Cake/Cookie How To's · Entertaining · Holidays

Celebrate Mother’s Day With a May Basket Cake

Do you remember when we used to celebrate May Day? I don’t because this charming tradition had, more or less, gone by the wayside by the early part of the 20th century (probably because the card companies couldn’t figure out how to make a buck from it.) The origin of May Day can be traced back to the ancient Gaelic fertility festival of Beltane. Beltane was celebrated on May first, halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.

As Christianity spread, pagan festivals became secularized, and the wild bonfires and fertility rites of Beltane were transformed into a much more innocent celebration of Spring planting, blooming flowers, and love. The tamer, May Day festivities, featured dancing around a maypole, the crowning of a May Queen, cakes, and the creating and giving of May Baskets.

May Baskets were small baskets (often just a paper cone with a handle) filled with flowers or sweets. After you had made your basket, you were supposed to hang it anonymously on your loved ones’ door as a token of your affection.

In these modern stressful times, I think it would be nice to revive some of the sweet traditions of a simpler time. So, in the spirit of May Day, I decided to make a May Basket Cake to celebrate Mother’s Day.

May Basket Cake

I started with a basic 10-inch yellow layer cake. After the cakes had cooled, I used a cake leveler to remove the rounded crowns so that each layer is perfectly flat. I place the bottom layer top-side up on a cardboard cake round and ice the top of it. The second layer goes on the bottom-side up to ensure you have a completely smooth flat surface on the top of your cake.

The next step is to put a thin coat of frosting, called a crumb coat, on the entire cake. This skim coat of icing provides a crumb-free foundation for the basketweave design.

Don’t be concerned that the crumb coat doesn’t fully cover the cake. Its purpose is just to contain the crumbs, and it will be completely covered up by the basketweave design.

A basketweave cake is a great project for a novice cake decorator. While it looks complicated, it’s actually a very simple way of decorating a cake because the piping tip does all the work for you. For this basket cake, I used a Wilton #47 Basket Weave tip.

These tips have a flat side for a smooth ribbon of icing and a serrated side for a ribbed stripe. Since I wanted my basket “reeds” to be textured, I piped my ribbons with the serrated side face up. The technique is basically just a series of vertical and horizontal stripes.

Basket Weave Technique

Step 1:  To create the basket design, hold the piping bag at a 45-degree angle to the surface and pipe a vertical stripe that runs from the top to the bottom of the cake.

Step 2:  Then, pipe short horizontal lines on top of the vertical line spaced a ribbon width apart.

Step 3:  Next, pipe another vertical stripe to the right of the first one, slightly overlapping the horizontal stripes. (Note: these instructions are for right-handed people. I am left-handed, so I work right to left)

Step 4:  Follow the same procedure as step two to cover this line with horizontal bars, working them in the spaces between the bars on the first row.

Continue these steps all around the cake.

I probably should have piped a rope border around the top of the cake as well.

To finish the design, I added a rope border which is just a series of interconnecting S’s at the bottom using a Wilton #16 Start Tip.

As you can see, this technique is very forgiving, my stripes are a little wonky, but when it’s complete, it looks like a basket. After all, basket reeds are natural and not perfectly straight either.

Once you complete your basket weave design, you can add flowers. I piped hydrangeas, ranunculus, rosebuds, and leaves on my cake. But you don’t have to know how to pipe flowers because you can easily adorn your basket cake with fresh flowers.

Buttercream ranunculus, rosebuds, and hydrangeas
I used fresh-cut hydrangea and rosebuds to decorate the base of the cake, but you could use fresh flowers to cover the top of the cake as well.

I used this same basketweave technique for a Pansy Basket Cake that I made years ago for my mother’s birthday. I made the pansies with royal icing and then hand-painted them with food coloring gel and vodka. To view more of my cakes and cookies, see the Cake Gallery.

If you think that cake decorating is not your thing, you can still give your mom a May Basket by making one out of a paper cone. To create the paper cone, cut a circle out of a large square piece of scrapbook paper. Then cut a triangle wedge out of the disk. Bring the cut ends together and tape or glue them on the inside of the cone. Staple a pretty ribbon handle to the top of the cone, embellish with paper flowers or trim and fill with fresh or silk flowers.

A May Basket like this makes a great Mother’s Day gift.

Whether you make a cake or a paper basket for Mother’s Day, a May Basket will delight your mom and transport her to a more genteel time when people celebrated love and the joys of Spring with the simple act of the giving of flowers.

How To Make A May Basket Cake To Celebrate Mother's Day

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in:

Butterfly Mother’s Day Tablescape

“Off The Tee” Easy Father’s Day Cupcakes

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21 thoughts on “Celebrate Mother’s Day With a May Basket Cake

  1. Wow, the icing flowers are so cool! Could the basketweave might be something even I could do? “Novice” seems like a kind word for how unsteady I am with a piping bag but I’m definitely doing to give it a try!

    1. Thanks so much. I would definitely give this a try. It takes a little time to get the hang of it but it is totally doable even for a beginner.

  2. Your cake is so beautiful. I have never tried cake decorating before, at least not very seriously. Thanks for sharing your techniques. The cake really looks too pretty to eat.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment. This cake really is a good beginner project. I hope you give it a try!

  3. I made one of those cakes one time and I know how much work it is. Yours is beautiful! And I love the bouquets in the last picture, which I pinned.
    🙂 gwingal

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments about my post. I am glad that you liked the cake and the flowers. Happy Spring!

  4. OMW, how beautiful. I could never eat something so gorgeous, I’d just want to stare at it all day. Hope you have a lovely Spring and May day and Mother’s day 😉 Thanks for sharing the how to on icing a basket weave, that’s super cool.

    1. Thanks so much. I used to be sad when all my hard work got decimated when people dug into my cakes but now I just take a photo before we cut into it and take pleasure in how much they enjoy the taste. This is why I use buttercream on my cakes because fondant doesn’t taste great.

  5. This is a beautiful cake! I don’t think I’d ever manage to acquire the skill it takes, but I am super impressed with it. Thanks for sharing at Over the Moon.

    1. Thanks, I think you would be surprised at how easy it actually is to create the basket weave pattern. Thanks for hosting Over the Moon and have a great week.

  6. So cute! I once made a Mother’s day “hat” cake using this same basket weave technique with the icing. My cake was made of a large round cake and a bowl/dome cake on top. It was a huge hit. Your cake is beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much. The hat idea sounds really neat. I would love to see it. It would be great as an Easter bonnet cake or even Derby Day.

  7. The cake is gorgeous! The ranunculus look like they may require a little practice. I remember making paper may baskets with my kids years ago. We filled them with fresh flowers and delivered them to their grandmothers. I agree that it is a lovely tradition, and as I recall–it was a big hit!

  8. That cake is too pretty to eat but i would force myself!LOL! I really think It’s the prettiest cake ever! I love the weave and the flowers and the colors! I would be thrilled to get a cake so beautiful! You are very talented!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment about my May Basket cake. The basket weave technique is truly much easier than it looks.

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