Baby Carriage Cake

The Baby Carriage cake: Getting to grips with piping basket weave

Hmmm…what to give the parents of newborn twins? Well, sure, heaps of gifts for the babies, especially since these newly minted munchkins are my nephews, but what do Mom and Dad need?! CAKE! Obvs…..alright, not ‘obvs.’, but hear me out.

I made my sister and bro-in-law a whopping great fruit cake to celebrate their new arrivals, because newborn babies are to Great Aunties and doting friends, what sherry is to Santa Claus or Strawberries & Cream are to Cliff Richard…irresistible! So, babies = LOTS of visitors, aaaand LOTS of visitors = muchos need for cake to serve the hungry masses.

The baby carriage shape of this cake is achieved using two 4″ round fruit cakes to form the wheels, and one 12″ round fruit cake, with semi-circles cut out where the wheels are positioned, and a wedge removed to create the ‘hood’. I’m getting ahead of myself, though, because everything must first be iced!

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The construction phase: Ice your cakes and then use cake tins or boards to trace the areas to be cut out for the wheels. Cut a wedge out of the top of the cake to form the ‘hood’.

Because I’m using fruit cakes, I marzipanned all three of my cakes and then covered them in pale, blue sugarpaste. This meant I could cover three straightforward round cakes without worrying about awkward angles. If you choose to do the cut-outs first, I suspect icing will become a much fiddlier job, but it wouldn’t be impossible.

For the round cut-outs, I used a 4″ cake board (the same size as each wheel) as a template, pressed it into the top of the large cake forming a slight dent in the sugarpaste, then I cut along the line I’d marked with a knife. To cut out the wedge, I just made two straight cuts that were judged by eye. The first cut should be parallel to the base of the cake (any other angle here and it will look like your baby is lying on a slope), and the second cut meets the first forming an angle less than 90 degrees, so as to give more of an impression of a hood. The best part of this stage is that you, generous baker of said gifted cake, can eat all of the iced off-cuts – you don’t need these bits!

Next, I butted (I said butted *splutter*) the ‘wheels’ up against the main cake and marzipanned and iced the exposed sections of the larger cake, as before. Don’t worry too much about neatening up the joins here, we’re going to pipe a ruffle over them, so they’ll be all covered up on the finished cake.

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There are so many fun techniques on this cake, cake painting and no less than FOUR styles of piping make an appearance. 

The showstopping technique on this cake, and the one that truly transforms it into a baby’s pram, is the piped basket weave. Rather than use royal icing, which I worried would be too much on top of the sugarpaste, I used butter cream to create the basket design (and for all the other piping on the cake). This was tinted a darker shade of blue using Sugarflair paste colour in Ice Blue. I don’t have a lot of experience with piping, although I have somehow accumulated more nozzles than you can shake a stick at, and if you’re in the same boat there are a million and one tutorials on ‘how to pipe a basket weave’ out there. I found Toba Garrett of New York’s Institute of Culinary Education’s tutorial particularly helpful, and just remember, it’s all about the Tip Space*, and just in case you’re wondering, I used a Wilton #47 tip, although I’m sure you’d get an almost identical effect with a #48 tip.

Another feature you might recognise from one of my other cakes are the painted ditsy roses on the ‘hood’ of the baby carriage – you can find out more about how to paint these in my aptly named Painted Ditsy Rose Cake post.

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More piping! Time for the ruffles.

Finishing this cake is now all about the piping, and this next step is where I also discovered my all time favourite piping nozzle, the one that makes the ruffles. This effect is achieved with a petal tube (I used a PME 57R), and the knack to this is simply making sure that the fatter end of the tip is closest to the cake. Then squeeze! The tip really does do most of the work for you. I added ruffles around all of the raw basket edges and around the section of the cake where I removed the wedge.

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Finishing touches included adding spokes to the wheels.

You can really use any piping effect (and tip) you’d like to finish the remaining parts of the cake – I added spokes to the wheels, with a few pearl dragees popped in the centre to give the impression of ye olde wheel nuts.

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More piping makes the hood of the pram a bit more convincing.

I piped some swirly lines across the hood, too, where the spokes would be to fold it down. Then, all that’s left to do is edge all the way around the bottom of the cake with whatever your favourite piping is for ‘finishing’ cakes – I used shells.

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Ta da! One finished baby carriage.

Time is jogging on, as only time can, and it’s now 18 months since I made this cake, and my two wee baby nephews have grown into two beautiful wee toddlers. I was absolutely made up when my sister asked me to make their 1st birthday cake, and I hope to find a moment to blog that cake soon, too. All I’ll say is….We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!

*Tip Space – the distance between two horizontal bands in basket weave, defined by the size of the tip of your nozzle.

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