Vanilla Naked Cake

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

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 recipe for spring. Wedding celebration season is upon us, along with Easter and Mother’s Day. What I love about this cake is that you have creative control. You can decorate and style the naked cake in your own unique way, which makes this recipe 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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

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. 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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

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

5 TIPS FOR HOMEMADE NAKED CAKES

  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.

3 TOOLS FOR DECORATING

  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.

YOU HAVE OPTIONS

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. 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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

Print
Rustic naked cake

Vanilla Naked Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 hours
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This naked cake is simply stunning with fresh berries, vanilla cake, and vanilla buttercream.


Ingredients

  • 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
  • 56 cups (600-720g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 56 Tablespoons (75-90ml) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • finishing decorations (see post above for inspiration!)

Instructions

  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. Yields about 4.5 cups of frosting.
  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.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: 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.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | 9-inch Round Cake PansBench Scraper | Frosting Spatula | Turntable Rotating Cake Stand
  3. Flour: Sift flour before measuring.
  4. Milk: If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk.
  5. Raspberries: 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.
  6. Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  7. 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.
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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

418 Comments

    1. Hi Jennifer! That depends on how large the 2 tier cake is. It’s always safer to have extra batter, so making two batches would definitely be helpful.

  1. If I’m wanting to use the vanilla cake recipe as a base for making an almond naked cake, what would I do to give it the best favor?

  2. Hey,

    I was hoping to use your vanilla buttercream recipe for a naked wedding cake I am assembling today. Will this be ok to do this morning, refrigerate for two hours then take to the Venue to be displayed tomorrow?

    Any advice?

    Thank you!

  3. How dense does this cake turn out? Trying to find a nice vanilla cake that is relatively dense so I can use it for a wedding cake (my own) and would it need a simple syrup once baked ? This will be for my 6inch tier so it will be the top

    Thanks x

    1. Hi Emma, This is a light and fluffy cake – not dense like a pound cake. But for a top tier it will hold up just fine – and no need for simple syrup unless you are making it well in advance.

      1. Thanks so much for your reply! 🙂 I’m getting married in a week so was going to bake today/tomorrow and freeze until Thursday, decorate Friday for eating on Saturday, so I guess I’m asking if they freeze well? Thank you again!

  4. Hi Sally, I made a practice run of this delicious cake for my sons upcoming 1st birthday party. I’d like to make it the day/night before. My buttercream turned a yellow colour the day after I iced it. Is there any way to avoid this from happening? And do I store it in the fridge or at room temperature over night? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Simone, For pure white icing it depends on the color of your butter and your vanilla. If it looks a bit yellow you can actually put a *tiny* drop of purple gel food coloring into the frosting and it will whiten it – sounds really weird but it really works! If you cover the cake it is absolutely fine to leave it out overnight at room temperature. If you kitchen is warm you can store it in the fridge. Enjoy!

    1. Hi Niki, Do you see the line of text that says “Want to watch me assemble and decorate a naked cake? Here you go!”
      Directly after that line it looks like there is photo that has a little triangle in the center. Click the triangle and the video will play!

  5. I am going to attempt this cake for my daughters wedding. The venue is outdoor on a farm with lots of mason jar centerpieces, burlap, wood rounds and galvanized buckets..super rustic…This cake looks perfect, just hope I don’t mess it up as I have never attempted a semi naked cake. Also perfect for the bride and groom as they do not like lots of icing 🙂

  6. I tried this recipe last night as a practice for my birthday next month.
    The flavour is great, I also used your cream cheese frosting recipe.
    I am using the recipe for a naked number cake. The cake tastes lovely but I have clearly done something wrong. There is a dense layer at the bottom of the cake.
    I used approx 2/3 of the mixture in the silicone number (4) mould.
    I baked for 42 minutes as it was not anywhere near ready.
    Any ideas on what I have done wrong? I will attempt again without opening the oven door now that I know the cooking time for this mould.
    Thanks for any help 🙂

    1. Happy early birthday, Kathy! The dense layer could be from one of two things. Either the batter was over-mixed which can over-develop the gluten and cause a baked good to be dense. Or it can simply be from the silicone cake pan. Silicone is a poor conductor of heat and many bakers report that their cakes don’t rise as much using them. If you test it again try using less batter in the pan and don’t open your oven during the bake time if you can help it!

  7. Hi Sally,
    I am going to try and make this for my daughter’s first birthday
    Can I use vanilla bean paste instead of extract, so that the cake has some of the tiny vanilla beans through it?
    Also, will it stack well if I make a double (or triple) mix – we have quite a few people coming.
    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Tara, Yes you can use an equal amount of the vanilla paste – I love it! If you properly support the cake it should stack just fine. One tip is to make the recipe multiple times instead of doubling it. Enjoy!

  8. Thank you for this amazing recipe! I made this cake for my daughters baby shower yesterday. It was such a hit! Everyone LOVED it. My daughter is really picky about cake. She said that this was as good, if not better, than her favorite Sprinkles Vanilla Cupcake!

  9. Hey Sally I am making a 3 tiered wedding cake and was thinking of using this recipe. Is it strong enough to support itself (I am using dowels) and also, would it dry out if I ice it as semi naked the day before the wedding and leave in the fridge overnight? Thanks!

    1. It should be ok for a tiered cake as long as each layer is properly supported with cake rounds and dowels. If you frost it as a naked cake I would make sure it’s covered well so that it doesn’t dry out. You can also try using a simple soaking syrup to ensure that it stays moist, but I haven’t personally tried this. Let me know how it turns out!

  10. would this be considered a yellow cake since it includes whole egg instead of just the whites? I’m having a difficult time finding recipes for yellow cake

    1. You can! Fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Or see my recipe for Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/simply-perfect-vanilla-cupcakes/

  11. Hi Sally , I want to make this for my aunt’s birthday . If I can’t fit all three pans in the oven in one go will it affect the batter if I do it on two lots ?

  12. This is my new favorite cake to make. I made it with strawberries instead of the raspberries. Everybody loved it. Thank you!

  13. I would love to use this recipe for my wedding cake for next June.
    I am going to have 10″ and 8″ sections assuming 3 of each. How would you suggest altering the recipe? Going to be a naked cake with lavender and baby’s breath decor.
    This cake is perfect!

    1. Hi Racquel! I can’t say for sure, but two batters should be enough. I recommend making the batter twice to fill up your cake pans.

  14. Hi Sally, I am making this cake for my daughter’s wedding next month. Is it possible to decorate it the night before, place it in a 3 tier cake carrier and leave at room temperature? Unfortunately I don’t have access to a refrigerator, unless I bring a large cooler? Thanks!

    1. Hi Silvia, Buttercream can be left at room temperature with no problem overnight. Just be sure the cake is covered well so that it doesn’t dry out since there isn’t as much frosting to keep the air off of the cakes. Enjoy!

  15. Hi Sally,

    I’m trying to use this for my little one’s first birthday. I would love to do 3 different 6 inch tiers. If I do this, how much batter would be needed to fill each tin, and would I adjust the bake time? I’m assuming I might also need to half the recipe?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Brittany, For a 6 inch vanilla cake I suggest you use this recipe: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/6-inch-cake-recipes/
      You can still frost it naked style! Enjoy!

  16. I made this cake yesterday and it was awesome, now I need to make a 3 tier cake (3×6, 3×8, 3×10) next week for my nephew’s wedding. I plan to decorate the entire cake night before then refrigerate it without covering up as I dont have anything big enough to cover it up. Will this be ok? Because the other issue is the hot humid weather here in American Samoa, 85 to 90 degrees even at night which is why i need to refrigerate it… hope the frosting will hold up….

    1. Hi Nati,
      If you frost it as a naked cake I would make sure it’s covered well so that it doesn’t dry out – you can wrap each layer with plastic wrap if you don’t have a large enough box. You can also try using a simple soaking syrup to ensure that it stays moist, but I haven’t personally tried this. I would certainly store it in the refrigerator overnight in that heat! Let me know how it turns out!

  17. Hi there, if I wanted to make this cake with two layers instead of three (as in the recipe), are you able to tell me what adjustments I would need to the cake batter recipe?

    1. Hi Jimmy, for a two layer cake you can use this recipe: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/new-favorite-white-layer-cake/
      Similar ingredients and same great light and moist crumb!

  18. Hi! I used this recipe for my fiancé’s birthday but I used cream cheese frosting (from your recipe) instead. But the cream cheese frosting was not enough to make a thick inner layer so I had to compromise and made a thin layer instead so I can cover the whole cake. What do you recommend about this? Also, is using buttercream better than cream cheese frosting for a semi-naked cake? Thank you!

    1. Hi Joy, If you used this link (https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/favorite-cream-cheese-frosting/) it’s enough for a 9×13 sheet cake. If you wish to use it for a layer cake please see the recipe notes!
      And for this vanilla naked cake you can absolutely still use cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream if you enjoy it!

      1. Thanks, Sally! Btw, I loooove your naked cake recipe! My fiancé and friends enjoyed it! Will try more of your recipes this holiday season. 🙂

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