5 Types of Naked Cakes and How to Make Your Own


The word "naked" appears 22 times in this article—oops, 23

by Stephanie Kaloi, Content Manager

What do you know about naked cakes? Before embarking on this beast of a post, which would end up consuming hours of my working (and sleeping, because cake dreams) life, I didn’t know much of anything. I now realize two things. First, my former stance (“I mean, I don’t know, cake is cake!”) was woefully inaccurate: All cake is not created equal. Second, my new stance (“OMG naked cakes will never die because they’re amazing”) is spot-on. What I now know is that naked cakes trump just about every other cake alternative: they don’t leave your cake dry like fondant can, you get the best of both worlds (frosting, but not too much!), and as you’ll see below, you can decorate them however you please.

Naked Cake Tips

Photo and Recipe by Buttered Side Up

While there are dozens of ways to decorate naked cakes for your wedding, I’ve isolated five that truly stand out: the ombré cake, the minimalist cake, the almost naked cake (more frosting than you see on traditional naked cakes), the floral naked cakes, and the chocolate naked cakes (OMG, why hasn’t this become a bigger thing?).

But oh-ho, before you think this is just another round-up filled with pretty pictures, think again: I also set out to see if a real person with average to below-average baking skills can even make a naked cake… and the results were interesting, to say the least. Depending on how strictly you define the word “pretty,” my cake wasn’t that bad—and I put it together while drinking and hanging out on Facebook Live last week. Assuming you don’t make yours drunk, it’ll probably pass any standard for pretty.

But before we get into all of that: the pictures.

OMBRÉ NAKED CAKEs

green ombre naked cakes

Photo by Vilma Vaičiulė via Du Abu

naked cakes with yellow and orange flowers

Photo by Sarah McKenzie via Style Me Pretty | Cake by Sugary & Chic

ombre naked cakes with white flowers

Photo by Happy Confetti Photography via Wedding Chicks | Cake by Big Sugar Bakeshop

MINIMALIST NAKED CAKEs

minimalist naked cakes with berries

Photo by Whitney Heard via Magnolia Rouge | Cake by Sweet Art

Naked cakes covered in blackberries

Photo by Marina Koslow via Style Me Pretty | Cake by Foxtail Bake Shop

rustic winter minimalist naked cakes

Photo by Jacque Lynn Photography via Elizabeth Anne Designs | Cake by One Sweet Slice

THE ALMOST NAKED CAKEs

apple spice naked cakes with drizzle

Photo and Recipe by The First Year Blog

fall naked cakes

Photo and Recipe by Alana Jones-Mann

citrus naked cakes

Photo and Recipe by Alana Jones-Mann

FLORAL NAKED CAKEs

Naked cakes with wildflowers

Photo and Recipe by Style Sweet CA

Rustic naked cakes with peonies

Photo and Tutorial by Kaylee Giffin via Style Me Pretty

bohemian naked cakes with flowers and strawberries

Photo by Suzuran Photography via Wedd Book

THE CHOCOLATE NAKED CAKE

chocolate naked cakes

Photo by Diana McGregor Photography via Style Me Pretty | Cake by Frost It Cakery

chocolate naked cakes

Photo by Blumenthal Photography via Polka Dot Bride | Cake by Simmone Logue

chocolate naked cakes with powdered sugar and roses

Photo by Paul Bamford via Bajan Wed | Cake by Kelly Hancock

IN CASE YOU WANT TO MAKE A NAKED CAKE

naked cakes with berries

Photo and Styling by The Artful Desperado | Recipe by Love, Bake, Nourish

I am the type of person who basically fails at every cake I try to make. In fact, I have only succeeded at exactly one cake—a strawberry lemonade cake with blue icing, as requested by my then three-year-old for his birthday party. Outside of that cake experience, I have no other memories of ever successfully creating anything that could pass as a beautiful cake.

I am ninety-five percent sure the reason I fail is that I don’t heed the advice I’m about to dish: I like to blow into the kitchen, throw everything into a bowl, pop it in the oven, and put frosting or decorations on while the cake is still warm. I do this every time. APW, don’t be like me—follow these tips for making your own naked cakes instead:

minimalist naked cake

Photo by Girls Versus Dough | Recipe by The Baker Chick

Have realistic expectations: We are not all incredible bakers, and that’s okay. I know we all have that one friend who can recreate anything Pinterest throws at them, but that’s not everyone. I think the number one most important rule of baking fancy cakes is to know your limitations, what you’ve done in the past, and what you think you’re reasonably capable of pulling off.

Don’t go big the first time: In other words, don’t try to make a seven-layer masterpiece the first time around. Instead, maybe go small: two or three smallish layers, all stacked on top of one another, with frosting in between but not all around (like the photo above).

Ask for help: Enlist the help of someone who is patient, kind, and won’t be shocked by foul language.

Clean your kitchen: I mentioned it above, but one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in the past is not cleaning my kitchen ahead of time. It turns out making naked cakes (or any kind of cake, for that matter) means making a huge mess.

Double-check your ingredients list: This, this, this. Always make sure you have what you need before you start trying to bake.

Make the cake from scratch: You want a recipe with structure—box mixes make cake so soft that making a naked cake out of one would be a huge challenge. I used this basic white cake recipe (which fair warning, is really sweet), but there are plenty more out there.

Set aside the entire day (art takes time): Here’s how I feel about time and baking: Sure, you need to make sure you have set apart enough time for prep, baking, and cleanup… but if you’re making something new for the first time, you also need to have time for error. And for the love of all things precious in life, give yourself all day long if you’re baking your own wedding cake.

Chill your cake (and frosting) before you ice it: It turns out cold cake is easier to work with (and so is cold frosting). I popped my cakes into the fridge an hour before icing them, and everything went waaaayyy better than it usually does.

Use a spatula to frost the cake: I’ve always heard that people use a spatula to frost their cakes, but never believed this was a viable option until I tried making my own naked cake and gave it a whirl. I only have one spatula, and it’s not particularly nice or cake-specific, but it frosted that cake better than any butter knife, ever.

You don’t need a spinning cake stand: I didn’t realize that the domed top many cakes bake with would be an issue for naked cakes until I had to actually stack them on top of each other. While researching, I saw video after video of people slowly, patiently removing the dome top of their cakes while rotating the cake on a spinning cake stand. I don’t have one of those, so I just used a serrated knife and took the top off that way. It worked!

Practice often, and have a backup plan: Whether it’s swinging by Whole Foods or Publix, or asking your mom to whip up something incredible at the last minute, make sure you know what you’ll do if you don’t end up pulling off the naked cake of your dreams.

Pink Line

So, guys, that’s it: everything I’ve learned about naked cakes. If you still want to spend twelve minutes watching me try to make one, you can… right here.

And if you want to make a (clothed) wedding cake, we’ve got you covered. (Ha.)

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her husband, their seven year old metalhead son, and a crew of beasts. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and smiley faces.

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  • Green

    We had a naked cake at our wedding and it was sooooo beautiful! But more importantly, it was delicious! So good in fact, that we took the top tier with us on our honeymoon. And perfect for a hot day in summer – whipped cream frosting and berries kept is light and refreshing. I think guests were surprised by the aesthetic. And then one year later, in celebration of our first anniversary, my husband went back to the baker (about 3 hours from our home) and surprised me with a small naked cake, since we didn’t have one in the freezer. Love him, love naked cake.

  • scw

    yay for naked cakes! attaching a photo of ours because why not/what else am I going to do with all these wedding photos? like green below, we also got a small one from our baker for our first wedding anniversary. (also, my mom and I were laughing the other day because a recent issue of martha stewart weddings magazine has a naked cake on the front with a written suggestion that they are a brand new trend… and haven’t they been around for awhile?)

    • Amy March

      They’re super trendy in the slow moving world of baked goods! Christina Tosi popularized them at Milk Bar in NYC starting around 2008, and they have spread from there. Obviously they’ve always been around with home cooks but they’re certainly fairly new to the special occasion bakery cake scene.

      • scw

        for my birthday this year, my husband coordinated with my friend to get the friend to drive one of those milk bar birthday cakes from Brooklyn to the Berkshires on his motorcycle. it didn’t look great when it arrived, but it definitely tasted great!

    • Christina Helen

      Yeah, I hear “naked cake” and I think: “Oh, you mean normal cake?” Like… frosting a cake to high heaven is not the usual way to make a cake, is it? But maybe I just come from an unusually minimalist family.

  • savannnah

    I just got a quote from my baker for one! I hate most frosting, fiancee doesn’t like very sweet things and both my mother and mother in law really really want a cake at the wedding so this is a easy compromise. I also like the way they look much better than traditional wedding cake and since we are getting married outside in a field, i think it will look like it belongs a lot more than some other options.

    • toomanybooks

      Yes naked cakes feel perfect for a field wedding!

    • Alex

      I pretty much did the same thing! I’ve had too many wedding cakes that are waaaayyy too sweet and frosting overload, so I made a white cake and a chocolate cake and did a semi-sweet chocolate buttercream frosting for the chocolate folks and then did a pastry cream filling heavily cut with whipped cream (plus orange zest, cause it’s delicious) which made for a wonderful “frosting” and wasn’t overly sweet. We had an outside afternoon wedding, and it definitely fit the mood more than some elegant cake :)

  • Elizabeth

    I am totallly sold on the concept of naked cakes — seing as I don’t care much for frosting in general — but I will say that I don’t find them nearly as pretty as a frosted cake. But perhaps that’s also tempered by the fact that the best looking naked cakes to me have fresh fruit, and my fiancee is most assuredly and decidedly not a fruit person.

  • Amy March

    I think naked cakes are actually more technically challenging than regular frosted cakes. Frosting hides all manner of sins. I also find they are best eaten the same day they are made- whipped cream and fresh fruit is delicious and breaks down quickly, and the cake itself will dry out where it is exposed to air.

    • Kara E

      My thought too! Frosting hides so many things. Especially two layers (to cover up the crumbs the first layer mixed in).

    • Alex

      Agreed! Time is definitely of the essence and I’m not sure how professional bakers would do that. Although a pseudo simple syrup coating around the edge does help keep in some moisture, it’s definitely more prone to drying out than a cake coated in fondant

    • Meg Keene

      So I made one this weekend for the baby girls birthday. After working on this, I figured I’d try it (plus you can make some good fourth of july layers). I always make the kids cakes and I was expecting it to be more challenging than normal, but it wasn’t!!

      I will say, you need a firmer cake. I made the cakes from scratch, and I often use box… but boxed cake is too soft for this. And weirdly, if you’re using fruit on the layers, you actually kind of need more frosting. I had to frost the bottom of the layer, put on fruit, and then frost the top of the layer to stick it on.

      BUT. It was surprisingly easy. You can see it here, though it looked even better in person:

      https://www.instagram.com/p/BHdEUpWDGpf/?taken-by=megkeene

      • Christina Helen

        I’m curious about why you say that a firmer cake is required? I come from a Finnish background where the most common cake is a strawberry and whipped cream layer cake which is very often styled “naked” (although I don’t remember ever hearing that term used), and one of my very favourite things about that cake is that it’s super soft. In fact, despite the fact that it’s already softer than your average sponge, we often sprinkle it with fruit juice, etc. to soften/moisten it even further. It’s utterly delicious, and I don’t remember ever having any problems with working with it?

  • Sariah

    Naked cake or regular cake, professional bakers always cut off the domed top in order to stack the layers.

  • CMT

    Oh man, I’m so hungry.

  • clarkesara

    Watched the season premiere of Great British Bake-Off, which was dedicated to cakes, and the judges turned up their noses at naked cakes not once but twice. Not sure if the trend hasn’t hit the UK yet or if there are some downsides to naked cakes that haven’t been talked about.

    One issue I have with them as I plan my wedding and look at lots of pictures of cakes is that the naked cakes in styled shoots look gorgeous, whereas the pictures of naked cakes I’ve seen from actual weddings look lumpy and sad.

  • Erica G

    There is one box mix that does work super well for naked cakes, it’s Immaculate Baking’s “Scratch” Yellow Cake. I used two boxes to make a 3 tiered hexagon shaped semi-dried cake for my wedding this weekend!

  • Kate W

    I made a naked cake for my wedding, with my mum and sister’s help. We modified this recipe: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/frances-quinns-summers-day-wedding-cake

    It was absolutely delicious and not too tricky. We filled it with mascarpone icing, lemon and granadilla curd and berries. It was decorated with edible flowers and a big granadilla from my parents garden. It was re-inforced with wooden skewers and straws.

    Making and eating it is one of my favourite memories of our wedding.

  • brakell-basicinvite

    All of these cakes are stunning! I’m a huge fan of naked cakes and this is great inspiration!

  • Amaya Sami

    there can be one more creative flavor above cheese cake, if we add black forest above 3 layered cheese then it taste delicious and different – i found it here PuneBakers

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