaving the fatter part at the bottom but then "drop" it closer to the top. I started on the left back corner. I also planned exactly what I wanted the front to be.
Originally, I planned for a nice open spot at the middle but as I wove, I didn't like the look. That was an hour and a half wasted. I pulled it off and redrew the lines so there was a line in the middle. It's ok to start over. You want this to look right!
I use the edge of a bench scrapper to get the lines straight and a measuring tool so they are even. Be sure to leave extra at the top.
I used an extruder so all the "ropes" are the same size. I didn't worry about them getting a bit of black in spots.
I've made baskets. Really. I originally thought I would legit weave this. That doesn't work. I pulled all that off too. Thankfully it was only 2 lines before I realized this it wouldn't work.
Instead, I measured the distance between the lines, rolled ropes, and trimmed them to size. They are not all the same size so I made a bunch of the longest size and trimmed when needed. I lay them alternating like a basket and allowing for the little bulge in the middle.
It's normal for a cake to sweat. I'm in Charleston and it's very humid here. Even with a dehumidifier, my cakes will sometimes sweat.
I do try to keep the cake cold & limit how long it is out of the fridge. I used the extruder to make about 3 lines worth then grab the cake and weave them. It took about an hour to make that first 1" of weave which was about 4 rows. Even just the extruding & cutting takes a long time. Of course a thicker weave will take less time. In total, I spent about 5 1/2 hours on the basketweave.
I use a tool to help tuck the little ends. I can't even tell you how excited and joyful I was when I finally got this much progress.
Continue weaving till you get to the very top. You'll notice a smudge of the black frosting on top. Between weaving, I was also making the fondant fish. I needed to ensure I was making the right size so I placed him on top. He will cover this spot so I don't feel a need to fix the frosting.
I used the extruder to make one long rope to go all along the top. I bent back the vertical ropes, laid the horizontal, then bent the vertical and trimmed them. Once they are all woven, I did smooth out the buttercream.
I used this same weaving method for the lid using the extra to bend toward the inside of the lid.
I used the template to cut a cake board for the lid & covered it with black. I added the basketweave to the top with the edge pulling inside the basket.
I do wish I had taken some more photos. Working on cake can be exhausting. Taking photos can be even challenging in the heat of the moment and even more so when you mess up and start again.
I measured about the size I thought I would need for the fish, and printed out a photo of a rainbow trout. I placed a page protector on top and shaped the fondant just like the photo. I cut a slit at the head and shaped it to the mouth. I then cut slits for the top/back fin and the lower belly fin. I made this cute little "arm" fin separate and attached it after I dusted with colors. For the tail, I used my hands to pull and thin the end of the fish to shape. I then used the vein tool to make all the head markings and the lines for the fins.
I started dusting the fish with the CalJava Cosmos pink in the middle and on the head. I added a bit of Crystal Colors pale blue to the sides of the pink and a good bit at the tail. There is no blue at the head. It's good for it to overlap a bit and make some purple. Trouts do that. Next I added the yellow. On top of the yellow I added Wilton light green and in some spots Global Sugar Art moss green. I added several layers of this in some spots. On the fins, I started with yellow, added green, and finished with Spanish moss green by Pfiel & Holing. If you haven't noticed, I am not brand loyal for colors.
This groom is an optometrist so I used the extruder to make little ropes and created "glasses." I started with white gumpaste and painted it gold.
Next, I mixed the remaining brown fondant with gumpaste. I need the strap and other parts to dry rather quickly so they don't fall or break.
I used the pasta attachment on my KitchenAid to make a 20" x 3" ribbon. I then used a ribbon cutter to get it to 1 1/2" thick. I bent the ribbon and attached it to the side of the basket so it looks like a loop. I used the wheel cutter with the embosser attachment to make a "seam." I laid the strap with a bit of movement and brough to the center.
Notice this is not the whole strap but only half. I repeated these steps on the other side. Once both in the middle, I cut both so they join together evenly. This part will be covered by the Clemson padding so it doesn't have to be perfect.
For the Clemson padding, I used the pasta attachment to make a piece about 7" x 3". I wrapped this around the middle where the 2 straps meet. I used that same wheel tool to add a seam on each side. Then, I used Martha Stewart's Pie Letters to cut the letters and piped the paws with white buttercream. Once they were cold and hard, I painted them with gold luster dust. For the gold strap loops, I used the extruder to make gumpaste ropes. I tucked them inside the loop so they hung a bit, shaped them, then painted with gold luster dust.
I used the same brown gumpaste/fondant mix to create the lock. I used an oval cutter for the lock, a round cutter for the monogram tag, and gumaste ropes to make the loops.
Start to finish, including the research, this cake took about 20 hours. This does not count drying time. This cake needs to be created over a few days.