Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

Vanilla Naked Cake

How to make a beautiful naked cake with fresh berries, vanilla cake, and vanilla buttercream. Homemade wedding cake on

Welcome to the March Baking Challenge! We’re baking, designing, and styling NAKED CAKES. Naked cakes, with zero to minimal frosting on the outside, expose the cake layers and filling. This rustic and chic cake presentation has been all the rage for the past few years, popping up everywhere on the wedding, baby shower, bridal shower, and party scenes. Milk Bar owner Christina Tosi is credited with starting the trend back in 2013 when she began highlighting the cake layers, instead of just the frosting. Now naked cakes are a bakery staple!

Naked cake is the perfect baking challenge recipe for March. Wedding celebration season is upon us, along with Easter, spring, and Mother’s Day. Like most monthly challenges, you have creative control this month. You can decorate and style the naked cake in your own unique way, which makes the challenge 100x more fun. Today I’m sharing my tips for decorating a naked cake, a video showing you how, the vanilla cake recipe I used, plus plenty of inspiration for you to get started.

There’s a lot of ground to cover today, so let’s get right to it!!

How to make a beautiful naked cake with fresh berries, vanilla cake, and vanilla buttercream. Homemade wedding cake on

There are 2 types of naked cakes. The cake in today’s photos is called a “semi-naked” or “half dressed” cake. There’s a minimal amount of frosting swiped around the sides. So in other words, a semi-naked cake is a crumb-coated cake.

Or you can simplify the design even further with a true naked cake. This means the sides of the cake are bare. Both styles are simple, approachable, and beautiful.

How to make a beautiful naked cake with fresh berries, vanilla cake, and vanilla buttercream. Homemade wedding cake on

Let’s focus on a semi-naked cake because that’s how I decorated the cake in today’s photos and video. To begin, you’ll need a layer cake. You can use any of my layer cake recipes, the vanilla layer cake recipe below, or any layer cake recipe you love. Three or four layer cakes provide enough height to work with, but you can easily decorate a two layer cake this way. See my red velvet cake as an example. (I recently made and reshot that recipe!) Tiered cakes are great too. Feel free to use my cake batter recipes for different size pans to create a tiered cake.

I dotted fresh raspberries between my cake layers. Admittedly, I only dotted them around the edges because I ran out of raspberries. Oops! But I love how they peek out the sides. The fresh raspberries also provide a lovely texture variation. If you decide to do this as well, be warned that the raspberries will leak some juice around the edges after a day or so. I would leave the berries out if you’re making this cake in advance for a party or celebration.

Vanilla buttercream is my favorite for the half-dressed cake style. It’s simple and shows off the semi-exposed cake layers as well as the cake’s decorative pieces. Not fan of vanilla? I have plenty of frosting recommendations below.

Vanilla buttercream for naked cake on

Want to watch me assemble and decorate a naked cake? Here you go!


  1. Make a plan. Think about how much frosting you want. Do you want a naked cake or a semi-naked cake? What about decor? I have plenty of suggestions below.
  2. Prep the cake pans appropriately. Use quality cake pans and grease them well. I always use nonstick spray. Use an equal amount of batter per pan. Easiest and most accurate way to do this is to whip out your kitchen scale. Place your cake pan on top and begin pouring. Make sure each pan weighs the same.
  3. Level your cakes. Level off the top of your cakes so each side is flat. Flat and even layers add stability to your finished cake. You can use a cake leveler or large serrated knife. I always use my serrated knife.
  4. Just keep it simple. Make it easier on yourself. I’ve seen many naked cakes calling for a soak in simple syrup to prevent it from drying out. You can absolutely take this route, especially if you’re making a true naked cake, but I don’t find the need if you’re starting out with an already moist cake. (Like my vanilla cake below.) Lots of naked cake tutorials I’ve seen online call for piping frosting between layers, but I skip this too. I use an icing spatula to spread the frosting. The frosting recipe below yields about 4.5 cups. I used 1.5 cups between each layer and another 1.5 cups on the top and around the sides.
  5. The fridge is your best friend. Always chill your naked cake in the refrigerator for a few hours before slicing and serving. This stabilizes all your hard work! It helps the frosting adhere to the sides of the cake and in between the cake layers, as well as ensuring a neater slice. Then you can set the cake out at room temperature for your party or celebration.


  1. Straight spatula. A lot of cake decorators use an offset spatula to apply frosting on a cake, but I prefer a straight spatula. Maybe it’s the way my hands work, but it’s just easier for me to use!
  2. Bench scraper. Use this for running around the sides of the cake to smooth out the frosting.
  3. Cake turntable. This is optional. Many of you told me I needed one because it makes the job easier. And you were right! I did NOT use it for the cake pictured today, but you can watch me using it in the video. You can transfer your decorated cake to a cake stand by using these cake circles. I used one in the video.


Any cake flavor and frosting counts for the challenge. Mix and match cake flavors, frostings, and decor to create your own truly unique naked cake.

Here are cake flavors you can use.
Plenty of options here, including 2 older recipes with updated photos. These cakes are all pretty moist, so I wouldn’t worry about them drying out– especially if you choose the semi-naked/crumb coat look.

Here are frosting flavors you can use.
You can freeze any leftover frosting for up to 3 months and thaw in the refrigerator for next time.

Here are some decor ideas.
I kept it simple with florals and berries, but you can go wild. I recommend starting simple, then building on what you have.

  • Fresh flowers. Use flowers that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides. Avoid strong-smelling flowers as the smell may linger on the cake. And if you can find edible flowers, that’s even better.
  • Fresh berries or any fruit. My favorite!
  • Smaller sweet treats like candies, cookies, meringues, and chocolates
  • Candied citrus
  • Nuts or seeds
  • Fresh herbs
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Sprinkles

Here are some cake stands.
To show off your stunning masterpiece!

Get creative, let your inner cake artist shine, and most of all… have fun!

How to make a beautiful naked cake with fresh berries, vanilla cake, and vanilla buttercream. Homemade wedding cake on

If you’re not into this recipe, here is the alternate March Baking Challenge:

After you make the baking challenge recipe or alternative, share your photos throughout this month using #sallysbakingchallenge on Instagram or Twitter, or upload a photo of your recipe to my Facebook page or Facebook group. Or email it to me! (You can also message me your photo on Instagram if your account is private.) By doing so, you’re automatically entered in the $250 giveaway!!

Vanilla Naked Cake


  • 3 and 3/4 cups (431g) sifted all-purpose flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (420ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*
  • optional: 1-2 cups fresh raspberries (or other berry, see note)

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5-6 cups (600-720g) confectioners' sugar
  • 5-6 Tablespoons (75-90ml) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • finishing decorations (see post above for inspiration!)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour three 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix this batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick.
  4. There is about 8 cups of batter total, so each layer will be 2 and 2/3 cups. Pour/spread batter evenly into prepared cake pans. If you're worried about uneven cake layers, you can use a kitchen scale and weigh the cake pans for accuracy. (The weight of just the batter in my cake pans was about 1 lb 6 ounces.)
  5. Bake for around 25-26 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  6. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy - about 2 minutes. Add 5 and 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, 5 Tablespoons heavy cream, the vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add 1/2 cup more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin, 1 more Tablespoon cream if frosting is too thick, or a pinch more of salt if frosting is way too sweet.
  7. Assemble and decorate the cake: Watch the video above for a tutorial on assembling and decorating this naked cake. First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand, cake turntable, or serving plate. Spread 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting evenly on top. If using, dot half of the raspberries around the rim. Flatten them down into the frosting as best you can so the cake layer on top is sturdy. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with another 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting and more (flattened!) raspberries around the rim. You can sprinkle a few leftover raspberries in the center, too. (Like I did in the video.) Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting on top and all around the sides using an icing spatula. Use a bench scraper to smooth out the frosting on the sides of the cake. If you're making a full naked cake, just spread the remaining frosting on top of the cake. If you have leftover frosting, you can freeze it for up to 3 months and thaw in the refrigerator for next time.
  8. Decorate the cake with garnishes.
  9. Refrigerate the cake for 2-3 hours or up to 1 day before slicing and serving. If chilling for more than a few hours, loosely cover with plastic wrap after 1 hour of refrigeration. (The frosting will "set" after about 1 hour and the plastic wrap won't really ruin your frosting at that point.) And if you're chilling for more than a few hours, I suggest decorating with garnishes right before serving (so as not to wilt the flowers, etc).
  10. Cover and store leftover cake at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Make ahead tip: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the cake the next day when you are ready to serve. The frosted cake can be refrigerated for up to 1 day-- see step 8. The frosted cake can also be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Notes:

*Sift flour before measuring.

*If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk.

*The raspberries will leak some juice around the edges after a day or so. I would leave the berries out if you're making this cake in advance for a party or celebration.

Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.

I used this cake recipe for my checkerboard cake. The cake layers are slightly thicker here because this cake is 3 layers instead of 4. If you want to make the naked cake as a 4 layer cake, use 2 cups of batter for each cake layer and bake for 23-24 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Did you make a recipe?

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.


Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer | KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | 9-inch Round Cake PansBench Scraper | Frosting Spatula | Turntable Rotating Cake Stand

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

All the tips, tricks, tools, and recipe you need to create a beautiful and rustic vanilla naked cake! This homemade vanilla cake is perfect for showers and weddings. Recipe on


  1. So gorgeous! We had a dark chocolate with white chocolate buttercream frosting naked cake for our wedding cake. My sister made it for us, and my father made a beautiful wooden stand for the cake to go on, so naked cakes will always have a special place in my heart.
    I can’t wait to try this out – it’s my birthday this month so cake is necessary!

  2. Hey Sally, are you gonna do any Facebook lives any time soon? Thanks

    • It’s difficult right now since we don’t have childcare, but I definitely want to do it again in the future. Thanks Lynda!

  3. Hi Sally! This looks like a great cake that I’ll be excited to try this month but I’m really confused about one thing.
    In step 1 you say to butter 4 9 inch cake pans, but the naked cake pictured is three layers.
    Also in step 4 you say divide about 8 cups of batter into three for 2 2/3rds cups each.
    I know you said the recipe can be the checkboard cake in four layers but that’s not what this recipe is though right?
    Either way the cake looks great but I want to be sure I’m at the right thickness and baking time, my oven is already finicky with new recipes that I refuse to give it another excuse!

  4. Oh how fun!! I’m already planning to make several of your recipes for a cupcake assortment at church later this month (the spice cake, mocha nutella, cookies & cream, and lemon recipes!) but since my birthday is also in March, I think I’ll be making a naked hummingbird cake for myself too 🙂 Can’t wait!

  5. Ok I *think* I know what I’d like to do to make a unique semi-naked cake. I’m thinking I want to halve the recipe. What do you suggest for the eggs since it would be 2.5? And if I bake 4 layers in 6” pans, what kind of baking time do you recommend? Can’t wait to see this come together!!!

  6. This cake is so pretty! Can’t wait to give this recipe a try! I was a bit confused about step 1. Did you mean to say we will need 3 cake pans for this recipe? In your directions for step 1 it says to flour 4 cake pans. 

  7. Your naked cake looks splendid! Thank you so much for the tutorial, I can’t waut to try it out. If I was gonna make your red velvet cake would you suggest I decrease the amount of cream cheese frosting you used to create a semi naked cake?

    • You can, but when I reshot it the other week, I decorated it as a semi-naked style cake. I just used more frosting in the center and on top. I didn’t reduce the frosting recipe at all.

  8. Definitely will be making this cake for Easter. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  9. Thank you!  Also wanted to tell you that anytime I look for a recipe on Pinterest I look for one of yours because I know they will turn out great every time! 

  10. This cake is gorgeous! Almost to pretty to eat! Almost!

  11. Hi Sally! I’ve been following your blog for a long time and your recipes are always amazing! I know it is a little late to ask you, but is it okay if I re-create and feature your monthly baking challenge recipes in my blog?

  12. With every year that goes by since you started this site and with each passing month your photography has continually become more and more stunning. I thought up till now your most beautiful post was the tuxedo cake but Sally, this literally takes the cake!! And this is the first time I have ever seen you use floral decor on top. I love it. :).

  13. I’m excited for this challenge! Now the hard part – what kind to make!!!!! Happy Friday!

  14. This cake is so gorgeous!! Whenever I try making cakes, it ends up looking like a mess. Since I am making my own wedding cake, I think I will try this one out because it looks doable for me!

  15. Sally, somehow this cake seems so “new” at several levels, I really love it! The romantic look of the cake (the flowers!), the natural styling of the pictures (wooden cake stand!), your inspired photography, the whole technique of making this special cake, I’m really impressed! 🙂 I’m not sure though I’m going to try this in the near future… I’ll admire all of you from the distance 😉

  16. I am amused, because most of the cakes I make must count as naked cakes – as a Brit, I was taught to put icing on the top and icing in-between, and leave the sides as they are.  I always find making a fully-dressed cake more of a challenge!  This looks delicious, by the way.

  17. My 10yo daughter and I are going to make this today and decorate tomorrow. I am a novice at cakes – if we refrigerate the layers overnight do I refrigerate them in or out of the pans? I’m just worried wrapping them will pull off the coating when I take the wrap off. Thank you!

    • I usually let cakes cool completely in the pans, then cover and keep them out at room temperature overnight. They release easily and do not dry out!

  18. Just wanted to share one of my quick tips! I use a non slip jar opener (the thingys that help you get a grip on the pickle jar!) in between my cake board and turn table to keep my board from moving around when I’m turn, turn, turning away!

  19. LOL am I the only one that doesn’t get this trend? I saw this at a wedding and thought “uhhhh do you know you missed the sides of the cake?”

    Regardless I’m sure the cake is tasty if it is your recipe!!!!

  20. Sally, I’ve heard that refrigerating the cake layers before frosting is helpful to keep the cake from crumbling into the frosting (this would mostly apply to the top layer). Do you find this necessary?

  21. Havent been able to try any of the previous challanges 🙁 but this is my birthday month so im TOOOOTALLY making this on my birthday for myself 😀 Too pretty!

  22. Hi Sally 

    Can this cake be covered in sugarpaste?


  23. hi sally i wanted to ask you:
    if a recipe calls for natural cocoa powder,3/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda,
    can i use duched-processed if i take off the baking soda If so how much baking powder shall i add.

  24. Hi Mrs Sally! This cake looks amazing!! I had a question though.  How do you make your cakes look perfect? Let me explain… every time  I  bake a cake, each layer is larger in the middle than on the sides, making the cake lopsided when I try to layer it. Also… I always put wax paper in the cake pan so the cake will not stick, but the folds in the wax paper make the edges of the cake look weird. Is there a better way to do this?? Thanks so much for all the amazing recipes you share!

    • Hi Ellie! My cakes aren’t very level after baking/cooling either. So make sure you’re leveling off the top to create a flat surface. That’s what I always do. I use a serrated knife.

  25. I was going to make a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, as requested, for a family birthday. Do you have a recipe that I could use for this?

  26. Hi Sally, I baked my cakes for about 30 min each but they don’t have a golden colour. They look pretty pale/yellow and I’m concerned they’re under cooked. The tooth pick test came out clean. Should cooking times vary much, and should I have waited for a darker colour? I followed the recipe exactly and each pan weighed about 1lb 7oz before baking.

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Meg! If the toothpick comes out clean, the batter in the center is cooked. How do they taste?

      • I think they taste Ok. Maybe a little tangy but I’m guessing that’s the buttermilk? I’m going to remake them today though, to see if there’s any difference.


  27. What can I use in place of a bench scraper? I really want to do this challenge, but don’t want to have to buy anything fancy for it. Thanks! 🙂

  28. Yesterday was my daughters first birthday and planned on doing this naked cake, she loves raspberries. My sister in-law ended up frosting it so it wasnt a naked cake for the challenge but it turned out delicious and amazing. Everyone loved it. They kept being like are you sure that much butter, really 5 eggs- and all loved the cake. Cannot wait to make another for the challenge.
    *We added more vanilla to the buttercream frosting. 

  29. Hi! I just found this challenge and it seems so fun! I just wanted to let you know that this post didn’t get the “challenge” tag, I had to go back and search for it on the front page.

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