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Cake basket
Date Made/Found: 1830-1840
Manufacturer: Unknown
Material and Medium: Old Sheffield Plate, silver, gilt
Dimensions: Overall: 95 x 260 x 260mm (3 3/4 x 10 1/4 x 10 1/4in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 1971.310
This object is a cake basket made from Old Sheffield Plate. The interior or the basket is gilt and the handles and mounts are made from silver. The basket has no maker's marks, but was probably made in Sheffield between 1830 and 1840. The interior of the basket is decorated with strawberry plants and leaves. At the centre, there is a scene of pheasants in a cornfield with a windmill in the background. Old Sheffield Plate was developed in Sheffield around 1742 by Thomas Boulsover. It is a type of silver plated metal made by fusing a thin layer of silver onto a copper ingot. It was rolled out into sheets and used to make decorative objects that looked like silver but were much cheaper. Cake baskets were used to serve small cakes at breakfast or afternoon tea. Contemporary recipes tell us that cakes were flavoured with a large range of ingredients at this time including plums, currants, nutmeg, almond and aniseed. Manufacturers in Sheffield often copied the patterns of silver objects in Old Sheffield Plate. However, objects made from Old Sheffield Plate cost around a third of the price of those made from solid silver. The gilt decoration and silver mounts would have increased the cost of this cake basket. Old Sheffield Plate tableware proved to be very popular within the rapidly expanding middle classes, which were aspiring to replicate the styles and dining practices of the very wealthy. A vast range of different designs for cake baskets was produced in Old Sheffield Plate during the late 1700s, suggesting they were popular with consumers. A range of cake baskets are illustrated in a catalogue of the Sheffield firm, Dixon & Son, which dates to around 1823. In this catalogue the baskets cost between 90 and 105 shillings each, so were an expensive item.
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