Vanilla Naked Cake

Learn how to make a beautiful naked cake with fresh berries, vanilla cake, and vanilla buttercream. This chic cake decorating style is much simpler than it looks. Follow my success tips and watch the helpful video tutorial below to create your own naked cake.

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

Today we’re baking, designing, and styling naked cakes. 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, so let’s get right to it!

What Is a Naked Cake?

Naked cakes, with zero to minimal frosting on the outside, expose the cake layers and filling. This rustic and chic cake presentation has been 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!

A stunning addition to any celebration, naked cakes are perfect for Easter, Mother’s Day, small weddings, showers, and birthdays. 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. If interested in making a tiered cake, try my simple homemade wedding cake!

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

Two Types of Naked Cakes

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

How to Make a Vanilla Semi-Naked Cake

Let’s focus on a semi-naked cake because that’s how I decorated the cake in today’s photos and video.

  1. Make the cake. 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. The vanilla cake recipe I include below is similar to my vanilla cake recipe, but it has more structure to support the naked cake decorating style. Cake recipes that yield three or four cake layers provide enough height to work with, but you can easily decorate a two layer cake this way. Tiered cakes are great too (like my homemade wedding cake).
  2. Add berries. 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.
  3. Frost the cake. Vanilla buttercream is my favorite to use 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. The frosting recipe below is similar to my vanilla buttercream recipe, only with a higher ratio of ingredients to make a larger amount of frosting.

Vanilla buttercream for naked cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Vanilla Naked Cake Video Tutorial

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 what style of cake you want– naked or semi-naked– and any decorations or garnishes. This will determine how much frosting you need.
  2. Prepare your cake pans appropriately. Use quality cake pans and grease them well so the cakes release easily– I always use nonstick spray. For even layers, ensure each pan has an equal amount of batter. The easiest and most accurate way to do this is to use a kitchen scale. Place your cake pan on top and begin pouring batter into the pan– repeat for all pans, making sure each pan weighs the same.
  3. Level your cakes. Level off the top of each cake layer so both sides are flat. This is important because 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. Keep it simple. Make it easy on yourself! My recipe and instructions are simple and straightforward– no complicated extra steps. I’ve seen many naked cake recipes that call 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 to do this if your cake is moist to begin with (like my vanilla cake below). Instead of piping frosting between each cake layer, use an icing spatula to spread the frosting– another timesaver and simplified step. The frosting recipe below yields about 4.5 cups– 1.5 cups to use between each layer and 1.5 cups to use on 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. Why? This stabilizes all of 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 Helpful Tools for Decorating

Here are a few tools I found really helpful for decorating a semi-naked cake.

  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 use it in the video tutorial. Transfer your decorated cake to a cake stand by using these cake circles— I use one in the video.

Mix and Match Cake and Frosting Recipes

Mix and match the below cake flavors and frostings to create your own unique naked cake.

Cake Flavors
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.

Frosting Flavors

Helpful tip: Freeze any leftover frosting for up to 3 months and thaw in the refrigerator for next time.

Naked Cake Decoration Ideas

I recommend starting simple, then adding from there. The possibilities are endless! Here are some of my favorite decorations to use:

  • 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

Of course you’ll need a cake stand to show off your stunning masterpiece! Here are a few I love: wood slice cake stand (similar to what I have), white cake stand, and marble cake stand.

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

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

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 Pans, Icing Spatula, Bench Scraper, Cake Turntable
  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.

Keywords: naked cake

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

459 Comments

  1. Hi, I’m attempting to do very similar to this later this week and have a similar cake stand. How did you transfer the cake from the cake board to the cake stand without ruining the frosting? I’m so nervous!

    1. Hi Lisa, I use a cake round (the round piece of cardboard) under the cake. If you use one slightly larger than your actual cake, it’s very easy to just pick it up off the turn table and move it to the cake stand. If you use one the exact same size as your cake you can slide a flat spatula under it to help you lift it up until you can get your finders under it to pick it up. Have fun!

  2. Hi Sally!
    First of all I want to thank you for all your recipes and tips! I have made several of your recipes and everything is amazing! I have also learned so much from your tips! So my question, I am making a 3 layer 10″ cake that will be frosted with swiss meringue buttercream. Would you recommend doing 1 + 1/2 the recipe? Or just have thinner layers? I’m just worried that the layers would be too thin. I want some good height! 🙂 also, I am trying to decide between this recipe and your vanilla cake recipe. Which one would be fluffier and more moist? And what is the main difference between the end results with both? I don’t have time to do a trial run or I would! Thank you for any help you can offer!

    1. Hi Michelle! I’m happy to help. This cake and my vanilla cake are a little similar. The vanilla cake is lighter and fluffier, though. Either will work wonderfully. If you want some good height, it would be best to 1.5x either recipe to ensure your layers are nice and tall. (10 inch cakes are large!) Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

      1. Thank you so much Sally! I will give both a try at some point but will go with the vanilla cake for the this particular one I’m doing. Yes…10″ is big! I make a lot of 10″ cakes and then when I do a 6″ it feels so small lol!!
        Anyways…thanks again 🙂

  3. I am making this cake for my daughters wedding in June. I made it for the first time a few weeks ago as my first trial run for a tasting. I made it with a lemon curd filling and a cream cheese icing. It was a HIT! EVERYONE loved it and it is now THE CAKE for the wedding. This will be my first cake to make for an event like this. I have had a baking company but I am a home baker. I am so excited to have found this recipe. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hi there! I want to make this cake but with whipped cream and berries instead of buttercream. Would that go well? Also, how might this cake do with a little syrup drizzled on it? (I was thinking about adding a little thyme-scented syrup)? Thank you!

  5. Hi Sally I am going to attempt to make your beautiful vanilla cake for my daughters 21st Birthday and I have a 10″ x 3″ cake tin if I wanted 4 layers would I double the cake mixture and bake 2 tins and cut the cakes in half?

    Thankyou

    1. Hi Judith, I have not tested this recipe in a 10 inch pan but this is a helpful chart from Wilton to help you determine how much batter to use: https://www.wilton.com/cake-serving-guide/cms-baking-serving-guide.html
      One thing to note is that for the best texture of cake I do not recommend doubling this recipe – instead make it twice. I hope your daughter has a great birthday!

  6. Hello Sally! I’m going to make this recipe next week for my mum’s birthday, and I’d like to switch the vanilla buttercream with the lemon one; should I use exactly the receipe that’s linked above or I’ll need more?

    Thanks!!

    1. Hi Chiara, If you are making a true naked cake then the lemon frosting will be enough. If you want more coverage feel free to increase to the ratios here and add in the lemon juice and zest.

  7. Hi Sally! I am needing to make this cake into a dairy free option, using Earth Balance butter and a dairy free milk, probably almond. Do you think that’s possible? Is using almond milk instead of buttermilk going to work?

    1. Hi Madison, I have not tested this cake wit dairy free ingredients. You should be able to follow the DIY buttermilk instructions using lemon juice or vinegar with almond milk. Let me know if you try it!

  8. Ohmystars…I was asked to make one of these cakes. Never even heard of them. This site made it possible. Used both recipes for the icing and the cake. My cake has a little more coverage, but the cake still pops through.

  9. Hi sally I’ve made the cake today for a birthday it’s not for another 2mnths would you freeze it naked or should I frost it then freeze does it Taste just as good if frozen frosted Though

  10. Hello, I am making this cake recipe for my daughters wedding shower. I am trying it out tonight to see how it goes. I noticed when baking the layers I had some batter bubble out the top through a couple tiny holes, The rest of the cake appeared to be done. Any ideas why that happened? Also, I did hit the cake pans to remove air bubbles, should I do that with this cake? Wondering if that’s what caused that reaction.

    1. Hi Sherrie, Small bubbles in cakes are normal, but if you have larger bubbles or holes in your cake it could be from any number of reasons. Some common causes of air bubbles are over-mixing the batter, not having all of your ingredients at room temperature, using too much leaveners, or adding the eggs all at once instead of one at a time.

  11. Hi Sally,

    Thank you for this detailed recipe and video which was so helpful! I made this cake for my daughters first birthday party yesterday and it was a HIT! All thanks to you!

    ps SO happy for your family and your beautiful new addition! I have a rainbow baby of my own so I know how special this time is. Congratulations!

    Rachel

  12. Hi Sally. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe. I am going to be making my daughter’s wedding cake in October, so having someone do all the really hard work for me is such a great help and really appreciated. I want to try your recipe and another one I’ve found for a taste testing next week. I plan on making both recipes as two 6 inch x 2 layer cake. Maths was never my strong point so here’s my reasoning for the change in the recipe amounts. I have divided each ingredient by 3 to give the amount for each layer of your 3×9 cake. Then I halve each ingredient to give me the amount of each ingredient needed for a single layer of a 6 inche cake working on the basis of using half the amount going from 9′ to 6′. Does that work? When I worked out the area of the 9 and 6 using the radius squared x pi, a 6 inch cake is actually 2.25 smaller than a 9 inch cake. So, would you use these more accurate values or just go for halving the 9 inch recipe? I really hope that makes sense. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Clare! I’m just seeing your question now and would love to help. To truly test a recipe to see how it turns out for an event, I strongly recommend making the cake as written. Reducing the batter down will definitely impact how the cake turns out– a 6 inch cake simply won’t have the exact same texture as its 3 layer 9-inch cake origination. Does this make sense? You may also find my Cake Pan Sizes and Conversions post helpful, too!

  13. Hi Sally! I am wanting to make this cake as a 2 tier cake- 8 in. and 10 in. tiers. If I double the recipe, will that be enough to make those tiers, 3 layers each?

    I also only have 1 of each size pan. Could I leave the batter out at room temp, while waiting for the other layers to cool? Or should I keep it in the fridge?

  14. I made this cake yesterday for my daughters birthday. It was a huge hit. I will be trying the lemon cake next. Do you think raspberries pair well with lemon ? Thanks for an awesome and easy to follow recipe.

  15. Hi sally! Greetings from the Philippines! I’m going to make this cake for my grandma’s 85th birthday. I have frozen berries in my freezer now. Can put them in the cake batter? I would like to make the cake extra special for her and her guests. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Paul, Happy birthday to your grandmother! You can fold frozen berries (do not thaw) into the batter before baking. I recommend 1 and 1/2 cups of berries.

  16. I made the cake batter portion last night and I’m making the icing tonight and am going to ice the cake tonight for a party tomorrow …do I leave the cake out overnight or refrigerate it once it’s iced for the party tomorrow ? And regardless do I loosely cover in Saran Wrap?

    1. Hi Renee! I usually leave a frosted cake out for up to 1 day– have never noticed a taste difference and it stays extra soft this way. You can refrigerate it, but bring it to room temperature before serving. Whether it’s in the refrigerator or not, I always store frosted cakes in a cake carrier. See Tip 10 in my 10 Baking Tips for Perfect Cakes.

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