Thinking about DIY-ing a wedding cake but intimidated by finicky fondant or perfectly smooth buttercream? Why not try an icing-less naked cake?! Instead of attempting to meticulously ice a cake, leaving the sides exposed is not only trendy, but also a beautifully rustic and easy option for weddings, birthdays and nearly all celebrations. This minimalist look can be dressed up or dressed down with a variety of decorations, cake toppers or even just fresh flowers and fruit (as we have done here). But before you dive in, take a look at our tips and tricks for filling and stacking the perfect naked cake.
Tips for Making a Naked Cake:
1. Take care to prepare your cake pans properly. Since the sides of the cakes will be exposed, now is not the time to have them getting stuck in the cake pans. Generously grease and flour the pan before adding in the batter, line with parchment or use whatever method the recipe calls for.
2. Trim the tops of the cake layers. Again, since the layers will be exposed, you will want them to be as even as possible. Not only does trimming the tops of cakes promote stability, it makes for clean, even layers. Simply use a serrated knife to cut off any “domes” on the top of the cakes that may have formed during baking.
3. Apply filling with a piping bag. For even layers of filling, pipe a ring of frosting around the top edge of each layer of cake, then fill in the center. Using a plain, round tip will create clean layers of filling. If you’d like more of a rustic or homemade feel, use an offset spatula once the frosting is already applied to make it look “perfectly imperfect.”
4. Choose stable cakes and fillings. Since a wedding cake typically sits out for long periods of time before being served, choose cake and fillings that do not need to be refrigerated (i.e. no whipped cream) and that are structurally sound. Frosting the outside of a cake helps hold the layers together and can help keep softer, more delicate cakes (like chiffon or even moist carrot cake) stay intact. Since a naked cake does not have the extra frosting to keep it all from toppling over, choose sturdier cakes like butter, mud or pound cakes (especially for beginner cake makers). Also, buttercream, ganache and fudge fillings tend to be more stable and won’t squish out between the layers of cake like lemon curd, fruit preserves and mousse fillings can do on occasion.
5. Create a timeline. The frosting on the outside of fully-iced cakes helps keep them from drying out too quickly. The exposed layers of a naked cake are more susceptible to drying out, since they don’t have this “protection.” When planning on making a naked cake for a big or important event, you can prepare the cakes and fillings in advance and store them separately, but don’t assemble until the day it will be served. Most cakes will stay fresh wrapped in a double-layer of plastic wrap in the refrigerator for about five days. If the cake needs to be assembled in advance, be sure to loosely cover the sides of the cake in plastic wrap and try to store in a cake box or cake keeper. For extra assurance, you may brush each layer of cake with simple syrup to keep it nice and moist.
6. Get creative. Choose decorations to match the theme of the wedding or occasion. Try handmade or purchased cake toppers, whimsical cake bunting, fresh flowers or even just sprinkles! You may want to use edible garnishes that reflect the flavor of the cake like coconut flakes, chocolate curls, fresh berries, candied citrus and chopped nuts. Fresh herbs give off a more rustic vibe while seasonal florals add instant romance. Be sure to choose nontoxic flowers, and don’t insert the stems directly into the cake (either lay them on top or wrap the stems in floral tape).
- baked and cooled layers of cake
- large batch of frosting of choice
- cake toppers such as fresh flowers, fruit and sugar pearls
- piping bag
- plain, round piping tip (about 1/2 inch in diameter)
- offset spatula
- long serrate knife
1. Once your cakes are baked and completely cooled, use a long serrated knife to trim them. Simply remove any domes that may have former during baking and level the cakes so that they are all the same height.
2. Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain, round tip with your frosting of choice. Pipe a ring of frosting around the top edge of the cake, and fill in the center.
3. Stack the next layer of cake on top and repeat.
4. Stack the last layer upside-down so that the top stays flat and crumb-free.
5. Use an offset spatula to frost the top of the cake.
6. Get decorating! Try arranging the fresh flowers, fruit and sugar pearls in a crescent shape (as we have done here), letting the smaller blossoms and berries tapper off at the ends. You can also try creating a dramatic arrangement in the center of the cake or around the edges to make a floral crown!
Once your cakes are baked and completely cooled, use a long serrated knife to trim them. Simply remove any domes that may have formed during baking, and level the cakes so that they are all the same height. Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain, round tip with your frosting of choice. Pipe a ring of frosting around the top edge of the cake, and fill in the center. Stack the next layer of cake on top, and repeat. Stack the last layer upside-down so that the top stays flat and crumb-free. Use an offset spatula to frost the top of the cake. Let’s decorate! Start with the larger blooms, then add in the smaller elements as you go. Little sugar pearls and tiny white blossoms are great for filling in small spaces and adding texture. The hardest part might be knowing when to stop decorating! So, who’s ready to make their own naked cake? What types of decorations will you choose?
Be sure to tag your creations on Instagram using the hashtag #iamcreative.