Vanilla Naked Cake

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

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

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. 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.


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

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


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


  • 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!)


  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.


  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


  1. Hi I am really excited about making this cake for my daughters baby shower.  I have a delemma. I will have to make it 3 days early for the Sunday Shower. Can I store it unfrosted and frost it the day of the party? If so, refrig or freeze? Or do I need to frost early? Thank you. 

  2. Hi Sally!
    I don’t know if I read over it, but I was wondering how many cups of frosting this recipe makes?
    The cake looks amazing! I’ve never made a naked cake, but it’s definitely on my to do list!

    1. Hi Jo! There’s too much batter for a 9×13 pan, but use what you can and fill the pan about halfway – 2/3 full. Any extra batter is great for cupcakes.

  3. Your cake is BEAUTIFUL! Getting ready to try this one out for Easter and your decorating video was super helpful!

      1. Wonderful!!! It was a hit at our Easter gathering and I am eager to try this decorating style again with other flavor combinations 🙂 Like you, I have a new baby at home (almost 11 weeks) and this was my first “big” baking project since having her so it took longer than it might have pre-baby but it was worth it! 

  4. Hi Sally ! Thanks to your advices and your recipes, I made a success of my first nacked cake ( vanilla cake with blueberry cream) . I’m very happy. Happy easter for everyone.

  5. Hi Sally

    I just want to report that I made a naked cake with your Tuxedo Cake recipe. I made the whole recipe in five 6-inch layers. They stacked very well and everyone raved about it.

    The naked cake was beautiful with the chocolate layers showing through a vanilla buttercream. Thanks again for this incredible challenge!

  6. Hi Sally,

    Just wondering if I want to make alphabet Birthday cake, do you recommend to use this recipe or your new favourite white layer cake? Love most of your cakes.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thank you for sharing your cake recipe.  I was asked to bake a wedding cake for my niece for 150 people.  I had baked birthday cakes with boxed cake mix for 20 people.  This was exciting but very nervous.  I don’t know what I would have done if I did not find this recipe.  Thank you again for sharing your recipe!!  The cake was yummy.

  8. Hello Sally,

    Are you familiar with the berry chantily cake from Whole foods? I am trying to recreate it and need a delicious yellow cake recipe and think this may be the one, but I was wondering if I can sub almond extract for the vanilla? If so, how much do you recommend?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Veina! I’m not, but it sounds fantastic. An entire Tablespoon of almond extract may be a little too much, so I would use 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of almond and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

      1. Awesome thank you!! I will try and experiment using 1 vanilla pod and 1.5 teaspoon of the almond!

        The berry chantily cake from Whole Foods is really good! It is basically a Fresh berries, a vanilla cake soaked in raspberry simple syrup, and chantilly cream icing made with whipped mascarpone. –but there is a unique almond taste to it that puts it over the edge!
        I am no baking pro, so I’m sure you would probably do a much better job recreating it! Perhaps something for you to try in the near future 🙂 I love all your recipes!

  9. Hi, Just made this for my daughter’s 2nd birthday party tomorrow. Can’t wait to see it decorated and eat it! My husband was confused and asked if I made a mistake with my frosting, but I love the look of these naked cakes. You may want to note in your recipe that if you chill the frosting, you have to leave time for it to come to room temperature before frosting your cakes. Maybe that’s obvious, but I was glad I was not trying to frost right before serving. I set my bowl of frosting in a tray of warm water and that worked fairly quickly. My cakes came out pretty flat … hoping I didn’t over mix or over bake. The positive is I didn’t have to cut the tops off to be flat.

  10. Hi there

    What are the benefits of using regular buttercream over swiss meringue buttercream? I usually use SMB but I find it a bit flavourless and I’m not a fan of the texture. Any thoughts would be great. Thank you! Jess x

    1. I don’t necessarily think there are any pros/cons using one over the other. If you prefer American buttercream over SMB, go ahead and use it!

  11. Hi Sally!

    My cakes came out a bit dense, not with this nice crumb I see in your pictures! Any suggestions? I followed all your directions! I sifted the flour and used fresh baking powder and soda. I always weigh my indegredients. 

    Let me know if you have any ideas!


    1. Hi Elizabeth! I know how frustrating that can be. How about overmixing? That’s usually the culprit behind my cakes tasting dense. Regardless, try sifting the flour TWICE then measuring it. That could help for next time.

    1. You would need to use 2/3 of the recipe so I would recommend either making cupcakes with the remaining batter or baking and freezing the third layer to enjoy later!

  12. How long does the buttermilk have to sit to reach room temperature? I have a very sensitive stomach, so leaving milk of any kind out concerns me.

    1. This cake batter can be divided up to make cupcakes, yes! Same oven temperature and about 18-21 minutes bake time.

  13. Absolutely loved these recipes. I had never made a cake like this before but, I made it for my daughter’s bridal shower this past weekend. Actually, I made it three times as it was a 10 layer tiered cake! Everything came out perfectly and tasted delicious. Everyone was delighted and were amazed it didn’t come from a bakery. I wish I could show you a picture! Thank you so much Sally for the perfect recipes and handy video.

    1. Hi Nancy! A 10 tier cake is incredible and I bet it was stunning. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review on the vanilla naked cake! You can always email me a picture at [email protected] 🙂 I’d love to see!

  14. If I only have 8 inch round pans, how long do you suggest I bake this recipe for? I have 4 or more 8 inch rounds if splitting the batter more ways is optimal. Thank you. Every recipe I’ve ever tried from your site over the several years I’ve been following you has been amazing!

    1. Hi Katherine! You can split the batter between 3 or 4 8-inch cake pans, though I suggest using 4 because the layers will be quite thick if using only 3. I’m unsure of the exact bake time, but you can use a toothpick to test.

    1. Hi Barb! I’m unsure. I’ve only baked and assembled the cake as pictured. How about 2 separate cakes or a tiered cake of sorts? You can make the batter twice and bake in different size cake pans to create a tiered cake. The bake time will need to adjust if using different size pans.

  15. Hi Sally,

    Thank you for another great recipe! I am wondering how many you estimate this will feed? I am making it for my friends baby shower and there will probably be 25 people to feed.

    Thanks again!

  16. hi Sally I’m thinking of using this recipe to make a cake for my friend’s birthday next week but I was hoping to make it matcha flavored. if I would like to add roughly 2-3 tablespoons of matcha powder in, should I just take out 2-3 tablespoons of flour accordingly? and which frosting recipe would last out the longest in a really humid climate? thanks so much in advance sally!

    1. Hi Shan! Subbing matcha for flour would be my suggestion, but I have never tried it before so I can’t say with 100% certainty. This vanilla buttercream should hold up pretty well.

  17. Hi Sally,

    My question is How long would the bake time for this vanilla cake recipe be using a
    6in x 2in round cake pan?

    Thank You

    1. Hi Jazmin! I’m not exactly sure, but somewhere around 20 minutes. Keep your eye on it and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  18. Hi Sally, you said the cakes might be a bit thick if they are divided between 3×8” tins, I didn’t find this at all, in fact I was a bit disappointed, they didn’t seem to rise, any suggestions, thanks

    1. Hi Lori! Did you make the batter as written? I’m surprised the cakes didn’t rise with all that baking powder and soda. Overmixing produces flat and dense cakes, I wonder if that was the issue?

1 2 3 4 5 8

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Recipes You’ll Love



Sally's Baking Challenge

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.

View More

Sally's Cookie Palooza

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

Sally's Pie Week

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally