Vanilla Naked Cake

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

Rustic naked cake on a wood slice cake stand

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-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 the style is that you have creative control. You can decorate 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!

Vanilla naked cake on a wood slice cake stand

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 like my fresh berry cream cake. Both styles are simple, approachable, and beautiful.

vanilla cake layers with frosting and raspberries between each layer

Overview: 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 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 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.

glass bowl of vanilla frosting

Vanilla Naked Cake Video Tutorial

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. 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 it necessary 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. Use 1.5 cups between each layer and 1.5 cups on top & around the sides.
  5. The refrigerator 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, as well as ensures 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 find especially 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.

Fresh berries on top of cake on a wood slice cake stand

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.
  • 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.

Slice of vanilla cake with raspberries on a white plate

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

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Rustic naked cake on a wood slice cake stand

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 (443g) sifted all-purpose flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons 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 (affiliate links): 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. Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a DIY sour milk substitute. Add 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1 and 3/4 cups. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  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


  1. Baked this as three tier birthday cake. Super easy to work with when it came to icing and decorating. The cake was moist, held together well and tasted delicious. I had lots of impressed and happy guests!

  2. When I made the cake it was delicious but after putting the cake in the fridge it was a solid Rock. What did I do wrong?

  3. Hi Sally,
    I just purchased a set of the Fat Daddio’s cake pans (per your recommendation), and plan on baking this cake for a birthday this week, but I was wondering if they need to be seasoned before use? Also I read somewhere that baking temperature or baking time needs to be reduced with these anodized aluminum cake pans and I wanted to get your input since you have worked with them? Thank you!

    1. Hi Anna! I love that brand for cake pans– they’re excellent and I know you’ll be happy with them. I’ve never adjusted my oven temperatures and after purchasing them a few years ago, I didn’t season them either. Just greased them or greased/lined with parchment paper before adding cake batter. That’s my personal experience and I bake a lot of cakes!

      1. Thank you! That’s what I was hoping to hear haha. I am new to cake baking, but my husband and I have l o v e d every recipe of yours I have made so we’re looking forward to trying this one out (and my new cake pans)!

  4. Hello!

    I’m planning to make this as a smash cake for my sons first birthday, any tips on cook time or adjusting the recipe for a 4inch cake pan? I have three of them to stack. They are Wilton brand. Thanks!

    1. Hi Courtney, I wish I could help with a 4 inch cake. I do have a very detailed post on a 6 inch cake and how to turn many recipes into a 6 inch cake. Or you can use my cake pan sizes and conversions page if it’s helpful.

  5. Hi Sally,
    Love the recipe for this cake and really want to try it for my friends birthday next week. I only have 7 inch pans. Do you know how many pans it will make? Sorry to bother you and hope you are well

    1. Hi Abi, You can use my post Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions to help you calculate. Enjoy!

  6. Ana Cristina says:

    Hi Sally!!! Great recipe I just made it yesterday and it was perfect !! I want to make the same recipe but for a two
    layer cake!! Can you help me? Is for my husbands birthday!!

    1. Hi Ana! Reducing the recipe down to yield 2 layers without altering the taste or texture can be tough. I recommend my 2 layer white cake recipe instead if you’d like.

  7. Hi Sally! Love this recipe. I am thinking of making it for an event in September. I will need it to last 4-5 days. Should I freeze it unfrosted (except the layers of frosting between) and then thaw the day before and decorate and store in the fridge until the event? Thanks!

    1. Yes, that sounds like a good plan, Meghan! I hope it’s a hit at your event 🙂

  8. Hi Sally, I’m looking to bake this cake for my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday. Which flour is best to use? All purpose flour, or self-raising flour. Thank you x

    1. Best to stick to sifted all purpose flour here!

  9. Hi Sally! I am looking to make one of your vanilla cakes and wanted more guidance on the differences between this vanilla naked cake vs. your funfetti cake vs. “the best vanilla cake” you’ve ever had. They are all 3 layer cake, and with the exception of the cake flour in the “best vanilla cake,” they all have the same ingredients. Are there differences in taste, texture, or both? The funfetti cake has identical ingredients to this cake, so any insight on the differences would be very much appreciated!

    1. Hi Veronica, I’m glad to help. This vanilla naked cake is similar to my vanilla cake, but it’s denser. (Using whole eggs + all-purpose flour instead of some eggs and some egg whites + cake flour– both which helps keep the cake fluffy.) The funfetti cake is a little denser than this and these days, I typically make it with cake flour– same amount– to lighten up the crumb. They all have strong butter and vanilla flavors, it’s just the density that varies.

  10. Hi Sally,
    First of all your cakes look beautiful and I’m looking forward to trying them out!
    I’ve decided to bake my own wedding cake because we are now doing a small reception due to COVID. Any advice on how to use this recipe for an 8inch, 6inch and 4inch tier cake? I’ve already made the mistake of quantifying a different recipe on my own and ruined a lot of good ingredients.


    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Trish, We haven’t made a 4 inch tier but you can see this Simple Homemade Wedding Cake Recipe for ideas on how we made a two tier cake (and you can frost it naked style). Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

  11. Maggie Sanchez says:

    Hi Sally,

    What size is your bench scraper?


    1. Hi Maggie, my bench scrapers are about 6 inches which is typically the standard size.

  12. Rebecca Bishop says:

    This cake is delicious. It was the recipe used for a charming naked cake for my daughter.

  13. This cake was delicious! Made it for my daughters birthday and everyone loved it, thank you for sharing 🙂
    My cake layers came out too thin because of the pan I used – which one do you use for thinker layers and taller cakes?
    Thank you!

  14. For the icing, instead of whipping cream can I use milk?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, milk is fine in a pinch!

  15. I’ve made this cake numerous times before but this time my cake crumbled. Do you know why that could happen? I did also add strawberry filling in center of cake and the 2nd layer the side cracked open. Not sure why but maybe you can help me understand where I might have gone wrong this time?

    1. Hi Isabel! Sorry you had trouble this time. I wonder if the strawberry filling was too heavy which caused the layer to crack? For the crumbling, the cake layers could have been over-baked which is an easy fix for next time. Make sure the cake layers are completely cool before assembling, too.

  16. Hi Sally,
    I’m so excited to try this recipe out! So far, all of your recipes have been so great! I have a question about the fruits in the layers – I plan to bake and assemble up to the frosting the night before serving. Do you think it would be okay if I put fresh strawberries/raspberries inside the buttercream layers? I will be serving at lunch time the next day.

    Thank you!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michelle, If using fresh fruit, it’s best to assemble and frost the cake the day when you are ready to serve. The frosted cake can be refrigerated for up to 1 day, but the berries may start to break down and the juices will drip/spread after a while.

  17. Hi I have 8in tins, would this work by just adding more batter to each tin and increasing bake time slightly. Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Louise, Yes you can divide the batter between three 8 inch pans instead. The bake time may be a minute longer since your cakes will be thicker, but use a toothpick to test for doneness. If the toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake, it is done.

  18. Hi, my oven can only take one 9” pan at a time. Is it okay for the rest of the batter to sit around at room temp while each pan bakes?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You can try baking one layer and leave the remaining batter loosely covered at room temperature until you are ready to bake the next. Enjoy!

  19. Hi Sally!
    Is it possible to ‘ice’ a ‘naked’ cake using whipped cream? Like your strawberry whipped cream recipe? I’m making a 3 layer strawberry shortcake but I don’t know if it’s possible to ice the sides with whipped, or if it needs to be a buttercream for that look. Thank you!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lisa, Yes that will definitely work!

  20. I used your recipe and it came out fantastic!! Cake is posted on my website. Thanks!

  21. Hi Sally!
    I need to bake a moist and dense vanilla flavored cake (almost like pound cake) for someone, and I’d like to know which of your recipes would work best.
    Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rhonda, This cake is similar to the recipe for vanilla cake, but this one is more dense because it uses all purpose flour instead of cake flour. If you are going for dense, this Naked Cake is the recipe I would recommend!

  22. I’ve made this cake as is and loved it! But I was curious if decorating like this would work with a whipped cream icing (literally just whipping cream)? I plan on making it for my sons first birthday and trying to reduce the sugar/sweetness factor a little bit. Thanks so much

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, that will definitely work!

      1. Excellent thank you! Love all of your recipes!

  23. Hi Sally,
    I was wondering if I could use strawberries instead of raspberries. Also, would I have to change the amount I use

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Key, absolutely, strawberries are a delicious choice. Same amount. Happy baking!

  24. Sally,
    Would this recipe work for 2 10 inch cake pans?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kory! We have not tested this recipe for 10 inch pans but this cake pan sizes guide will help you determine how much batter to use.

  25. I made this using Blueberry and cherries for a friend’s birthday. So happy with the result.

  26. Thank you for this recipe. I used the vanilla naked cake and buttercream cream recipes to make my friends 40th birthday cake. I’m not a baker and was thankful when I found an easy recipe that looked and tasted amazing when finished.
    I will definitely use it again.

    1. Fantastic cake; made this semi-naked cake with vanilla buttercream and layers of raspberry jam and fresh berries. It was more structured than my usual go to sponge, so stacked beautifully and was easy to work with whilst remaining soft and moist. And most importantly it tasted amazing and the family loved it! This is my new go to recipe for celebration cakes! Thank you!

  27. Brianna Russell says:

    If we are making a smaller version of this cake for a Thursday could we refrigerate the leftover batter to use on say the Saturday?
    Delicious recipe! Always fantastic

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brianna! We don’t recommend saving cake batter for later. We would bake and freeze the cake instead! Here’s more on how to freeze cakes for later. Enjoy!

  28. I used this recipe as a base for Tres Leches cake and it was amazing. I had to use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 baking flour, but otherwise I followed the cake recipe to the letter. There was literally not one bite left!! This one is a keeper for sure!

  29. Hi Sally!

    Thank you for all of your amazing recipes. I am making a two tiered naked cake for an event and wondering whether you’d recommend following this recipe or your “best vanilla cake I’ve ever had”? The main difference I note is the cake flour – is there a reason you use all purpose for your baked cake and cake flour for your best vanilla cake? Thank you so much!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jane, This vanilla naked cake is similar to our best vanilla cake, but this one is denser. (Using whole eggs + all-purpose flour instead of some eggs and some egg whites + cake flour– both which helps keep the cake fluffy.) They both have strong butter and vanilla flavors, it’s just the density that varies.

  30. I want to make this as a tiered cake for a wedding of about 75. Thinking a 10, 8 and 6. I’d adjust the recipe of course…will the structure hold up(using dowels and cake boards) and will the frosting hold up in the evenings of a hot Sacramento summer night? I’d make it a semi-naked as I think it looks a little nicer with a bit more frosting.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Zaferia, this cake should hold up well to tiers if properly supported (more on how to stack cakes in our Homemade Wedding Cake post). The frosting will be okay at room temperature for a while, but if you’d like an even stiffer buttercream to withstand the heat, you can replace half the butter with shortening. If possible, keep the cake in the fridge as long as possible before putting it on display and keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent any melting. Hope this helps!

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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